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Nutrition for Women

5 Healthy Freezer-Friendly Meals

Frozen fruits and vegetables have come a long way, baby. Here’s how they can elevate your nutrition game and deliver a little slice of sunshine to your kitchen all year round.

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Health experts are quick to advise you to eat more nutrient-dense foods, but during the winter, most imported fruits and veggies are subpar: They’re picked before they’re fully ripe — and are shockingly expensive. Time to peruse the freezer section.

Now, before you give frozen produce the cold shoulder, consider this: Frozen fruits and vegetables are cheaper and just as nutritious (if not more so) than their fresh counterparts. Modern flash-freezing techniques preserve their nutrients, and most companies freeze their items within hours of harvesting. Think of it as Mother Nature’s pause button. What’s more, you’ll save on food prep — since frozen produce is already chopped, pitted and peeled — and will cut back on food waste since you don’t have to worry about eating your greens before your veggie drawer turns into a Petri dish.

Take a dive into the deep freeze and see how these reliable frozen staples can heat up your favorite meals this winter.

Download the Freezer Meals Shopping List here.

Frozen Food Rules

From store to stove-top, here’s how to choose and use your frozen assets.

Give it a squeeze. You should be able to feel the individual contents in each bag. Packages that feel like a block of ice indicates that the product has been thawed and refrozen at least once, leading to degraded food quality.

Choose organic — maybe. Research is inconclusive when it comes to pesticides and whether they linger on frozen produce, but if you’re overly concerned about consuming chemicals, there are plenty of organic frozen options around.

Stay pure. Steer clear of products with added sweeteners, sodium or mysterious sauces. The ingredient list should only contain one item.

Buy bags over boxes. With a bag, you can use just what you need instead of having to thaw a whole block of spinach, for instance.

Match methods. The rules for cooking produce are the same, whether frozen or fresh: Choose steaming, sautéing and microwaving over boiling, which may leech precious nutrients.

Go from freezer to fork. When it comes to using subzero fruits and veggies for smoothies, soups, chilies, curries, stir-fries and stews, don’t bother defrosting them. They thaw quickly when placed in a hot dish and add that frosty texture to smoothies.

Thaw and then gnaw. Don’t refreeze frozen produce once it has been thawed. The flavor and texture — as well as the nutritional value — will suffer.

Stock up. A full freezer means there’s no space for warm air to circulate when you open and close the door, helping it operate more efficiently and shrink your electric bill.

Track the timeline. If stored properly, frozen fruits and vegetables have a shelf life of about one year before their flavor, texture and nutrients diminish. Store and date any extras in airtight bags to prevent freezer burn.

Visit the frozen food aisle last when shopping to keep your frozen foods “fresh.”

Big Green Soup
Big Green Soup

Big Green Soup

Hands-On Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 25 Minutes

Makes: 4 Servings

Frozen Assets

Broccoli is a surefire way to load up on folate, a nutrient that helps convert carbs into energy. And spinach is brimming with vitamin A to boost eye and bone health.

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup shelled unsalted
  • pistachios
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • 5 cups low-sodium vegetable
  • broth
  • 1 cup canned cannellini or
  • navy beans
  • 4 cups frozen broccoli florets
  • 2 cups frozen spinach
  • juice of ½ lemon

DIRECTIONS

Toast pistachios in a dry saucepan over medium heat, shaking often to avoid burning, about 4 minutes. Set aside. Add oil to saucepan and heat over medium. Add onions and salt and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring often. Add Italian seasoning, cumin, pepper and cayenne and heat 30 seconds. Add vegetable broth and beans and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes. Stir in broccoli and spinach and simmer 5 minutes. Add pistachios and lemon juice and mix well. Puree in a blender until smooth, working in batches, if necessary.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 247, fat 10 g, carbs 32 g, fiber 13 g, sugar 7 g, protein 12 g, sodium 541 mg

Creamy Salmon Alfredo Pasta
Creamy Salmon Alfredo Pasta

Creamy Salmon Alfredo Pasta

Hands-On Time: 20 Minutes

Cook Time: 20 Minutes

Makes: 5 Servings

Frozen Assets

Antioxidant-rich cauliflower produces a creamy pasta sauce with half the calories of a cream-based one, while peas supply protein, fiber and vitamin K, which is necessary for proper blood clotting and optimal bone health.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb center-cut, skin-on salmon fillets
  • ½ tsp salt, divided
  • ½ tsp black pepper, divided
  • 5 cups frozen cauliflower florets
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ⅔ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup canned evaporated milk
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1½ tsp Dijon-style mustard
  • ½ tsp red chili flakes
  • ¾ lb whole-grain penne pasta
  • 1½ cups frozen peas
  • ⅓ cup chopped parsley

