How to Incorporate Frozen Foods Into a Healthy Diet

frozen vegetables including corn, lima beans, green beans, peas, and carrots

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

When it comes to preparing and serving a quick meal, nothing beats the convenience of frozen foods. They fit nicely in your freezer, keep for a long time, and they're easy to prepare.

Stocking up on frozen foods can also be a great way to save money if you buy them when they're on sale. You can also freeze fresh perishable foods to keep them longer, which is a great way to cut down on waste. But many still wonder whether frozen foods can be a part of a healthy diet.

Are Frozen Foods Healthy?

The act of freezing doesn't make food healthy or unhealthy—it really depends upon the nutritional content of the food that gets frozen. Frozen fruits and vegetables can be just as nutrient-dense as their fresh counterparts, but frozen foods like pizzas, snacks, and entrees can be less nutrient-dense when compared to frozen fruits and vegetables.

If your food was nutritious before it was frozen, it will still be nutritious after it's thawed. You can't go wrong with plain, frozen fruits, vegetables, meats, chicken, and fish. You can even freeze whole grains.

Does Freezing Change Food's Nutritional Value?

Freezing doesn't affect the calorie count, the fiber content, or the mineral content of a food. The freezing process can make a difference with a few vitamins (such as folate and vitamin C), but most of a food's nutritional value will be maintained after freezing.

Freezing also won't change the amount of fat, protein, carbohydrates, or sugar in a particular food. The fluid content can change, however, which is often apparent when you thaw your food (you might see a puddle of liquid as the water drains away).

Frozen vs. Fresh Food: Weight and Calories

A closed container of food should weigh the same before freezing as it does after freezing. However, if there is a lot of liquid that drains from the food as it thaws, the food you serve might weigh a little less. The calorie count won't change for that serving if the only fluid lost is water, but could change the apparent size of the portion.

Choosing Frozen Foods

When you buy frozen foods, prioritize based on what will be most satisfying while also being mindful of added sugar, sodium, or high-calorie sauces. This can be a little tricky when you get beyond a simple bag of veggies. Here are a few tips for selecting frozen foods that honor your personal taste and health values.

Keep It Simple, For the Most Part

Choose plain vegetables (many of which can be steamed in the microwave in the bag they're packaged in), more often than products that also contain sauces or added flavors. If you have been told by your healthcare provider to reduce the amount of sodium or fat that you consume, but you really love the simplicity of veggies and sauce, choose sauces that are made with less fat and sodium.

The same applies to frozen fruit. If added sugars in fruits are of concern for you, be sure to choose fruits that are frozen without added sugar or syrup. Frozen fruit smoothie mixes are often made with added sugars, so keep this in mind when making an informed decision about what variety will meet your taste and health preferences.

Compare Labels

Frozen meals and snacks can be richer in saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and calories, and lower in important vitamins and minerals. In cases where you must opt for these items due to cost, time, or convenience, consider adding vegetables or another nutrient dense food to your plate.

Pizzas, snack rolls, breakfast sandwiches, burritos, fried chicken dinners, and other meals are among the micro-nutrient poor items in the frozen food aisle. That said, if you compare labels or search in the natural foods section of the grocery store, you can find frozen meals and snacks that are more nutrient-dense.

Skip the Breading

Frozen meats, fish, seafood, and poultry will offer the most nutritional value when they're made without any extra ingredients. If you're looking for low-calorie options, avoid breaded chicken, fish sticks, corn dogs, and other battered or breaded frozen foods. Look for frozen chicken breasts, shrimp, and fish fillets that aren't breaded.

Freezing Foods at Home

Meat, poultry, fish, and seafood can be frozen without a problem. Most fruits and vegetables can also be frozen—except for lettuce and other raw greens.

Foods That Don't Freeze Well

While almost anything you buy, grow, or cook can be frozen, there are a few notable exceptions:

  • Eggs that are still in their shell
  • Mayonnaise, salad dressing, and cream sauces
  • Products sold in a can or sealed container

Peel Fruit

Fruits can be peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks and placed on a baking sheet and frozen until they are solid. You can then store the fruit in smaller freezer bags. This is a good way to keep fruit for smoothies or recipes that call for fruit. They might not look pretty, but they'll be just fine for cooking or blending.

Blanch Veggies

Fresh vegetables take a little more work for optimal freezer storage. They should be blanched before you put them into freezer bags. To blanch your veggies, place them in boiling water for a minute or two, then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process.

You don't want the veggies to be cooked all the way through, but blanching helps retain their freshness.

Wrap Meat

Raw meats, poultry, and fish can be wrapped in freezer-proof paper and placed right into the freezer. Leftovers or meals that you prepare ahead of time can be frozen in containers that are made for freezing.

Thawing and Preparing Frozen Foods

Frozen vegetables usually don't need to be thawed before cooking. You can boil, steam, or microwave them right away. Fruits and berries, on the other hand, should be thawed slightly before you use them. Just don't let them thaw completely, which can make them too mushy.

Frozen meat usually needs to be thawed before cooking—otherwise, you run the risk of overcooking the outer part and undercooking the center. Make sure you thaw foods by placing them in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight or some cold water for a quicker thaw.

Don't let the meat thaw at room temperature. Bacteria can grow on meat that's been left out for more than an hour or two.

It can take a long time to thaw your foods—especially larger cuts of meat. Make sure that you plan ahead. If you must cook your meats before they are thawed, be sure to increase the cooking time by about 50% and use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. 

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ellis E. Frozen Foods: Convenient and Nutritious. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Reviewed January 2020.

  2. Marcason W. Thawing Frozen Foods. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Reviewed June 2015.

  3. Freezing and Food Safety. United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. Modified June 15, 2013.

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a former writer for Verywell Fit and Reuters Health. She's a healthcare journalist who writes about healthy eating and offers evidence-based advice for regular people.