When you’re trying to eat healthy, nothing beats the nutrition of flavorful fresh fruits & vegetables. But sometimes, it’s all too easy to stop & grab hamburgers or a pizza. While this gets the family fed with a minimum of time & effort, the nutritional value of these meals can be minimal as well. Add to this the high amount of fat & sodium fast foods contain & you have a nutritional disaster. Stocking you freezer with tasty & easy-to-prepare meals or treats allows you to stick to your nutritional goals when time & energy are at a premium.
Start by stocking your freezer with frozen vegetables. Almost all of your favorite vegetables now come in microwavable packages. Throw them in the microwave & in a few minutes you have hot, steamed vegetables. Avoid the extra calories and fat contained in ones with cream, cheese sauce or butter. Pick up a few packages of stir-fry vegetable mix, as well. Combined with some pre-cooked, chopped chicken or shrimp & served over brown rice, these allow you to have dinner on the table in just the time it takes the rice to cook.
Cocktail shrimp & cubed, pre-cooked chicken are items that can be frozen & thrown into not just stir-fry dishes, but chef salads or casseroles. Having the meat pre-cooked, saves time so you won’t be tempted by the idea of a “fast-food” night. Pre-shaped hamburger patties (lean ground beef or turkey) also make quick & nutritious dinners from the freezer. Also, so long as you watch the amount of fat & sodium and don’t overindulge, even the nutrition level of entrees like frozen pizza can be boosted by the addition of fresh spinach, mushrooms, peppers, etc.
Another staple for your freezer should be your family’s favorite fruits. Buy them already frozen or get them fresh & freeze them yourself. Chunks of frozen fruit can be partially thawed and served by themselves, used to top low-fat ice-cream or thrown into the blender with some apple juice, a splash of low-fat milk & a banana for a quick, easy smoothie.
Buy fresh fruits on sale – most fruits freeze well and make great snacks. Grapes or blueberries can be rinsed, dried & frozen for a tasty, quick snack. Bananas can be frozen in the skin, peeled & eaten – or peeled & dipped in melted dark chocolate prior to freezing. These frozen snacks are not only tasty but will boost the level of antioxidants in your diet. Pineapple, papaya, peaches & strawberries can all be cubed & frozen.
For something special, spend an afternoon & make homemade treats. Controlling the ingredients allows you to take a pro-active approach to the snacks that feed your family’s sweet tooth. Instead of the high sugar content in commercial Popsicles or the fat found in that bowl of ice cream, you can enjoy a fruit pop or frozen yogurt snack made with fresh ingredients and no added sugar. Place fresh or frozen fruit, some fruit juice (no extra sugar needed) and a tablespoon of lemon juice in your blender container. Mix and pour into small paper cups or molds. When partially frozen, add a Popsicle stick (available at your local hobby shop) and viola – fresh fruit pops. Or mix unflavored or vanilla yogurt with fruit juice (orange and cherry are super tasty) and freeze the same way.
Don’t give in to your craving for fast foods or fat and sugar-filled snacks. With a little forethought, your freezer will provide you and your family with an endless array of nutritious, diet-friendly meals and sweet treats.