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    Archive for the ‘frozen foods’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Are Frozen Fruits & Vegetables Pre-Cooked?

    product_185I heard that all frozen fruits and vegetables are cooked at really high temperatures before being frozen.

    Does this result in a lot of nutrient losses?

    — Patricia (Last name withheld)
    Los Angeles, CA


    First of all, keep in mind that there is no set standard when it comes to processing fruits and vegetables prior to freezing them; the steps differ from company to company.

    Most frozen vegetables are blanched, which is basically boiling a food for a very short period of time (think: seconds).  This helps provide vibrant colors, make for slightly more palatable flavor, and results in minimal nutrient losses (boiling exposes foods to water for longer periods of time, so nutrient losses are more significant than with blanching).

    In the case of fruits, I have never heard, for instance, of berries being blanched.  I know some companies will occasionally blanch other fruits, though.

    There is no reason to be concerned about this.  To me, buying canned or dried fruit with added sugars or artificial colors is much more troubling.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    pb00423On average, canned fruits and vegetables contain 61 percent less vitamin C than their fresh or frozen counterparts.

    Vitamin C is one of the least stable nutrients.

    As you can see, the intense heat applied during the canning process does a number on foods’ vitamin C content.  Keep in mind that the above figure is an average; some foods lose a smaller amount of vitamin C, while others practically have their entire vitamin C content depleted!

    This is why I always recommend purchasing vitamin C-rich-foods in a frozen — rather than canned — state.

    Making a salad with corn?  If fresh isn’t available, opt for frozen corn.  Allow it to thaw on the counter and then add it to the salad.

    Similarly, frozen fruits are a more nutritious addition to a smoothie or dessert than canned varieties.

    Keep in mind, too, that vitamin C is very sensitive to air and light.

    Sliced strawberries, for example, lose over half of their vitamin C content if they are sitting on a plate in your kitchen for half an hour.

    For optimal nutrient intake, don’t remove fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C from the refrigerator — or cut them up — until you are ready to eat them.


    The King Comes Home

    090309-bkfriesIn the mood for Burger King fries?  Forget the drive-thru window!  In a matter of weeks, consumers will need to look no further than their supermarket’s frozen food aisle.

    King Krinkz, the first of three Burger King french fry products due this year, come in an “easy transport frypod.”  The only thing customers need to do is “shake, vent, zap [in the microwave], tap, and rip.”

    Notice that this “single-serve” item contains 4.5 ounces of French fries.  This is slightly larger than a “medium” order (which, up until recently, was the “large” size) of Burger King fries and clocks in at 400 calories.

    Why not sell these in a more reasonable 2.6 ounce (the equivalent to a Burger King “small”) container?

    Sharon Miller, vice president of retail sales for ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston, refers to this product as “perfect for today’s busy families.”

    Families?  I was picturing more of a “dude, I’ve totally got the munchies” college-aged target demographic.

    In any case, later this year we’ll be blessed with the launch of King Kolossalz “extra-large crinkle-cut fries.”  Perhaps those will deliver the 580 calories — and 40% of a day’s worth of sodium — in Burger King’s king-size fries.  In a “single-serving” portion, of course.

    Many thanks to Corey Clark for sending me this news item.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    According to figures from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), per capita sodium intake in the United States increased 56 percent between 1970 and 2000.

    Not at all surprising, considering the rampant increase in meals eaten at restaurants and consumption of frozen foods.

    Dietary guidelines recommend no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day, but the average adult in the United States consumes, on average, anywhere from 3,300 to 3,800 milligrams.

    Remember — the more processed a food item, the higher its sodium levels (i.e.: three ounces of grilled chicken contain approximately 10 times less sodium than three ounces of chicken nuggets.)


    You Ask, I Answer: Frozen/Cooked Vegetables

    If I microwave my vegetables instead of steaming/boiling them, will this prevent some of the vitamin loss (to water)?

