Whether you come from an ingredient household or not, having a few RD-approved frozen food staples in your fridge at all times is never a bad idea, especially when you’ve had an incredibly busy day juggling a CVS-receipt-long list of tasks to accomplish.
If you're following along with Well+Good's 2023 ReNew Year program, you already know that according to Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, owner of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition and cookbook author of Eating from Our Roots, expanding what you buy in the frozen food section is not just recommended, but rather encouraged. Despite having a historically less-than-stellar reputation in the health department, Feller emphasizes the fact that frozen food aisles are home to tons of health-promoting ingredients and meals. (That being said, there is nothing wrong with stocking up on some cheesy pizza rolls while you're there, too.)
To ensure your freezer is stocked with the most gut-friendly foods this year, Feller looks to dismantle the stigma that “all frozen food is bad” and encourages shoppers to peruse the freezer aisle for foods that can support healthy digestion. That's why we spoke with Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT, a registered dietitian based in Charleston, to learn which gut-healthy frozen foods she keeps on hand so she can have quick and easy meals at a moment's notice.
5 gut-healthy frozen foods a registered dietitian keeps on hand at all times
1. Gluten-Free Pizza
A roundup of delicious and nutritious frozen foods wouldn’t be complete without a frozen pizza option (obvi). Thankfully, one of Manaker’s top choices is a gluten-free pizza that'll nourish your soul and your microbiome.
“You may not think of pizza as a gut health-supporting food, but Milton’s Craft Bakers Cauliflower Crust Pizza is the best-tasting cauliflower crust pizza out there in my humble opinion," Manaker says. "It’s certified gluten-free and is a natural source of gut health-supporting fiber. It’s lifesaving to have a pizza option that is actually gut-friendly!"
You might want to reconsider keeping your nuts on the counter... ASAP (if they’re not already rancid). Indeed, the delicate oils in nuts, like walnuts, are susceptible to spoilage when exposed to environmental elements like heat and light, which is why Manaker stores them in the freezer for when a quick protein-and-fiber-rich fat source is needed.
“Walnuts are a nutritional powerhouse, packed with plant-based protein, fiber, and healthy fats. And many people may not realize that they can be stored in the freezer for up to a year,” Manaker says. Plus, according to her, they’re also great for the gut. “Studies show that a daily intake of 43 grams of walnuts over eight weeks significantly affects the gut microbiome by enhancing probiotic- and butyric acid-producing species in healthy individuals, which can ultimately support gut health."
3. Yogurt Bars
Did you say you can't have dinner without dessert? Same. Thankfully, Manaker keeps a steady stock of RD-approved frozen yogurt bars at home to enjoy after hours. “Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt Bars are a tasty dessert, but because they're made with yogurt, each bar contains live and active cultures that can positively affect the gut microbiota—ultimately benefiting gut health,” Manaker says.
Best part? The bars come in delicious flavors like mint chocolate chip and black raspberry chip. “Chocolate peanut butter chip is my personal favorite, because eating it satisfies my love for both chocolate and peanut butter in a satisfying single-serve package,” Manaker says.
Manaker likes to keep frozen greens on hand to add to the recipes she makes throughout the week. “Tattooed Chef Organic Greens is a blend of frozen seasoned zucchini, broccoli, haricots verts, peas, and leeks, so it's the ultimate gut health-supporting combo, especially for those who have a hard time sneaking in enough veggies every day,” she says.
Indeed, if eating your greens before they turn into a soggy mess in your refrigerator's crisper drawer is a serious issue, freezing them will help prolong their shelf life for when you’re actually ready to enjoy them. Plus, Manaker says that consuming veggies like broccoli is linked to a healthy gut microbiota, and the fiber can help keep things moving, too.
ICYMI, research has shown that gut health and longevity are closely intertwined. One way to simultaneously support the microbiome and promote healthy aging is by consuming foods high in antioxidants that fight free-radicals in the body. A go-to for Manaker is frozen blueberries.
“Frozen blueberries can be just as nutritious as fresh, and eating them has been linked to positive effects on the gut microbiota. These berries are naturally sweet with no added sugar and are great for our gut health,” Manaker says.
Just in case you decide to make a pizza from scratch instead:
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