My husband Keith was away for 4 nights (and inconveniently absent during the Mother’s Day weekend). So I was the running solo with cooking, feeding, bathing, parenting, and surviving with my 3 children for ninety six hours (nope, I wasn’t counting).
While all three girls were as well behaved as I could expect at their young age, it was still a lot of work.
I kept thinking of all the single mothers out there that do this every day. Parents who don’t get a break. They are heroes in my books!
So yes, during my Mother’s Day weekend I was mothering the 24/7. While I had big plans for being proactive during nap times, and post bedtime, I got nothing accomplished. Including a much needed grocery shop.
Once we ran out of the fresh stuff, the bulk of our meals came from the freezer, cupboard, or a takeout container. I was in survival mode, feeding my three children whatever I could get on the table quickly (while having a clingy toddler in my arms).
One of the staples that made an appearance at lunch and dinner was frozen veggies.
Did I feel horrible for feeding my kids more FROZEN veggies than FRESH veggies this weekend?
Let me let you in on a little secret. Frozen veggies aren’t the bad guy. In fact, they are in some cases BETTER than fresh. Whaaaat?
The Perks of Frozen Vegetables:
According to Science Nordic, frozen vegetables are harvested at maturity, then blanched to inactivate the enzymes and frozen soon after picking. For instance: it’s within 3 hours for peas, 6 hours for beans and 24 hours for other vegetables (which is shorter than the lifespan of a veggie on grocery store shelves).
In a study by the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, they examined the nutrient lost between fresh and frozen product. In the end, the frozen produce outperformed “fresh-stored” more frequently than “fresh-stored” outperformed frozen.
Consumers’ assumption that fresh produce has much more nutritional value than frozen is incorrect.
Some nutrients are higher in frozen veggies vs. fresh. As an example, Vitamin C, lutein, and beta-carotene were higher in frozen broccoli and carrots compared with their fresh varieties.
From an environmental perspective, frozen vegetables are best because they are typically transported by sea (vs. plan). Air transportation of out of season fresh produce from other countries, and in-home preparation waste of fresh produce increases the carbon footprint significantly compared with frozen vegetables.
That said, the processing and storage of frozen vegetables may have a greater environmental impact. Yet “decreasing in-home waste dramatically reduces the carbon footprint compared with fresh vegetables”.
Regardless of which you choose, the real nutrient loss/differences occur in the cooking process.
To retain the water soluble nutrients in your product opt for steaming versus boiling (because water soluble vitamins are lost in the water).
According to the Institute of Food Science & Technology, “refrigeration and protective wrapping is recommended for most vegetables (except tomatoes and onions), as it helps maintain moisture content, reduces respiration rates, and improves vitamin retention”.
My go-to frozen vegetables:
My freezer is always stocked with a few bags of frozen product for emergencies (like parenting solo on Mother’s Day weekend). My go-tos are:
- Frozen cauliflower – an easy way to boost the nutrition of your smoothies and even muffins!
- Frozen broccoli – I’ve also been known to add broccoli to my smoothies. Otherwise just baking or steaming makes for a quick side dish.
- Frozen mixed veggies – one with peppers, onions, snap peas, etc is awesome for making stirfries.
- Frozen green peas – a great food for picky eaters as I mentioned here (Your child won’t eat veggies – until now!).
- Frozen brussel sprouts – much more tender and easier to eat for my littlest one (who’s 18 months).
Preparing frozen vegetables:
And finally some tips to get the most out of your frozen veggies. This article by The Kitchn gives you some helpful tricks.
The Bottom Line:
- Any veggie is better than no veggie!
- Choose frozen veggies when out of season to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Choose fresh veggies when in season, and opt for locally sourced (farmers markets are your friend!)
- Steam vs. boil fresh or frozen vs. boiling to retain nutrition.
- Properly store and seal produce with something like these food saver sheets or these bees wax wraps.
- Only purchase what you need (one third of the world’s total food production goes to waste!)