Monday 26 February 2024

17 Grocery Items You Should Always Buy Frozen, According to Experts

 If you checked your freezer right now, what would you find? Just a lonely ice tray? Maybe a few scattered has-been foods like a single Eggo waffle—how long has that been there, anyway? Or, perhaps there's an entire collection of foods that are now showing signs of freezer burn?

The freezer can be a dark and scary place if you don't know how to fill it correctly. But, with some guidance, it can be an Eden of healthy snacks and lifesaving meal options.

Take it from Laura Burak, MS, RD, founder of GetNaked Nutrition and author of Slimdown with Smoothies. "Frozen items are one of the best ways to never say 'what's for dinner?' again," she says. "Stocking up with lots of nutrient-packed foods that you can simply heat and eat or blend and sip will save you time, money, and can be much healthier than ordering takeout again."

To get the lowdown on the best frozen foods, we asked Burak, along with a few additional members of our medical expert board, to share their go-to picks. Find out which frozen foods have their backing, and adjust your grocery list accordingly before your trip down the frosty grocery store aisles.



Avocados might not be the first item you'd think to buy frozen, but stocking your freezer with this fruit has several pros, according to Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN. Not only can avocados be used in various recipes ranging from guacamole to smoothies, but they're also rich in health benefits.

"Avocados are a unique and healthy fruit because they contain unsaturated fat and can act as a nutrient booster by helping increase the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D, K, and E," Manaker says. Another bonus she highlights is that these "good fats" don't raise LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels when consumed with a healthy diet.

While you can freeze your avocados, grocery stores also sell bags of frozen chunks. 

Egg products

egg bites

Craving eggs for breakfast but don't have the time (or desire) to make them? You can still get your fix with the help of some frozen egg products, which Manaker says are "worth keeping in stock for the first meal of the day."

For the frittata fans, Manaker recommends Applegate Frittata Bites, which are fully cooked egg bites made with 100% natural ingredients and humanely raised meat, as highlighted by the brand. In terms of frozen omelet options, Manaker is a fan of Eggland's Best three-cheese frozen omelet. These contain a blend of cheddar, Monterey Jack, and parmesan cheeses. Another selling point? Eggland's Best eggs have six times more vitamin D than ordinary eggs.

Additionally, if you don't think you'll use up your eggs quickly enough, Manaker points out that you can freeze raw eggs for up to a year. To do this, you would crack the eggs and either beat the whole egg or separate the yolk from the white before freezing, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).


breakfast burrito

Want Mexican food in a pinch? For Manaker, frozen burritos "can be a healthy addition to mealtime, as long as you are choosing ones that are made with quality ingredients."

One brand the dietitian recommends is Red's. Manaker notes how the burritos are "flash frozen at peak freshness," which helps prevent the formation of ice crystals. Plus, they're cooked in small batches with freshly made tortillas and are free of artificial ingredients. These burritos come in a variety of options. 

Açaí Bowls

acai bowl

If you're bored of your usual smoothie, why not give an açaí bowl a try? For a low-effort, antioxidant-packed dish, Manaker recommends purchasing this item frozen.

"There are some great options out there, like Sambazon Foods, that offer their açaí bowls in biodegradable bowls," Manaker says. "These options make enjoying an açaí bowl more accessible, which is a good thing because they are so good."

Bone Broth

bone broth

Often praised for its health benefits, bone broth is a grocery item you'll want to consider buying frozen, according to Tammy Lakatos Shames RD, CDN, CFT and Lyssie Lakatos, RD, CDN, CFT, also known as the Nutrition Twins.

"This nutrient-rich broth makes a great stock for making soups, sauces, and gravies that pack in the health benefits," per the Nutrition Twins. "You can simply drink it, too, and since it contains amino acids including glycine and arginine, you'll reap the benefits of their strong anti-inflammatory properties, as well as glutamic acid, which becomes glutamine in the body, protecting the gut lining."

Although you can purchase fresh bone broth, the twins point out that this time has a relatively short five-day shelf life. As an alternative to buying fresh, the dietitians recommend the frozen Bonefida Provisions bone broth. If you're not planning on using all of it, you can thaw what you intend to use and put the rest back into the freezer.

"It is particularly soothing when you're run down and don't want to have to worry about cooking or having the rest of the package go bad," according to the twins.


Plant-based veggie & protein bowls

rice and vegetables

"With everyone trying to eat more plant-based meals, washing and chopping fresh veggies and cooking whole grains and beans can be time-consuming, but frozen blends have the work done for you and can be ready in minutes," according to the Nutrition Twins.

For an easy alternative, the dietitians recommend Birds Eye California Style Power Blend, which features a mix of frozen brown rice, white quinoa, and lentils, along with broccoli, peas, and shelled edamame in a garlic sauce.

Another similar option the Nutrition Twins suggest is Green Giant's California Style Harvest Protein Bowl. This item includes a blend quinoa, lentils, edamame, corn, grilled peppers, peas, and kale, along with a lemon and herb sauce. For an additional eight grams of protein, the dietitians say you can add a quarter cup of light cheese to these bowl options, bringing the protein count to 23 and 22 grams, respectively.


yogurt pops

This one might seem like a given—hello, ice cream! But for the Nutrition Twins, the appeal of a frozen dessert goes beyond deliciousness.

"Desserts are some of the best grocery items to buy frozen because the cold temperatures slow you down, so you can really savor and enjoy them, and you're less likely to overeat them," the dietitians say.

To navigate this grocery category, the Nutrition Twins emphasize purchasing healthier options that are lower in calories and still taste decadent. One brand they recommend and work with is Halo Top, which has light ice cream with only 270 to 360 calories per pint and yogurt pops with 70 to 100 calories per pop.