    Also, I know a lot of vitamins are heat-sensitive. To save time, I’ve started preparing a lot of foods beforehand, and then storing them in the refrigerator for a few days.

    I’m wondering if, in doing so, I’m losing out on a lot of nutrients through heating, cooling, and reheating, as well as having them exposed to air (and, thus, oxidation) through my dicing/cutting.

    Similarly, are frozen vegetables less nutritious than fresh ones?

    — Anonymous
    Via the blog

    Steaming and boiling provide very different nutritional profiles.

    Since steaming does not place vegetables in direct contact with water, water-soluble nutrients (like vitamin C and the B vitamins) do not leech out.

    Boil potatoes for 20 minutes, though, and you are kissing a lot of vitamin C goodbye (unless, of course, you end up using that water for soup, which not many people do.)

    Microwaving is one great way to steam foods, but it ultimately comes down to how much water you are using.

    Cooking broccoli in the microwave by dunking it in a big bowl of water is just as nutrient-leeching as boiling!

    Although vegetables offer the most nutrition when they are cut and diced right before consumption (some nutrients are sensitive to air), keeping chopped pieces in an airtight container for a day or two in the refrigerator isn’t anything worth worrying about (they key there being airtight.)

    As far as frozen vegetables — they can often be MORE nutritious than fresh vegetables.

    The reason? They are, for the most part, flash frozen and packaged at their peak (when they contain the highest amount of nutrition), thereby retaining all these nutrients until you eat them at home.

    Fresh vegetables — particularly if they are not local — can take a few days to be shipped long distances, and often sit for days at the supermarket, exposed to UV lights that can leach out certain light-sensitive nutrients (including B vitamins, vitamin C, as well as certain antioxidants).

    As long as you are getting plain frozen vegetables (as opposed to the varieties that come drenched in sodium and saturated fat laden sauces), you are getting plenty of nutrition.


    Survey Results: Economical Eating

    The most recent Small Bites survey asked visitors to classify eating healthy on a budget as:

    “Possible and easy” (27%)
    “Challenging, but doable” (58%)

    “Very hard” (13%)

    “Impossible” (1%)

    I am very happy to see that a solid 85% of voters consider it to at least be “doable.”

    The truth is, healthy eating (which I defined as “balanced, nutritious, and meeting most nutrient daily values”) does not need to be a wallet-buster.

    Let’s clarify a few issues.

    1. Healthy eating does not need to be organic.

    If you can afford organic, go for it. If your budget doesn’t allow for it, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a perfectly healthy and balanced diet.

    Whole wheat pasta will always contain at least 5 grams of fiber per serving, organic or not, and both organic and conventional peanuts are a wonderful source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

    Besides, as far as our bodies are concerned, there is no difference between an organic and conventional 400-calorie chocolate chip cookie.

    2. Healthy eating does not need to be exotic.

    Every few months some new “miracle” fruit comes along.

    I am sure you are familiar with the process by now.

    It is usually from another continent and, after being profiled in the mass media, is quickly turned into a juice drink packed in a beautifully shaped glass bottle (displaying a brand name with an accented vowel) that retails for a ridiculous price.

    Here’s the thing: ALL fruits are healthy.

    Yes, some offer more nutrients than others, but there is no such thing as a fruit that is unhealthy or should be avoided.

    Similarly, I don’t like to label any food as a “miracle” or “superior” one.

    Besides, acai berries are exotic in the United States, but as run of the mill as apples are to us in their native Brazil.

    3. Nature is cheaper than major food companies.

    Instead of tortilla chips with flaxseeds (which aren’t even grounded up, meaning you aren’t absorbing any lignans,) buy ground flaxseed and sprinkle it onto different foods.

    A standard bag of ground flaxseed retails for $5 (almost as much as gourmet tortilla chips) and lasts for months if you only use up a tablespoon each day — which is plenty.

