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Will Frozen Foods Ever Be Better than Fresh?


Frozen food companies are trying to combat their negative image with a new advertising campaign

Frozen foods have always been considered second-class citizens when compared to fresh. Frozen food companies like ConAgra have seen either no change or slight decline in sales for many of their frozen product lines, according to AdvertisingAge. However, a new advertising campaign just might change your impression of the often-maligned foodstuff.

The American Frozen Food Institute and the “Frozen Food Roundtable”, which includes ConAgra, General Mills, Heinz, Kellogg, and Nestlé have teamed up to create a $50 million advertising campaign to promote a positive image of frozen foods, since these companies are all suffering frozen sales. Omaha.com believes this campaign is designed to target certain age groups who are more inclined to purchase fresh foods.

Despite frozen foods getting bad publicity in the past, like the Wendy’s slogan, “Fresh, not frozen,” as well as Subway’s “Eat Fresh,” ConAgra and other frozen food companies have seen consumer backlash. However, recent news has shown the rise in dependency of frozen foods. The Wall Street Journal found that Les Templiers, a Parisian restaurant, uses frozen ingredients and sometimes serves frozen main courses to save time, money and energy. Even Press-Citizen’s Kym Wroble seems to commend and even encourage frozen dinners, arguing their greater health benefits than home cooking, citing fewer calories and less sodium.

Even though there is some public endorsement about frozen food benefits, they fall under the same negative health effects as packaged foods. While these companies hope to change the perception of frozen foods, it seems they will never truly overtake the popularity of fresh ones.


5 Supremely Healthy Recipes Made From Frozen Food

People frequently dismiss the idea of frozen foods being better for you than fresh food. The boxes and bags of nutritional land mines found in the freezer aisle—goopy Hot Pockets, freezer-burned fish sticks, pizza buried under a tsunami of sodium—can easily blow up your diet. But it’s not all doom and gloom for frozen fare. Fresh produce that’s picked up and trucked or flown around the country loses nutrition and antioxidants. Freezing it slows the breakdown and helps maintain freshness.

In fact, multiple studies have found frozen foods to be just as good and usually better for you than fresh: In 2013, U.K. researchers found that about two-thirds of the frozen fruits and veggies they tested had more vitamin C and antioxidants (like polyphenols, lutein, beta-carotene, and anthocyanin) than refrigerated produce.

Another study out of the University of Georgia compared fresh and frozen strawberries, blueberries, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, spinach, and green peas from six grocery stores. Initial tests found both varieties had similar nutrition levels. The food was then stored—fresh in the fridge, frozen in the freezer (duh)—and tested again five days later. The fresh lost vitamins, mostly A and C, and folate.

So don’t be a fresh food-only snob. Jump into the deep freeze with these healthy recipes.

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Why Frozen Peaches Are Better than Fresh

Here’s the secret no Southern cook wants you to know: As much pride as we have for our state’s peaches, we all have a bag (or more) of frozen peaches hidden away in the deep freeze. Yes, a peak-season peach is worthy of songs and stories of longing, but frozen peaches are a steadfast staple of Southern cooks in the know.

A Note on Frozen Peaches vs. Canned Peaches

First of all, let me be clear that I’m talking about frozen peaches, not canned peaches. Canned peaches have their own fan club, and I admit some of the best peaches I’ve ever eaten were home-canned by somebody’s MawMaw. But canned peaches are cooked peaches, even if they were raw packed. For smoothies and savory applications, frozen peaches are unsweetened and ready to cook.

Frozen peaches are already peeled, pitted, and sliced.

You call it lazy, but I call it being efficient. Sometimes I just need a few sliced peaches for a smoothie or I want to get a cobbler in the oven before dinner. Both of these can be done in less time (and involve no thawing) with frozen peaches. Bonus: There’s no peeler to wash.

Frozen peaches are more reliable than their fresh counterparts.

