The freezer aisle gets a bad rap for being THE grocery aisle to avoid if you’re trying to eat healthy. Sure, ice cream and frozen pizzas live behind those freezer doors, but there are a plethora of healthier options there that will save you both time and money.
Grocery shopping can be challenging enough, and there’s nothing we all hate more than to spend a lot of money on healthy food that then goes bad in the fridge because we didn’t get to it in time. Learning how to navigate the freezer aisle can help you stay conveniently health-conscious while creating less waste on a budget.
You can utilize freezer items to help you put together a homemade meal, or add healthy sides to boost the nutrition of a dish. When it comes to ready-to-eat foods, of course, it’s hard to compare to freshly homemade food from scratch. Unfortunately, sometimes those nights after a long day at work call for convenience and ease, and you’d much rather these healthier options than pricey Seamless. Since Target is pretty ubiquitously available (and basically everyone’s favorite store), I’ve rounded up my favorite picks using products from their freezer aisle selection. These picks include everything from must-have freezer staple items, to ready-to-eat foods, so that you can all become freezer-aisle savvy shoppers.
A good rule of thumb? You might want to steer clear of most products involving the words, “roll,” “crust,” “nugget,” “sticks,” “pockets,” or “bites.” Those usually aren’t your healthiest bet.
Smoothie Packs + Boosts
Cut down the time to make a quick post-workout morning smoothie AND not having to worry about greens and fruit spoiling? Sign me up. These smoothie packs are solid choices on their own, but even better with some greek yogurt, or protein powder thrown in.
This smoothie pack does have a bit of added sugars, but it also boasts 8g of protein along with so much goodness like blueberries, dark cherries, greek yogurt, acai, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, chia, and beet juice. You’ll be bouncing off the walls after this one.
Flax seeds need to be ground in order for our digestive systems to absorb the amazing omega-3s and protein from them; however, the catch-22 is that once they’re ground, the nutrients deteriorate slowly in the fridge. This freezer pack gives you the ability to have an extra boost, always fresh and ready to go.
Frozen Fruits and Veggies
I’m a huge advocate for always having frozen fruits and veggies on hand. Frozen produce is sometimes even fresher and retains more vitamins than the fresh produce in the grocery store. As soon as a plant is picked from the ground, it starts to die. Frozen produce is flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness, therefore eliminating the time of transportation from farm to store, which can take several days.
Market Pantry’s frozen fruit like strawberries, wild blueberries, mangoes, and raspberries are perfect for snacking, easy smoothies like this Strawberry-Rhubarb Lemonade smoothie or this PB & J smoothie, making healthy chia jams to put on greek yogurt, and as breakfast bowl toppings.
Woodstock’s organic frozen vegetables, such as their chopped kale, edamame, bell peppers, baby asparagus, and mixed mushrooms, along with Simply Balanced’s organic chopped spinach and broccoli are all great veggies to mix and match to make a quick and healthy weeknight teriyaki stir-fry.
If you don’t want to bother with seasoning or prepping, Archer Farms Roasted Sweet Potato, Kale, and Cranberry medley is a great, nutrient-dense pick, as are Evol Veggie Cups that come in a Balsamic Brussel Sprouts with Uncured Bacon and Parmesan flavor and a Ginger Sesame Sweet Potato.
The reason why store-bought bread usually has all those stabilizers and preservatives, is that fresh grains rapidly go bad in room-temperature. So, say hello to frozen bread! While healthy eating and bread usually don’t seem to go together, all you avocado toast lovers may want to keep a loaf in the freezer so you don’t pay $10 for the same thing you can make at home for $2-3.
Frozen Meats and Seafood
Having lean meats on hand is a great idea to always have something ready to toss onto a fresh salad to boost that protein content. When bought fresh, seafood only lasts 1-2 days in the fridge. I’m ashamed to say I’ve missed that deadline on several occasions, so I love having frozen seafood on hand to ease the pressure. These fish below are amazing sources of protein, omega-3s, potassium, B-vitamins, and selenium (for your immune system).
An easy breakfast for a hurried morning offers 12g protein and some fats to tide you over until lunch, and it’s got pure ingredient list you can trust.
Smart Made is Smart Ones new healthy line with no strange ingredients or fillers. This dish is like Thanksgiving in a bowl with white meat turkey, honey-glazed sweet potatoes, and citrus green beans. For a microwave dinner, it is reasonably low in sodium with only 580mg.
Zero artificial ingredients in this flavorful favorite, but what it does have is 20g protein and 34g of carbs for a balanced meal.
No artificial ingredients or preservatives, just 22 grams of protein and a low 15 grams of carbs — perfect for a rest day. It also has 790 mg of potassium from the edamame to help your body’s hydration balance.
A super simple dish with 27 grams of protein and only 8 grams of carbs — perfect for a day off from the gym. It also has a high of 1180 mg of potassium to help your body’s hydration balance, and no artificial ingredients or preservatives.
My favorite vegan option because of the highest protein content, mostly organic ingredients, and no preservatives or fillers. This curry dish is super satisfying with its use of coconut milk and 15 grams of plant-based protein from the lentils and quinoa. You also get your fill of veggies from the broccoli, sweet potato, and carrots, and a boost from the super spices of cardamom, cinnamon, and turmeric.
Also on the same vegan note, along with mostly organic ingredients, no preservatives, or fillers, this dish is great for the sheer amount of vegetables in here. Organic bulgur, garbanzos, sweet potatoes, almonds, and a ton of healthy spices like turmeric and ginger make for a nourishing meal.
What are your favorite healthy freezer aisle options?
This article was originally published on March 8, 2017.