    Remember, what drives up food costs isn’t so much nutrition as it is convenience.

    A six-pack of single-serving applesauce containers may be convenient, but for that same amount of money you can buy enough apples to make five times that much applesauce.

    I specifically mention apples because they can sit in a fruit bowl for days before they start to rot.

    They are portable, delicious, and you don’t need any utensils to eat them. Talk about convenient!

    A Luna bar may be convenient, but so is packing a small Ziploc bag of peanuts and raisins to snack on later in the day (the latter is also significantly cheaper.)

    4. Sometimes a big name isn’t a good deal.

    Many foods (canned beans, plain oatmeal, raisins, and frozen vegetables) are equally nutritious whether they are made by a generic or well-known brand.

    5. Speaking of beans…

    … they are a wonderful and inexpensive way to get protein and fiber.

    Use them for vegetarian chilis, bean salads, or even to make your own hummus at home (it’s simple – just blend together chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt!).

    In conclusion…

    Junk food is very financially accessible, but so are many nutritious foods.

    PS: I’m interested in reading YOUR tips for eating healthy when money is tight. Post away!


    Five Must-Have Foods

    The latest video on the Small Bites YouTube Channel singles out five must-have foods.

    Having these in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer will make healthy eating simple, quick, and convenient.

    This is not an end-all-be-all “five healthiest foods on the planet” or “five superfoods that reverse aging” list, but rather just one of many practical ways in which nutrition can have a place in your kitchen.


    Pizza For One; Saturated Fat and Sodium for More!

    The folks at DiGiorno — those of the “it’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno” commercials — have launched individual-sized frozen pizzas.


    They appear to have no problem with someone consuming:

    590 calories
    11 grams of saturated fat (55% of a day’s worth)
    1,170 milligrams of sodium (half a day’s worth)

    … in one sitting.

    Not surprisingly, fiber shows up at a paltry 3 grams (that’s basically one gram per 200 calories!)

    Those values are equivalent to what you get from three slices of Domino’s pepperoni pizza.

    I am not a huge fan of frozen pizzas (I like to buy ready-to-bake Rustic Crust whole grain crust and make my own), if single-person ones are on your grocery list, I recommend:

    Earth’s Best (380 calories, 6 grams saturated fat, 760 milligrams sodium, 8 grams fiber)
    Lean Cuisine (320 calories, 2.5 grams saturated fat, 540 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber).


    You Ask, I Answer: Healthy Cooking/Dinner

    I really don’t have too much time to cook. I just grab a quick protein and vegetable to go, oatmeal for breakfast.

    I am having trouble with dinner. I had peanut butter sandwiches two days straight!

    Any suggestions?

    — Marta (last name withheld)
    Miami, FL

    One common obstacle to healthy eating for many people is including it into a busy schedule with long work hours and/or many social activities.

    After a 12-hour workday, the last thing most people want to do when they get home is break out the pots and pans and play chef for the night.

    There are two scenarios worth discussing here.

    If we are talking about situations where you get home extremely tired and hungry and the mere thought of even boiling water seems like a grating chore, let’s turn to frozen dinners.

    They should not be your daily dinner companion, but I do think busy people should have two or three in their freezer. It could very well make the difference between having a relatively healthy dinner or greasy Chinese takeout.

    Of course, not any frozen dinner will do.

    I recommend most the Kashi line. The Lemon Rosemary Chicken flavor, for example, contains 330 calories, a mere 1.5 grams of saturated fat, no trans fats, a respectable 5 grams of fiber, and just 1 gram of sugar.

    The Southwest Chicken and Lime Cilantro Shrimp flavors offer 80 less calories and an extra gram of fiber!

    The Sweet & Sour Chicken contains too much added sugar (25 grams, or 2 tablespoons’ worth) for me to fully recommend.

