“Are frozen and canned foods bad for me?”
This is a question I get asked A LOT!
Canned and frozen foods often get a bad rep…let me explain the pro’s and con’s…
Advantages: We get to hand pick the foods that are coming into our home.
Disadvantages: Most produce is generally at its peak nutrient content when it is picked…and it goes downhill from there. Think about the great journey your food went on before it ended up on your plate! Foods can also ripen rather quickly and spoil if we aren’t on top of it, which then becomes a waste of money and food.
Advantages: CONVENIENCE! Hello cut, sliced, peeled, and precooked food! Canned foods have a much longer shelf life…I’m talking years! They can be cheaper! The savvy shopper in me looks for sales and stocks up on our family favs. Some nutrients (like lycopene in tomatoes) actually get enhanced during the canning process!! Canned foods can also be a great choice with foods that are out of season.
Disadvantages: There may be some loss of some water soluble nutrients. I suggest steaming or microwaving them to help preserve the nutrients. To keep them from spoiling, there is usually some brine, or salt water to help preserve them. I suggest rinsing them under cold water to help remove some of the excess sodium. You can also look for low sodium varieties. Food safety tip: NEVER BUY DAMAGED CANNED FOODS!! Look for dents, bulges, cracks, etc. Damaged cans can contaminate the food and put you at increased risk for botulism.
Advantages: CONVENIENCE! Hello again to washed, cut, and peeled food!! It’s so easy to pour a bag of frozen mixed veggies on a sheet pan and pop it into the oven! Frozen foods don’t need anything to preserve them and have you checked out their best before dates?? Yup – you have time. This is also a great option for buying foods that are out of season, like berries in the winter. Frozen are often at a better price point than their fresh varieties = $$ saved! (you’re welcome!). This is especially helpful if you are cooking for 1-2 people. When I was doing my Masters degree and living on my own, I knew that I wouldn’t finish the whole head of cauliflower or bag of carrots before it went bad, so I used frozen! Sometimes I’d cut them and freeze them myself! Did you know that sometimes frozen can be even more nutritious than the fresh foods? It’s true! They get picked and sent right to be frozen, which significantly slows down the decomposition process, thereby preserving their nutrients for longer!
Disadvantages: Some foods don’t have the same “crunch” as their fresh counterparts (broccoli, peppers, carrots, etc.). Sometimes they can end up in the freezer graveyard and get freezer burn.
How do I choose what to buy fresh, frozen and canned? It depends! It’s unrealistic for me to make my own coconut milk, so I buy that in a can. Frozen corn is a staple in my freezer because burritos are a quick and easy meal to prepare – and burritos NEED to have corn in them! We love to snack on veggies and hummus….so we like to have fresh veggies like carrots, cucumbers, and broccoli to much on.
Bottom line: Regardless of foods being fresh, frozen, or canned, they will all fuel your body and provide you with lots of good nutrients. Yes, there may be some slight variations, but the convenience and ease of canned and frozen can help you put together a home cooked meal faster, resulting in a happier, less stressed version of you! I hope that I’ve opened your eyes to some new possibilities!
Your Nutrition BFF,
Registered Dietitian & Nutrition Coach
P.S. I want to encourage you to move away from the notion of “good” and “bad” foods. Food does not have morality and all foods do have a place in our lives. Food is meant to be enjoyed – ALL FOODS! I firmly believe this! 😁