With an increasing number of working couples juggling daily chores with project deadlines, there is hardly any time left for cooking. This is the time when frozen meals like parathas, pizza, burgers come to their rescue. But are they as nutritious as fresh foods? Are all frozen foods bad for health? Nutritionist Shilpa Mittal explains some facts about it.
Why are they bad?
The health properties of frozen foods like parathas, fries, meats, and desserts are questionable. This is because their ingredients will not be the same as freshly made meals. A major concern is the use of partially hydrogenated palm oil which might have hidden, dangerous trans fats.
Secondly, the sodium content is also an issue. Many frozen meals contain between 700 to 1800 mg of sodium. With the daily recommended maximum dosage of 2300 mg of sodium, it is hard to stay in this limit! This puts people with high blood pressure at further risk. (Read: Tasty recipes to keep BP under control)
How to make them a little healthy
Frozen meals may not be as nutritious as freshly cooked food, but you can take these pointers to make them healthy to some extent.
When purchasing frozen items, avoid ones with any kind of cheese sauce. These meals are high in calories and saturated fat. Also, once you thaw the box, do not refreeze it again. Take out only the amount you want quickly and refreeze the rest in case of a packet.
Avoid buying frozen fruits packed in syrup. The rule of thumb is this: check the ingredients. The only ingredients that should be listed in the fruits or vegetables you are purchasing are the fruits or vegetables themselves.
Have a large serving of a salad or a side of fruits or vegetables along with frozen foods. Not only will you be fuller after a meal and less prone to snacking, but you will also be able to reach all of your nutritional requirements better. (Read: Tasty snacks for the monsoon)
The important point to take away is that frozen foods are not healthy on their own. Restrict their use to only in emergency situations unless it is absolutely necessary when you don’t have any other option left. It is still important to pay attention to nutrition labels and plan your meals accordingly. If you have had one such meal, then try and eat fresh food for the others.
Not all frozen food is bad
Fruits and vegetables – these two food groups are just as good purchased frozen as they are fresh. In some cases, they may actually be better, because if you keep vegetables and fruits in your fridge for a long time, they lose some of their nutritional value. Whereas, buying them frozen and then defrosting when you want the fruit/vegetable can actually retain more nutrients.
Peas, green beans lose a lot of vitamin C within hours of being picked. When foods are canned or frozen, they are usually processed and packaged within hours of being harvested. This retains their nutrients until they are defrosted which should be just prior their consumption.