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When It Comes to Frozen Foods, These Are the Healthiest

Repeat after us: the freezer is your weeknight friend.
Frozen spinach cubes

Some nights, you have time to research a new recipe online, casually shop around for ingredients at your local supermarket, and meticulously prepare a photo-worthy dinner. But most nights? Most nights you barely have time to take a shower before bed, let alone cook an entire meal from scratch.

And for those nights, it's totally worth it to have these healthy foods stashed in your freezer so you can throw something together that's both fast and good for you.

Frozen foods don't just make it easy to eat healthily when you have "nothing" in the house, but they're also essential for some of our favorite meals, like smoothies! The following frozen foods are our favorite items we always have on hand to make healthy meals and ideas for how to use them. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

1

Peas

frozen peas
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Adding just 1/2 cup of these legumes to any dish will give your meal a boost of 4 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber!

You can use peas in almost every 10-minute meal you can make. Seriously, these little guys will go with just about anything. The best part is, you can throw them in your dish after you've finished cooking it and they'll basically thaw in minutes due to residual heat.

Cook this! Toss in 1/2 cup of peas per serving to any dish. Try pasta with vodka and peas; cauliflower fried rice; Indian chicken, cauliflower, and green pea curry; and even macaroni and cheese with peas.

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2

Whole Grain or Sprouted Grain Bread

Whole grain bread
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Swapping out refined grain products with whole grain varieties has been found to help overweight adults eat less, lose weight, and decrease inflammation.

Whenever you buy bread, you can immediately put it in the freezer. (The sooner the better to retain the bread's freshness.) It's not just good for sprouted grain breads you find the freezer aisle like Ezekiel bread. All baked bread loaves can be kept in the freezer for 2-3 months, whereas keeping a loaf on your counter will only last you a week or so before turning moldy.

Cook this! Keep a loaf of bread in the freezer for a serving of gut-nourishing whole grains at breakfast—either serve with peanut butter, banana, and chia seeds, or a quarter of an avocado, poached egg, and hot sauce.

One more fun tip? Keep frozen flatbread or naan to whip up a quick pizza!

3

Spinach

Frozen spinach cubes
Shutterstock

There's a lot of hype around kale, but spinach certainly stands up to it as a more palatable superfood. Spinach is full of free radical-fighting, eye health-supporting antioxidants, and it's one of the top sources of plant-based calcium, magnesium, and iron. Oh, and it also acts as a prebiotic, which helps to promote the growth of good gut bacteria.

Cook this! Keep a bag of frozen spinach in your freezer to add to smoothies, toss it in a chickpea and crushed tomato stew, saute it up in an omelet, or heat some up with garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, parmesan cheese, and extra virgin olive oil for a greener pasta sauce.

4

Mixed Berries and Bananas

frozen fruit
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From mixed berries to leftover bananas, fruit is one of the best things to keep in your freezer. They're great in smoothies, as toppings for overnight oats, microwaved into instant oats, as a topping on yogurt, or to make a healthier ice cream or pancake topping. (Simply boil down the frozen fruit with a bit of lemon juice and water for an amazing berry sauce.) Fruits are rich in free-radical-fighting antioxidants, and, perhaps surprisingly, some frozen fruits are actually higher in certain antioxidants than their fresh counterparts.

Cook this! Use frozen fruit in one of these 25 Best-Ever Weight Loss Smoothies!

5

Spiralized Veggies

Spiralized zucchini carrots
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If you don't want to spend yet another night eating refined-grain pasta, why not keep some spiralized veggies on hand in times of crisis? They're lower in calories and carbs than their flour noodle counterparts and rich in micronutrients. Try carrot, zucchini, beets, and squash!

Cook this! Heat up spiralized veggies and top with a turkey marinara meat sauce or saute up with teriyaki sauce and frozen edamame for a quick veggie-filled stir fry.

6

Nuts

almonds cashews pistachios walnuts mixed nuts
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Full of healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber, nuts are the perfect ingredient to have on hand at all times.

You shouldn't just keep nuts in your freezer for emergency purposes. It's also the best way to store nuts all the time. University of California Food Safety explains that "nuts retain their quality for a year or more at refrigerator temperature or up to 2 years in the freezer." On the other hand, nuts will only quality up to a few months at room temperature. That's because "room temperature storage encourages insect growth and causes nut oils to become rancid quicker. […] Rancid nuts are not unsafe, but they have a sharp flavor that most people find unpleasant."

Cook this! Nuts can be used to add a boost of fats, fiber, and protein to oatmeal, yogurt, and salads. You can pulverize some pecans to make a crust for fish or bake a sheet of almonds tossed with cayenne, maple syrup, and egg whites for a sweet and spicy healthy snack.

7

Pesto or Herbs

Herb ice cube tray olive oil

How many times have you shelled out cash for fresh herbs only to have them go bad after a few days? You rarely use the entire package you purchase and end up having to begrudgingly toss them out soon after you purchase them. Instead of wasting these low-calorie flavor boosters, you can easily freeze them for a later use.

Cook this! Whenever you make or purchase fresh pesto and don't use it all within a couple of days, simply dole it out into an ice cube tray to make easily defrostable pesto cubes that are perfect toppers for a fillet of salmon or on zucchini noodles. As for other herbs you have? Chop them up and store them in plastic (or silicone) baggies, or freeze in an ice cube tray in extra virgin olive oil.

8

Shrimp

boiled frozen shrimp
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Looking to add more protein and fish to your diet? Keep a bag of frozen shrimp! Ounce-for-ounce, shrimp is one of the best sources of pure protein you can purchase.

Cook this! Shrimp is a perfect addition to cauliflower rice, sauteed up with EVOO and garlic to serve alongside your favorite veggie and rice, or added to a stir fry.

9

Pre-cooked Grains

brown rice
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They might be higher in fiber and micronutrients than their refined peers, but whole grains like brown rice and quinoa also take much longer to cook. That's why it's super helpful to keep pre-cooked versions of these grains in your freezer that can be heated up in minutes. Adding a serving of quinoa to a meal will supplement your dish with around 6 grams of plant-based protein.

Cook this! You could easily make a huge batch of grains and freeze it, or pick up a bag from your favorite brand.

10

Premade Meals

Vegetable lasagna
Jason Varney/Galvanized

Yes, this one takes a little more planning, but this is the best solution to dinner in a pinch: frozen dinner! And if you don't want to fully cook dinner and then freeze, consider packaging up pre-portioned slow cooker meals that can be dumped in your slow cooker in the morning and then are ready to eat when you come home from work.

Cook this! Make extra of your favorite meals when you have time: breakfast sandwiches, lasagna, enchiladas, or meat sauce. Or, simply pick up an Eat This!-approved choice from our list of 31 Healthy Store-Bought Frozen Foods To Stock In Your Freezer.

Olivia Tarantino
Olivia Tarantino is a senior editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in nutrition, health, and food product coverage. Read more