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The #1 Best Frozen Food to Buy, According to a Dietitian

It helps get food on the table in a jiffy, and it's extremely healthy.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Frozen foods have gotten a bad rap over the years. In the past, freezer finds were notoriously high in sodium and preservatives while not providing much in the nutrition department; however, the tides have certainly turned.

As long as the food you're stocking in your freezer isn't loaded with salt, sugar, or other unsavory ingredients, frozen food can be just as nutritious as fresh, making it a convenient and affordable option for adding fruits, veggies, and whole grains to your diet. And that's not the only benefit: Keeping frozen food in your home can be a lifesaver on busy weeks when you can't make it to the grocery store or you need dinner on the table STAT. (Related: The Best Frozen Foods To Stock In Your Freezer, Say Dietitians)

While there's no shortage of good-for-you options that you can pack in your freezer—fruits, veggies, and seafood, to name a few—there is one frozen food item that takes the cake.

As a registered dietitian, working mom, and the overall busy lady who likes to eat well but hates to spend too much time in the kitchen, the #1 best-frozen food to keep on hand is a pre-cooked bag of frozen grains.

Why frozen grains are the #1 best frozen food to buy

On busy days, many of us (present company included) tend to think about what protein we're going to eat for dinner. When the kids ask "what's for dinner," the response is oftentimes "chicken" or "fish"—we rarely concern ourselves with what makes up the rest of the plate.

But to eat healthily, you need to think beyond animal meat. Well-balanced meals should contain a healthy portion of protein along with healthy carbs, fiber-rich legumes, and veggies. While dinner rolls are an easy go-to filler carb, they aren't the most nutritious option. But finding a good-for-you carb in a pinch can sometimes be easier said than done.

And that's where frozen cooked grains come to the rescue.

Why cooked grains are a healthy addition to a meal

Yes, refined carbs like mashed potatoes and white rice can be absolutely satisfying. But choosing carbs that aren't whole grain can leave you with some nutrition gaps.

On the other hand, whole grains—think brown rice, quinoa, and sorghum—still have the grain's natural bran and endosperm of the grain; therefore, these grains contain nutrients like fiber, polyphenols, and minerals that refined options may not offer.

In addition to nourishing your body with essential micronutrients, fiber, and a solid dose of plant-based protein, frozen grains give some staying power to your meals. Plus, whole grains provide countless health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and even early death—and they've also been linked to people experiencing less belly fat.

How frozen pre-cooked grains can save the day

Though cooking whole grains is as simple as boiling water and letting the grain simmer, on busy nights, some of us simply don't have the time available to wait for water to boil or to keep a watchful eye on the pot to make sure it doesn't boil over. (And don't get me started on adding yet another pot to the pile of dishes we'll need to clean.)

That's where frozen grains come in.

Whole grains freeze very well, helping you get dinner on the table faster. You can either buy a bag from the grocery store or DIY with leftovers. If you happen to make a large batch of quinoa one evening, simply add some to a zip-top bag once it is cooled, and place it in the freezer. Then, on busy evenings, turn to your trusty microwave to bring it back to life.

Alternatively, keeping a bag of pre-cooked and pre-seasoned grain, like Path of Life Southwest Mango Quinoa Blend can help elevate a basic dinner in a delicious and nutritious way. With frozen pre-cooked organic quinoa, black beans, mango, tomato, corn, olive oil, lime, peppers, and cilantro, this bag of goodness helps make like so much easier.

The main ingredient in this dish is quinoa—a gluten-free whole grain that's chock-full of antioxidants, fiber, and a slew of vitamins and minerals. And while plain old quinoa may be a bit bland, Path Of Life takes this side up a notch by mixing this grain with nourishing and tasty ingredients like tomatoes, lime juice, and peppers. Plus, the chunks of real mango give this side a unique flavor that can compensate for more simply-seasoned proteins.

Ways to eat frozen grains

Frozen quinoa can be used as a side dish for foods like fish, chicken, and beef. It can also be a stand-in for plant-based dishes like quinoa tacos and quinoa stuffed peppers.

So, among the sea of options in the frozen food section of the grocery store, frozen pre-cooked grains (like cooked quinoa or brown rice) or a pre-made version like Path of Life Southwest Mango Quinoa Blend is the way to go. Flavorful and made with natural ingredients, enjoying it doesn't mean I have to mess up my kitchen in the process. That's certainly a product that checks all of this dietitian's boxes. For more on shopping in the freezer aisle, check out The Frozen Fast Foods to Always Leave on Grocery Store Shelves.

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Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT
Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian, book author, and recipe developer who has been in practice for almost 20 years. Read more about Lauren