10 Frozen Food Myths It's Time You Stopped Believing
For too long we've overlooked the freezer aisle, treating it as a place of compromise rather than a place meant to make our lives easier. We say it's either not as nutritious or more expensive than fresh food, and feel a twinge of shame when we opt for frozen veggies over fresh. But many of these commonly held beliefs are actually myths. Learning to shop the frozen food aisle can unlock a whole new world of healthy, affordable, and convenient meals. It's time we busted these frozen food myths.
1. Fresh foods are more nutritious than frozen.
Most people assume that fresh is always best, and frozen produce is strictly for convenience's sake. But turns out, freezing produce actually helps to retain vitamins and minerals that would otherwise be lost if stored at room temperature or in the fridge.
A 2017 study compared the concentrations of select nutrients in fresh and frozen produce, including broccoli, cauliflower, corn, green beans, green peas, spinach, blueberries, and strawberries. The findings show no significant differences between vitamin contents in fresh and frozen produce. In fact, frozen produce actually outperformed fresh produce that had been stored for five days in the refrigerator, because fresh produce loses nutrients over time.
You're not compromising by purchasing frozen produce. In fact, you may be getting an even more nutrient-packed product.
2. All frozen foods are highly processed.
Though this was once the norm for frozen food, today's freezer aisles are packed with healthier options made with fewer ingredients, and more wholesome ones at that. Your best bet? Read the label. The longer the ingredient list, the more likely it is to have additives and preservatives. Birds Eye Original Mashed Cauliflower, for example, contains cauliflower, water, heavy cream, and a bit of corn starch and whey for thickening — all ingredients you'd likely add to your own homemade version.
3. All frozen foods contain added preservatives.
Freezing is a natural form of preservation, so added preservatives aren't necessary to preserve frozen food. Many ready-made meals — like Stouffer's Lasagna — are free of preservatives.
4. All frozen foods are high in sodium.
Sodium is found in food naturally, but it's also used as a preservative, meaning a lot is added to processed foods. According to the CDC, more than 70 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed and restaurant foods. But because freezing itself is a preservative, added sodium isn't always needed to extend the shelf life of frozen foods. In fact, frozen fruits and vegetables often have no added sodium, making them a healthier alternative to their canned counterparts.
You have to be a little more choosy when it comes to frozen entrees, but there are a lot of healthy options out there. The Cleveland Clinic recommends selecting frozen entrees with less than 600 milligrams of sodium, so be sure to give the label a once over the next time you're in the freezer aisle.
5. Food past the sell-by date can't be frozen.
The sell-by date is not an indicator of food safety, but instead lets the retailer know how long to display the product before taking it off the shelf. In fact, grocery stores will often sell food past the sell-by date at a significant markdown.
If you freeze food after the sell-by date, it may not be at peak freshness, but it's still safe to freeze and eat later.
6. Frozen food expires.
If you're scared to use those frozen peas hiding in the back of your freezer from times gone by, don't be. FoodSafety.gov states on their website that, "frozen foods stored continuously at 0 degrees F or below can be kept indefinitely." They do provide guidelines for how long to freeze foods, but these guidelines only indicate the period of time in which the food will be at peak quality, because texture and flavor can begin to deteriorate with time.
7. Freezing food kills bacteria.
Freezing food does not kill bacteria; rather, freezing below 0 degrees F inactivates any microbes, bacteria, yeasts, and molds present in food, according to the USDA. Once you thaw frozen food, that same bacteria your food went into the freezer with will become active again, and can even multiply under the right conditions (usually between 40 and 140 degrees F).
8. Food can go into the freezer in its original packaging.
As tempting as it is to transfer those chicken breasts from fridge to freezer in their original packaging (guilty), these packages weren't meant for freezing. Meat packaging, for example, is often permeable to air, which can invite bacteria inside, not to mention cause freezer burn. You're better off unwrapping and rewrapping everything in freezer-safe wraps or bags, making sure to let out as much air as possible.
When freezing vegetables, it's important to first blanch them to prevent enzymes from damaging color, flavor, and nutrients, as well as to destroy any microorganisms that might be lingering on the surface. Learn how to blanch and shock vegetables for freezing with our guide.
9. Refreezing thawed food is unsafe.
This seems to be one of the most pervasive myths about frozen food, and maybe that's because it's partially true. According to the USDA, frozen food that has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours should not be refrozen. However, it's perfectly safe to refreeze raw or cooked food that has been thawed in the refrigerator, although the texture may be compromised due to the moisture loss that comes with thawing.
10. Frozen food is more expensive than fresh.
We've hit nutrition and food safety, now it's time to talk about money. It is to be expected that frozen hash browns or French fries are more expensive than a couple of potatoes, because you're paying for someone else to do the prep work for you. However, there are ways to shop the produce aisle that will save you a buck or two. For example, try purchasing out-of-season produce (like berries in the winter) from the freezer aisle. And a frozen family meal can run the gamut from $4 to $10, which is certainly a cheaper alternative to getting takeout on busy weeknights.