Frozen vegetables are a quick and easy alternative to fresh veggies. If you’ve been down the frozen food aisle lately, you’ll notice that frozen vegetables now come in single-serve boxes, re-sealable bags or microwaveable bags that don’t even need to be opened before you steam your veggies in them.
These products are a great way to add fibre, vitamin C, vitamin A and valuable phytochemicals to your diet – particularly if you’re like the 41 percent of Canadians who find it hard to eat enough vegetables.
Despite their claims, frozen vegetables are not necessarily as nutritious as fresh. In terms of calories and fibre content, they are virtually equal, however, in vitamins C and A they do differ.
Frozen vegetables picked at the height of their flavour and nutritional value, blanched in hot water or steam to kill harmful bacteria, and then flash frozen at -40˚C in an effort to preserve their nutritional value. Some nutrient loss occurs in this process. Water-soluble vitamins, like vitamin C, are particularly vulnerable during blanching and freezing.
In my research, I found that the degree of nutrient loss varies greatly from brand to brand.
For example, one-half cup (125 ml) of Green Giant Valley Selections Cut Broccoli provides only 17.5 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C while the same sized serving Green Organic Broccoli Florets provides 50 percent. (One-half cup of fresh broccoli that’s been boiled and drained provides over 70 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement.)
On the plus side, beta-carotene (converted to vitamin A in the body) fares better in frozen vegetables than in fresh because this carotenoid is sensitive to light. As they’re always packaged, frozen vegetables have less exposure to light resulting in less destruction of beta-carotene.
For instance, one-half cup (125 ml) of Europe’s Best Chef’s Spinach provides 66 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin A – roughly the amount of vitamin A in one and a half cups (375 ml) of fresh spinach.
While frozen vegetables are low in sodium, some seasoned vegetable blends, like Green Giants Essentials or Artic Garden’s Grill Mix, are loaded with up to 204 milligrams of sodium per one-half cup serving – something you definitely won’t find in fresh vegetables.
Also avoid frozen vegetables in a butter or cheese sauce as they can add calories and up to 380 milligrams of sodium to your plate. One-half cup (125 ml) of Green Giant’s Simply Steam Brussel sprouts with Butter Sauce contains more than four times the calories in frozen broccoli without the sauce!
A great way to use some of your frozen vegetables is in this tasty recipe.
- ¼ cup dried green lentils, drained and rinsed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ tbsp curry paste
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup cauliflower florets
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- ¼ cup raisins or dried currants
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- ¼ cup frozen green peas, thawed
- ¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
- In a saucepan of boiling water, cook lentils for 10 minutes, drain
- In saucepan, heat oil over medium heat, sauté onion until deep golden, about 6 minutes
- Add carrots, garlic, curry paste, salt and pepper, sauté until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in cauliflower, rice, raisins and lentils to coat
- Add broth, bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until rice, lentils and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes
- Stir in peas, cook until heated through, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with almonds.