Some summers I can eat through a dozen peaches and never have that “peach juice dripping down my arm, eyes closed in delight” moment. The weather might have had an ill effect on the peach crop, or I might be having bad peach luck. With frozen peaches, I know what I’m getting every time. Freezing and thawing also breaks down the fruit’s cells, making them taste more juicy — even if they aren’t as sweet as those song-worthy peaches.

Freezer peaches are available year-round.

There are times when you need a peach pie in January — like, say, your 5-year-old requests one for her birthday — and you really cannot find fresh peaches. Freezer peaches to the rescue! Plus, they just need a quick thaw before baking.

Frozen peaches are cheaper than off-season peaches.

Fresh peaches are prized for about one month every year, and during this time you can buy them for pennies on the pound. But if you’ve ever purchased peaches in the spring or fall, then you know they are expensive and about as bland as styrofoam. My bags of frozen peaches are the same price year-round. Yes, I’m paying a premium for someone else peeling, pitting, and slicing them, but I’m also getting tastier peaches.

Now is the time to buy peaches and put them up. Stock your own freezer with our peach freezing lesson.


PR from Popeye's love for frozen spinach increased U.S. spinach consumption by one-third during the 1930s and the great depression.

A lot of the same benefits of frozen spinach are true of all frozen veggies. They are perfect for people who have busy schedules and reduce food waste that happens when fresh produce is bought and not used. Next time you're at the grocery store, be sure to head over to the frozen foods aisle and grab yourself a bag of frozen spinach—you won't regret it.


Frozen Foods Taught Me How to Cook

When I was teaching myself how to cook, frozen food saved me.

I was in college, and my cooking experiments weren't always pretty. Iɽ leave failed dishes—I remember a quiche in particular—to linger in the refrigerator until they practically grew legs and walked away, and the produce bin would become a toxic waste zone of neglected uncooked vegetables purchased with good intentions. These failures were devastating to someone living on a budget. I simply couldn't afford to waste food.

So it was with great delight that I learned some ingredients were actually better to buy frozen than fresh out of season. Unlike their precious, ephemeral, expensive, fresh cousins, I could ignore frozen fruits and vegetables until I was ready to use them. Also? Frozen food happens to be super cheap.

Steak House Creamed Spinach

My gateway frozen food was spinach. I was cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner, and looking for something cheap and green to add to the menu. Frozen spinach to the rescue: a recipe for creamed spinach I found on this very website called for frozen spinach, and further research revealed that, unless it's in season, high-quality frozen spinach is often better than the fresh stuff. Not to mention easier to deal with.

I was hooked. Iɽ buy a neat square of frozen spinach every time I went to the grocery store and soon found it was an easy way to add vegetables to pretty much anything. Iɽ mix defrosted and drained frozen spinach with scrambled eggs in the morning, combine it with black beans and cheese for an enchilada filling, layer it into lasagnas, and stir it into soups.

Soon I was buying all kinds of frozen vegetables. Frozen corn became another staple, as did green beans. Iɽ buy frozen raspberries to cook with oatmeal, and frozen strawberries to add to margaritas. (I was in college, after all.) Iɽ buy fresh when I could afford it, or when it was in season, but frozen food formed the backbone of the very first foods I cooked for myself and my friends.

This week, Epicurious is taking a long, hard look at how frozen foods can improve your cooking. Thankfully, frozen food has gotten a lot better than it was when I was in college, and today you can find everything from prepped and cubed butternut squash to galangal and fresh turmeric in the freezer aisle.

Frozen foods can save you money and time can expand your culinary horizons with international ingredients and are a major help for cooking #wasteless (something I'm always striving to do). But the best part? They're good to hang out in the freezer for a while—which means that spinach is nowhere near growing legs and walking away.


Fresh food vs frozen food:

The main difference between fresh food and frozen food is that fresh food is readily available for cooking whereas frozen food is kept in the freezer for 1 or 2 days before it can be cooked. Apart from this difference, below are the further differences on fresh food vs frozen food.

