Quality of Frozen Meals
Freezing, as one of the most popular preservation methods, has a long history. In the past, people used snow and ice to preserve foods in cold winter. Now, we know that freezing food at -18°C or below is a better way to preserve the food’s original flavour, nutrition content, and texture, compared to other preservation methods. How quickly the foods are frozen also determines the quality of the food. Most commercial frozen meals are often flash-frozen, which means they are quickly frozen at an extremely low temperature. The faster the food freezes, the less damage occurs to the food so the meals retain the quality when they were just cooked.
Benefits of Healthy Frozen Meals
Healthy frozen meals not only contain the quality comparable to freshly cooked foods but also have many advantages. For example, frozen meals are truly convenient and time-saving since shopping for foods, preparing ingredients and cooking has been done. All you need to do is to take it out from the freezer, heat it, and serve. Additionally, in general, no preservatives are required for frozen meals since freezing naturally prevents spoilage and as a result, extends shelf life. Furthermore, they are pre-portioned so that you know exactly how much you are eating at each meal. This is important, particularly for people who are on weight management.
Choosing Frozen Meals Wisely
There are many healthy and nutritious options on the market. However, not all frozen foods are created equal—so choose wisely. Make sure that you eat a balanced meal that covers three core groups: a quarter plate of carbohydrates, a quarter plate of proteins, and a half plate of fruit and vegetables as guided by My Healthy Plate. GentleFoods’ petite meals are a good example which contains rice (carbohydrates), fish or chicken (protein), and vegetables, in the right proportion. But don’t be surprised to find that many frozen meals available in the supermarket contain excess carbohydrates or protein, with none or insufficient quantity of veggies. If this is the case, try adding a serving of vegetables or salad to your meal or have a portion of fruit for dessert to boost the vitamin, mineral, and fibre content.
Aside from this, many meals are loaded with fat, added sugars, and salt (sodium). When selecting frozen meals, spend a few minutes reading the nutrition information panel and ingredient list on food labels to identify healthier choices. A few brands are making efforts to keep the amount of sodium, added sugar, and fat in their products in check. Check out the sample meal plan by GentleFoods. Can you guess how much sodium is actually in all these foods? It is about 1,760mg which is lower than the recommended limit of 2,000mg per day.
Keep Frozen Meals Safe
Freezing keeps food safe by inactivating microbes – bacteria, yeasts, and molds, however, they can come active once thawed. Ensure your frozen meals remain frozen until they are ready to be consumed. If thawing is required, for example for fruit puree, the safest way is to let it thaw in the refrigerator. Follow the cooking instructions on the package when preparing your food. Once served, finish the meal immediately and do not leave the food at room temperature longer than 2 hours as bacteria may grow. Keep the food in fridge after 2 hours.