    Overall, you want to seek out frozen meals that contain:

    No more than 400 calories

    Four or less grams of saturated fat

    No more than 650 milligrams of sodium

    At least 5 grams of fiber

    Of course, it’s also very feasible to make very quick, healthy, delicious dinners. The key is to have your pantry and refrigerator “five-minute meal ready.”

    For example, always have small whole wheat tortilla wraps in the fridge.

    You can then throw in a cup of sauteed canned black beans and frozen corn, half an avocado, and a tablespoon of two or salsa for a healthy, delicilous burrito in a flash. Protein, plenty of fiber, and healthy fats in just minutes!

    It’s also wise to cook large amounts of healthy side dishes (i.e.: brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat cous cous) on the weekend to keep in the fridge for situations like these. They can accompany anything from grilled chicken breasts to a soy patty.

    Although serious foodies will want to send me hate mail for the following suggestion, I am all about buying precut vegetables. If you’re pressed for time and can afford the extra cost, grab baby carrots, cubed butternut squash, broccoli florets, and pepper strips.

    If you are busy (or simply lack knife skills) you are more likely to snack on pineapple or watermelon at night if it is already cut up for you.

    Besides, as anyone who lives in a walking-centric city will agree, who wants to carry a whole watermelon from the supermarket to their apartment?

    Convenience is no longer a valid excuse for ringing up Domino’s. You are welcome to give them a call every so often, but realize that in this day and age, eating healthy can be attained by even the busiest of people.


    To: Your Freezer From: A Heart Surgeon

    Many heart surgeons share healthy eating guidelines for optimal cardiac health, but Dr. Peter Praeger took his advice one step further by creating a line of healthy and delicious frozen products.

    From vegetarian burgers to appetizer-sized spinach bites, his products definitely deserve room in your freezer.

    Last week, I tried the sweet potato pancakes for the first time and was instantly hooked.

    A glance at the ingredients list immediately put me at ease: Sweet potatoes, egg whites, potato flakes, onions, expeller-pressed canola oil, arrowroot, brown sugar, salt, pepper.

    No wonder the product’s tagline is “Where you recognize all the ingredients.”

    The pancakes also boast a neat nutritional profile, with each one containing:

    • 80 calories
    • 0 grams of saturated fat
    • 140 milligrams of sodium
    • 3 grams added sugar
    • 3 grams of fiber

    Angels and Devils: Frozen Foods

    The frozen food market has been growing increasingly over the past 15 years, as more food shoppers seek convenience.

    When it comes to nutrition, though, ease does not always equal health. Here’s a quick list of what to steer away from, and what you can put in your cart with peace of mind.

    As you read this list, remember that saturated fat intake should be at no more than 20 grams per day for a 2,000 calorie diet (your specific limit would be lower or higher depending on how many less or more calories you eat), and your sodium intake should not surpass 2,300 milligrams each day, regardless of your caloric intake.


    Amy’s Black Bean Burrito

    280 calories

    1 gram saturated fat

    580 milligrams sodium

    Amy’s Rice and Bean Burrito

    280 calories

    .5 g saturated fat

    550 mg sodium

    Healthy Choice Chicken Enchiladas

    310 calories

    2.5 g saturated fat

    600 mg sodium

    Lean Cuisine Glazed Chicken

    230 calories

    1 g saturated fat

    530 mg sodium


    Bertolli Shrimp Scampi over Linguini

    550 calories

    10 g saturated fat

    1200 mg sodium

    Marie Callender’s Herb Roasted Chicken w/ Mashed Potatoes

    530 calories

    12 g saturated fat

    1,270 mg sodium

    Swanson Hungry Man Classic Fried Chicken Dinner

    790 calories

    10 g saturated fat

    1,940 mg sodium

    Stouffer’s White Meat Chicken Pot Pie

    730 calories

    18 g saturated fat

    1,180 mg sodium

    Hungry Man Mexican Style Fiesta

    870 calories

    10 g saturated fat

    2,230 mg sodium


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