Fresh FoodFrozen Food
Available to cook instantaneously for cookingKept in a frozen state to avoid degradation
Can be bought directly from the market and cooked.Bought from the store in a frozen format.
The temperature of the fresh food is usually 20 to 25-degree celsiusThe temperature of the frozen food is usually -20 to -10 degree celsius.
Good for consumption within a day or a maximum of two days.Good for consumption even after 10 to twenty days.
Usually cheaper when compared to frozen food.Usually quite costlier when compared to fresh foods.


Shelf life of a Super chilled / iced food:

The shelf life of frozen food depends upon the type of food and the water content of the food. The higher the water content of food, the lesser the shelf life of the food. This is because if the water content of the food is higher, the food content tends to have more moisture and higher moisture leads to the growth of bacteria.

Due to this factor, some foods have higher shelf life than others. For example, frozen peas have a much higher shelf life when compared to frozen chicken because peas have less water content than chicken and hence peas do not degrade faster when compared to chicken.


Seven foods you should always keep in the freezer

Keep berries in the freezer to throw into smoothies, pastries and on porridge. Photo: iStock

In our busy lives, a well-stocked freezer can be our best friend. Whether it is to keep meals on hand when you don't have time to cook or a supply of vegies so you are never caught short there are many ways to utilise a freezer to help optimise your nutrient intake and keep your energy intake under control.

It's also helpful to know that contrary to popular belief, frozen foods can actually be higher in nutrient value than fresh foods that have not been cooked and stored correctly. So if you would like to use your freezer space a little more effectively, here's a guide to the foods you need on hand in your own freezer.

Berries and overripe bananas

When fresh fruit is in season, there is nothing better than finding delicious, freshly picked options at a good price but this is not always the case. For produce such as berries, for which there are large seasonal fluctuations in pricing and availability it makes sense to keep a supply of frozen varieties on hand to utilise in smoothies, baked goods and desserts. You can also stock up when supply is high, seal and then freeze yourself so you have access to a supply after the season ends.

Another simple trick is to freeze any overripe bananas you have at home, as they can then be used as a natural sweet addition in baking and smoothies.

Opt for Australian produce where possible. Photo: iStock

Vegetables

When it comes to price, ease and nutrient content, you can't go past frozen vegies. Snap frozen at the time of harvest, frozen vegetables actually have a higher concentration of some nutrients than fresh varieties that have been stored and transported for many weeks, if not months. Opt for Australian produce where possible and keep a range of quick-cook veg options to add to any meal.

Stock

Whether you make your own, or freeze fresh varieties, having stock on hand means you can always prepare a tasty casserole or soup with minimal ingredients. It also means that any leftover stock can be frozen and used at a later date, helping to reduce food waste.

Family-friendly meals such as Helen Goh's roasted broccoli, chilli and ricotta cake are good for freezing. Photo: William Meppem


Marie Callender's Chicken Pot Pie

On the surface, this seems like a well-balanced meal, as each pot pie is jam-packed with vegetables and lean meat—but Richards says this image of healthiness is just an illusion.

Plus, the serving size for this pot pie is only one cup. If you were to eat the whole thing, you would actually have to double the nutrition. And who only eats half of a mini pot pie—right?

"One pie is over 500 nutrient-deprived calories and over 700 milligrams of sodium," Richards says. "The saturated fat content alone makes you wonder if lean meat is actually being used."

Our Best-Ever Healthier Chicken Pot Pie Recipe would be a much better option for you!


Premade Meals

Jason Varney/Galvanized

Yes, this one takes a little more planning, but this is the best solution to dinner in a pinch: frozen dinner! And if you don't want to fully cook dinner and then freeze, consider packaging up pre-portioned slow cooker meals that can be dumped in your slow cooker in the morning and then are ready to eat when you come home from work.

Cook this! Make extra of your favorite meals when you have time: breakfast sandwiches, lasagna, enchiladas, or meat sauce. Or, simply pick up an Eat This!-approved choice from our list of 31 Healthy Store-Bought Frozen Foods To Stock In Your Freezer.