The Perils of Frozen Food
The TV dinner entered homes across the country in the 1950s thanks to Swanson & Sons, allowing families to munch on a mixture of meat, veggies, and starches or carbohydrates while watching episodes of “I Love Lucy.” These microwave-ready meals ushered in a new era of convenience that hasn’t been lost on today’s society. Quick, easy and cost-effective are words that immediately come to mind - and many people gobble that up as a prime, preferable way to put food on the table (or TV tray, if you still insist on living in the ‘50s).
We simply have more options now, along with an onslaught of in-your-face marketing touting a slew of growing, “healthier” options. There are also in certain cases more vegetables visible in certain brands’ packaging than there were decades ago, and select companies are even attempting to use fewer of the additives and toxic ingredients that aid in preserving food longer. Look at brands such as Healthy Choice and Kashi , Amy’s Kitchen, and Meals to Live. The latter is specifically for diabetics.
But while frozen food is certainly handy for that snappy meal, it may not be the best for your health. One should still be circumspect about meals on ice. Frozen meals, even those that claim to be healthy, are often rife with salt, trans fats, and carbohydrates, as well as stripped of important nutrients. These heart health-anemic properties are characteristic of many processed and preserved foods in general.
What To Watch Out For
Excess sodium is a primary source of concern when it comes to frozen foods. Sources cite that some frozen foods contain up to 1,500 milligrams of sodium, which is the maximum suggested intake for people 51 years old and up, African-Americans and those with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, according to the 2011 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Excess salt can lead to heart disease or stroke.
Generally, each individual should be eating less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. The disconcerting reality, however, is that most of us scarily surpass that allotted amount already. So in an effort to stay healthy, think twice before you go reaching for your next meal and where you are reaching for it.
Frozen food portions in many cases are also lacking in balanced portions. Protein and vegetable content is usually low, so that brings the risk of overeating or falling prey to cravings from feeling unsatisfied. It is also important to watch for trans fats, or ingredients listed as fractionated,” or “hydrogenated”, as they can lead to clogged arteries and an increase in bad levels of cholesterol.
Is Frozen Produce Healthy?
If you must have frozen food, go for vegetables. Frozen veggies can trap nutrients for longer periods of time, whereas fresh kinds in the fridge can easily be stripped of vitamins if not eaten within 24 hours. In fact, research around 2009 showed that there’s little to no difference in fresh versus frozen produce when it comes to nutritional value. This was buttressed by an article in the Telegraph titled, “Frozen food 'healthier than fresh produce', scientists claim.”
Importance Of Microwave Safety
In 2008, a public outcry over salmonella outbreaks from frozen foods that were inadequately or improperly heated focused increased attention on microwave safety. It is important to remain vigilant on this matter today. When certain spots of food remain cold, bacteria can cluster in that area and fester. Be especially careful with raw meats cooked in the microwave. Moreover, the plastic packaging on your foods can leak harmful, potentially carcinogenic chemicals when put in the microwave with your foods (as evidenced by an investigative Good Housekeeping article). Watch out for ingredients such as Phthalates and Bisphenol A in particlur.
Automatically assume your frozen food is always ready to be popped in the microwave in the first place? Think again. Be sure to check expiration dates on your frozen meals before taking them out to be blasted. Frozen foods still have their shelf lives even though they’re thought to last for lengthier times.
Overall, most experts still maintain that nothing beats a hearty, balanced, home-cooked meal. Perhaps you’ll show up at the farmers’ market rather than the frozen food aisle on your next grocery shopping jaunt.