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 F. Place salmon, skin-side down, on a baking sheet greased with oil or lined with parchment paper. Season with ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Roast until barely cooked through in the center, about 13 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then break flesh into 1-inch chunks. Meanwhile, heat frozen cauliflower according to package directions, then add to a food processor cup with garlic, Parmesan, evaporated milk, lemon juice, thyme, mustard, chili flakes, and remaining salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Cook pasta according to package directions, adding frozen peas during the last minute of cooking. Drain, reserving ⅓ cup cooking water, then return pasta and peas to pot. Stir in cauliflower sauce and then slowly stir in cooking water until well-coated. Divide among serving plates, top with chunks of salmon and sprinkle with parsley.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 425, fat 15 g, carbs 38 g, fiber 6 g, sugar 9 g, protein 34 g, sodium 518 mg

Chicken With Cherry-Berry Sauce

Hands-On Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 25 Minutes

Makes: 4 Servings

Frozen Assets

Blackberries have tons of fiber that can help with weight-loss efforts, while cherries deliver a healthy dose of vitamin C to bolster your immune system.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1¼ lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¾ cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups frozen cherries
  • 2 cups frozen blackberries
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • ⅓ cup sliced black olives
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup sliced roasted almonds
  • ¼ cup sliced fresh basil or mint

DIRECTIONS

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Swirl to coat and, once shimmering, add chicken. Cook 3 minutes per side, or until nicely browned. Remove and set aside. Add shallots and garlic and heat 1 minute, stirring often. Add salt, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon and black pepper and heat 30 seconds. Add wine and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook 3 minutes, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pan. Add broth, cherries, blackberries and thyme and bring to a simmer. Add chicken and spoon sauce over top. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, flipping once, about 12 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add olives, lemon zest and balsamic vinegar to pan and turn heat to high. Boil until sauce is reduced by about half. Serve chicken topped with berry sauce and sprinkle with almonds and basil/mint.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 377, fat 13 g, carbs 23 g, fiber 6 g, sugar 16 g, protein 36 g, sodium 473 mg

Edamame Succotash

Hands-On Time: 20 Minutes

Cook Time: 10 Minutes

Makes: 4 Servings

Frozen Assets

Corn delivers a hearty dose of the antioxidant lutein, which, according to research published in the journal Nutrients, helps protect your vision. And edamame adds a nice dash of protein as well as protection against osteoporosis.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups frozen shelled edamame
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • ½ tsp salt, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 large orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups arugula, chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of ½ lime
  • ⅛ tsp black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Prepare edamame according to package directions and set aside. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium and add onions and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and heat 1 minute. Add corn, peppers and jalapeño and heat 3 minutes, stirring often. Add edamame and tomatoes and heat another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in arugula. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, remaining salt and black pepper. Divide salad among serving plates and drizzle on dressing.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 304, fat 13 g, carbs 38 g, fiber 9 g, sugar 6 g, protein 13 g, sodium 334 mg

Fruity Oatmeal Bake
Fruity Oatmeal Bake

Fruity Oatmeal Bake

Hands-On Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 40 Minutes

Makes: 6 Servings

Frozen Assets

According to research published in Antioxidants, anthocyanin, which is found in blueberries, may help shield against memory decline, and the Journal of Hypertension reports that the potassium in peaches helps reduce blood pressure.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1½ cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk or unsweetened nondairy milk
  • 2 tbsp melted unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1½ cups frozen blueberries
  • 2 cups frozen sliced peaches
  • 2 cups plain Greek or Skyr yogurt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • maple syrup, optional

DIRECTIONS

Cover steel-cut oats with water, let soak at least 2 hours, then drain. Preheat oven to 350 F and grease an 8-inch-by-8-inch square baking dish. Add steel-cut oats, rolled oats, walnuts, cinnamon, cloves and salt to a large bowl and stir to combine. In a separate large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and melted butter. Add wet mixture to dry and stir gently until everything is moist. Place blueberries and peaches in bottom of baking dish and top with oat mixture. Bake until just barely set, about 40 minutes. Cut into squares. Combine yogurt and vanilla and serve a dollop atop each square. Drizzle with maple syrup (if using).

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 397, fat 16 g, carbs 47 g, fiber 7 g, sugar 15 g, protein 20 g, sodium 158 mg

Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

Ice Picks

Frozen meals can be a lifesaver when you don’t have the time or ingredients to make a healthy meal from scratch. While most options are a nutritional bust, these players won’t thaw your health goals.

Evergreen Zucchini & Carrot Mini Waffles

Move over, Eggo — these toaster-ready whole-grain veggie waffles are great slathered with nut butter and topped with a dollop of yogurt.

$7, eatevergreen.com

Teton Waters Ranch Mushroom & Onion Burger Blend

Grass-fed beef paired with umami-rich mushrooms makes for a frozen burger the whole family will go for.

$10, tetonwatersranch.com

Capello’s Sweet Potato Gnocchi

The almond and sweet potato flours that make up this fork-tender gnocchi upgrades traditional pasta night.

$11, cappellos.com

Evol Balance Bowl

Whole-grain red rice is paired with grilled chicken and a lively pesto sauce, and these bowls also score bonus points for lots of chunky veggies and low sodium levels.

$4, evolfoods.com