Food and Nutrition

The Healthy, High-Fiber, Nutrient-Dense Food Every RD Keeps in Their Freezer

Isadora Baum

Isadora BaumApril 6, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images / Claudia Totir

When stocking up your freezer, everyone has slightly different go-tos in there depending on their taste preferences. Some people will stockpile Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi like there’s no tomorrow; others wouldn’t touch the cult classic with a 10-foot pole. But ask an RD what they cannot live without in their freezer, and you know it has to be healthy and versatile—that’s the whole point of keeping something in the freezer for easy, last-minute and no-fuss meals that will provide adequate fuel.

So, when we recently asked a few what their go-to freezer item was, there was actually a general consensus: frozen vegetables.

“Veggies are great to have in the freezer in general because then you always know you have some to throw into a meal for more nutrition,” says Maggie Michalczyk, RD. “Frozen is just as nutritious as fresh, [vegetables] last longer in your freezer than fresh ones would in your fridge, and there are some great options available these days from frozen riced veggies to veggie medleys that are perfect for adding to a stir-fry,” she adds.

All of the dietitians interviewed for this story kept a variety of frozen vegetables on-hand. But there were a few stand-outs that everyone had. Keep reading to find out the best frozen vegetables that everyone (including you!) should keep in your freezer:

1. Riced cauliflower

“Frozen riced cauliflower is something I add when I’m making something with rice for more nutrition. I’ll do half rice, half cauliflower rice,” says Michalczyk. “One way to use frozen cauliflower is in this Mexican cauliflower rice recipe since the flavor and addition of beans and tomatoes really jazz up the cauliflower rice and give it a great flavor,” she says. The black beans offer plant-based protein, but you can also pair it with chicken or salmon.

Riced cauliflower is super versatile, adds Charlotte Martin, RDN, CPT—she loves to use frozen cauliflower for smoothies in particular. And it’s pretty affordable. “Buying frozen cauliflower rice not only saves time, but also money—fresh cauliflower can get pricey,” she says.

Looking for other healthy freezer foods? Check out what a top dietitian always buys:

2. Frozen spinach

Consider frozen spinach an OG when it comes to best frozen vegetables. “I like frozen spinach because it lasts longer and works well in things like soups, or frittatas,” says Michalczyk. Especially given how quickly fresh spinach goes badly, going frozen is likely your best bet to save money and reduce food waste.

“That’s really a huge a reason to lean on frozen veggies—[they] prevent [you] from buying a ton of fresh produce and then not getting to it before it goes bad,” says Michalczyk. “If there are certain veggies that I eat occasionally vs. every day I will buy them frozen instead of fresh,” she says.

Like cauliflower, frozen spinach can also be used in a smoothie for extra nutrition. “I keep a big bag of frozen chopped kale and spinach mix—which I buy from one of those big wholesale clubs like Costco—in my freezer just for smoothies,” says Martin. “I leave a half-cup measuring cup in the bag and then scoop it out into my blender like I do my protein powder.”

3. Frozen green beans

Green beans’s texture and color both hold up really well with a variety of cooking methods, but try sautéing or roasting them to get some great flavor and texture, says Kelly Jones, RD. “You just want to be careful that you don’t overcrowd the pan or baking dish as water can accumulate. If you season with olive oil, salt and pepper, and spread them out well, you should still have a firm texture,” she says.

“In terms of full meals, I most often use frozen green beans in this sheet pan miso ginger tempeh dish or high protein vegan stir fry,” she suggests, both of which highlight their amazing flavor and consistency.

4. Frozen broccoli

Broccoli is in the same cruciferous family as cauliflower and can be used very similarly, making it another excellent frozen vegetable to have on-hand. “For broccoli and cauliflower, I almost always roast them in the oven and add to a quick pasta dish or plant bowl, like this broccoli, barley and beans recipe,” says Jones. Or you can get riced frozen varieties and use for rice bowls, as a side with protein, as a mash, and more.

5. Frozen bell peppers

A bag of mixed frozen peppers would be a greater starter for making stir-fry or a homemade pad Thai-inspired dish. “Sauté in a pan with chicken and soy sauce or Asian sauce, and add brown rice or frozen cauliflower rice here, too,” Michalczyk says.

“I keep chopped bell pepper mixes in my freezer because chopping fresh bell peppers for an easy weeknight stir-fry always seems daunting,” adds Martin.

6. Frozen vegetable medleys

All veggies are nutritious, so you cannot go wrong with getting a wide variety or a blended pack! “I like checking out the different types of mixed veggies that are available at the grocery store these days too because it can be as simple as using a bag of mixed veggies and adding a source of protein to it to get a super simple meal that’s ready in no time,” says Michalczyk. “Some even come with a grain in a bag with veggies and quinoa, which makes for a great frozen meal option,” she adds.

Looking for more great, freezer-friendly ideas? Here’s how to upgrade your favorite frozen foods at Trader Joe’s. And these are the frozen foods you should try to avoid buying.

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