By: Nutrition Expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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“Frozen food demand will continue beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic.” A consumer study, commissioned by the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), has found that the surge in demand for frozen food is due to returning buyers as well as first-time buyers (1).
Freezing and frozen storage have long been the important method of refrigeration to ensure the safety and quality of meat, poultry, ﬁsh, vegetable, and fruit products. However, more recently the emphasis has changed from simply preserving these raw materials as the basis for further processing to adding value by manufacturing prepared foods. One such example, the frozen ready meal, is consumed often with little or no further processing except reheating.
The science behind frozen foods: (2, 3, 4)
- Nutrition and menu modelling studies reveal that frozen foods are a nutritious and cost-effective choice for consumers.
- Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak ripeness and then quickly flash frozen, which studies confirm helps locks in key vitamins and minerals.
- For example, an analysis of the nutrient content of a variety of frozen produce found that frozen items contain an equivalent or greater value of riboflavin, vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, fibre, and phenolics, when compared to fresh items.
- Additionally, menu modelling has revealed that menus featuring 95 percent frozen foods (90 percent of calories) can meet My Plate food group recommendations for grains, fruits, and vegetables, as well as nutrient recommendations for calories, fat, saturated fat, sodium, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium.
Factors behind the need for frozen foods: (5)
- Increased desire for convenience coupled with less time for food preparation because of more women working full time and the increased availability and relative cheapness of freezers to store ready meals and microwave ovens to speed up the time to make them ready for consumption.
- The decreasing family household size because of changes in family structure.
- Increasing levels of disposable income.
- Wider travel abroad, and
- Experience of different cuisines.
The Benefits of Frozen Meals: (6, 7)
- Frozen meals are convenient and can be helpful for people who have minimal cooking skills.
- Also, preparing meals from scratch may be difficult for people who do not have enough cooking space, kitchen equipment, or utensils. Frozen meals, however, give you the chance to enjoy a delicious meal with a minimal amount of work and time.
- Freezing retains much of the food’s vitamin and mineral content, so eating frozen meals on a regular basis can be healthy as long as you make good choices.
- The use of effective freezing methods helps to maintain the original texture and good taste of foods.
- Frozen meals may also offer health benefits. Because frozen meals are controlled portion sizes, some brands may aid in weight management.
- Choosing healthy frozen meals may help consumers learn portion sizes. Healthy frozen meals can be used as a tool to reach weight-loss goals.
- Frozen meals can be used to achieve nutritional goals, such as those associated with high-fibre or low-fat diets.
- Since the nutritional content for the entire meal is listed on the food label, you can easily check calories, fibre, fat, sodium, and other important nutrients to make sure you are staying on track.
Frozen Food Tips: (8)
- Skip the frozen meals.
Skip the frozen meals. Instead buy frozen foods that are made from just a few ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats, and whole grains.
- Look for frozen foods without added sugar, salt, or fat.
Check the nutrition facts label! Aim for foods that are minimally processed.
- Aim for foods that are minimally processed.
Foods that are less processed tend to be healthier. Great examples are vegetables that have just been cut up and steamed or raw frozen fruits.
- Keep healthy foods in your freezer at all times.
Keep healthy foods in your freezer at all times. This makes it easy to put together healthy meals with ingredients you have.
- Prevent freezer burn.
Wrap foods well in a double layer of plastic wrap or aluminium foil, and seal them in freezer bags. Prepare and eat foods quickly after opening.
- Store frozen fruits and vegetables at 0°F.
This helps prevent nutrient loss.
- Keep a list of freezer foods on hand, and label foods well.
It can be easy to lose track of what is there!
- Cooking with frozen foods is easy!
Mix frozen fruit into oatmeal, baked goods, yogurt or smoothies. Add some extra frozen vegetables to soups, stews, casseroles, or pasta.
Approximate storage periods for general classes of frozen foods: (9)
A market study observed following trends for the consumption of frozen food in the Indian context: (10)
- People like frozen vegetables and fruits more than any other frozen food available.
- Better quality is the primary reason if people decide to go for frozen food consumption daily.
- For small get together people buy frozen food as it is of better quality and is viewed as an alternative to expensive diners.
- People buy branded over non-branded as it is more expensive (probably people associate price with quality and taste), gives assurance of better quality and is a good alternative to expensive restaurants.
Frozen foods provide convenient access to nutritious, safe and affordable food. Freezing is nature’s pause button – locking in taste and nutrients. In fact, frozen fruits and vegetables are nutritionally equal to, and in some cases better than, fresh produce.
In addition to affordability and nutritional value, other advantages of frozen foods include accessibility, convenience, food safety, quality, and reduced waste.