"These better-for-you desserts can save more than double the calories compared to other frozen desserts," note the twins, adding that their clients "love" the caramel cheesecake light ice cream. 

Berries and other fruits

frozen berries

Because they are frozen at the peak of ripeness, frozen fruits (and vegetables) can actually be more nutritious than fresh, says nutritionist Burak. She specifically recommends hoarding "a variety of fruits like berries, mango, cherries, and pineapple to throw into the blender."

Berries were a popular choice among our other dietitians, as well—and more specifically, blueberries. Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, founder of Real Nutrition NYC, describes the frozen version of the tiny blue fruit as a "nutritional powerhouse" with two times the antioxidants and 72% more fiber compared to regular, fresh blueberries.

As you're browsing the frozen fruit aisle, one additional hint from Burak is to reach for organic brands with no added sugars.


frozen peas

You can't mention fruits without their food pyramid equivalent: vegetables. And, experts had a few specific frozen choices to share, starting with frozen peas.

"I add these to pasta dishes right at the end of cooking the pasta," Shapiro says. "This adds green, protein, fiber, and nutrition to a simple pasta dish. Cooks up quick, is great for a vegetarian or vegan meal, and is kid-friendly too." She adds that this is a helpful alternative for times when you're fresh out of fresh vegetables but still want them represented in your family's dinner. 


frozen spinach

Nutritionist and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, Lisa R. Young, PhD, RDN, likes to keep a stash of frozen spinach in her freezer. She shares that it's "terrific to add to soups, stews, and other vegetable and meat dishes." Popeye would be so pleased!

Additionally, if you have picky kids that turn up their noses at green vegetables, Burak suggests adding veggies like spinach or even avocado chunks to your fruit smoothies instead. "I promise you won't even know those veggies are hiding in there," she assures.


frozen corn

Fresh ears of corn are a staple for summer barbecues, but they're typically MIA from the grocery store throughout the colder fall and winter months. Young's solution is to purchase frozen corn, which is conveniently available all year round and also retains its sweetness very well—better than canned corn.

Pro tip: To get the most flavor out of your frozen corn, cook it in a skillet with your favorite spices rather than boiling it or microwaving it. You don't need to thaw frozen corn before preparing it, but giving it a quick rinse can help remove any of those pesky ice crystals. 


frozen edamame

Both Young and Shapiro are on the frozen edamame bandwagon. "Edamame is a terrific plant protein, which you can add to salads and vegetable dishes," Young shares. "I love keeping edamame in my freezer and heating some up as a snack or to round out a meal."

Shapiro adds that since the vegetable is oftentimes hard to find fresh, you should scoop it up frozen to add some extra fiber to your diet. You can typically find frozen edamame either shelled or still in the pods. The latter makes for the perfect poppable appetizer when served with just a pinch of salt!

Sliced bread and other wheat-based items

frozen bread in supermarket freezer

Burak recommends "keeping a sliced loaf of bread, English muffins, bagels, or toaster waffles for quick breakfast ideas and sandwiches."  These foods can be popped directly into the toaster oven from the freezer and are ready in mere minutes—a busy parent's dream. Just try to limit any frozen toaster strudel items, which are typically high in added sugars. We're looking at you, Pillsbury Toaster Strudels.

Additionally, if you're not a fan of the frozen bread options on the market, Burak says you can alternatively pick up a sliced loaf of grainy bakery bread and freeze it yourself for the same effect. 

Fish, poultry, and meat

holding frozen fish in grocery store

If you're shopping for a large family or just don't enjoy frequent trips to the grocery store, keeping a supply of frozen fish, poultry, and meat in the house is always a good idea. These proteins don't stay fresh for long, so Young recommends saving money by purchasing them frozen and just defrosting as needed. "Veggie burgers are also best bought frozen and they will last for several months in the freezer," she adds.


frozen pizza

There's no shame in resorting to a scrumptious and hassle-free frozen pizza for dinner. Burak even encourages you to always have one or two on deck. The appeal of frozen pizza—besides its obvious convenience factor—is the wide assortment of options out there. You can cater to your own health preferences and taste. For Burak, this means reaching for names like Banza or Cali'flour Foods.

"Crusts made with more nutritious ingredients like chickpeas and veggies like these two brands offer more bang for your buck in terms of nutrients," she says.

You could also give Milton's Craft Bakers Thin & Crispy Roasted Vegetable Cauliflower Crust Pizza a try—the standing favorite of Manaker. Whichever pie you choose, just pair it with a side salad or vegetable, and boom! You have an easy, well-rounded meal. 


frozen dumplings, meatballs, and broth

In addition to pizza and flatbreads, Burak suggests stocking up on select frozen appetizers, so you're never left empty-handed in a pinch. She specifically calls out soup, and if you've ever walked down the freezer aisle, you know there are plenty of other frozen eats competing for your attention, as well.

Take some extra time to examine the nutritional facts on frozen apps, however. Of course they're delicious, but selections like Ore-Ida Tater Tots or Totino's Pizza Rolls typically offer nothing in the way of health value. Treat your family to something more wholesome and nourishing instead.


boiled frozen shrimp

If you're a seafood lover, you're in luck. Along with fish and other meats, Shapiro adds shrimp to the list of great freezer aisle grabs. "I always keep frozen shrimp on hand. It is more affordable than fresh and defrosts and cooks up in minutes, making a healthy meal that is high in protein, iodine, and delicious in minutes," she says.

She even gives some helpful advice on how to cook the crustaceans. Make sure to save this info for your next delicious dinner. "Simply place the frozen shrimp in a colander and rinse under warm water. Broil for two to three minutes or pan fry until pink and opaque," she says. "I use a pesto sauce, but butter or olive oil and garlic work well too!"

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