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lundi 15 janvier 2024

The 6 Best Frozen Vegetables You Should Be Eating for Weight Loss, According to Dietitians


Nutrition experts unanimously agree that vegetables are a great addition to any balanced diet, especially one focused on losing weight. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables to reap the benefits produce offers. 

But for anyone who’s opened their produce drawer to see that their spinach now resembles a swamp monster or their butternut squash has gone slimy—an experience I know all too well—you know what a challenge it can be to prepare fresh veggies. And that’s where frozen varieties come in clutch.

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Frozen, like their fresh counterparts, can be added to meals to provide a lower-calorie, fiber-rich side that helps fill you up and adds important health-promoting nutrients to your diet. And while there are many varieties of veggies in the freezer aisle at the grocery store, we talked to dietitians for their top picks to keep on hand to support your weight-loss goals this year.

Are Frozen Vegetables Healthy?

Contrary to what you may have heard, frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. “Frozen veggies are packed at the peak of freshness, meaning they not only retain their flavor but nutrients, too,” says Roxana Ehsani, M.S., RD, CSSD, a registered dietitian nutritionist and board-certified sports dietitian in Miami. “Frozen veggies are healthy and convenient, and they are often pre-cut, pre-washed and peeled, making them easy to add to just about anything,” she says.

One of the best perks of frozen vegetables is their accessibility, says registered dietitian Tamara Hoffman, RD, of Unbeetable Nutrition and Wellness in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. Frozen vegetables are often easy to find, and they can be stored for a long period of time. Having an option to tear open a package of prepared, washed and cut vegetables to add to a meal eliminates prep work, and the convenience factor makes eating produce realistic.

When it comes to weight loss, fiber is important. Thankfully, vegetables are a great way to add more fiber to your diet. “Fiber helps with weight loss by filling you up at meals, keeping you feeling full longer. Most vegetables are also low in calories but high in nutrients so you can have half your plate filled with them and still stay on your weight-loss journey,” says Hoffman.

6 Best Frozen Vegetables for Weight Loss

1. Broccoli

This green vegetable certainly deserves the superhero cape it’s worn for decades. For one, broccoli is packed with more than 5 grams of filling fiber per cup cooked, according to the USDA.

A 2023 review published in Antibiotics explored the health benefits of broccoli—and the results are impressive. Broccoli is a source of fiber, vitamins (A, C and K), minerals (calcium, potassium and iron) and antioxidants, as well as bioactive compounds like glucosinolates, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol. (Don’t worry, we won’t test you on how to pronounce these terms.) These compounds all help rid the body of harmful free radicals, reducing inflammation and potentially helping reduce the risk of certain cancers, according to 2022 research in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Available in florets, chopped, riced or in blended mixes, frozen broccoli makes an easy addition to your weekly meal plan. Try the frozen florets in Sesame Instant Ramen Noodles with Broccoli & Soft-Boiled Egg.

2. Butternut Squash

Buying frozen butternut squash will save you a lot of time in the kitchen. While winter squashes are rich in nutrients, such as beta carotene, fiber, vitamin C and potassium, successfully prepping and cooking them can be a laborious task, notes Ehsani. Thankfully, at most major markets you can find conveniently prepared and frozen butternut squash to toss in your freezer. 

Adding frozen butternut squash to your recipes adds complex carbs and fiber to help keep you fuller for longer. Butternut squash can also be used as the base for “creamy” sauces, cutting down on the saturated fat and calories of their dairy-based counterparts. Consider experimenting with the nutty taste of this squash in your soups, sauces and even smoothies. This Butternut Squash Pasta is a great place to start.

3. Cauliflower

Cauliflower is from the same cruciferous family as broccoli, meaning it yields many of those same anti-cancer properties as its green cousin. It is also relatively low in calories and carbohydrates and has a decent amount of fiber, all factors that can support weight loss. (One cup frozen cauliflower has 3 grams of fiber, according to the USDA.) In addition, cauliflower provides antioxidant vitamin C as well as vitamin K, a vitamin important for strong bones.

You can use this versatile vegetable in both sweet and savory dishes, like stir-fries and smoothies. “Stir-fry riced cauliflower along with some garlic and sprinkle of Parmesan for a delicious side dish, or use it as a rice substitute to add a burst of nutrition. Add it to smoothies, and picky eaters won’t even be able to taste it,” Ehsani says.

4. Green Beans

A staple on Thanksgiving menus across the U.S., green beans should be a nutrient-rich addition to your freezer year-round. Green beans are actually classified separately from dried beans and legumes by the USDA, which notes that their nutrition is more similar to that of veggies like onions, iceberg lettuce, celery and cabbage. You’ll find 3 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein in a 1-cup serving of frozen green beans, per the USDA.

Toss green beans into soups, make a casserole, or simply blanch them and serve with sliced tomatoes, almonds and a salad dressing.

5. Spinach

Milder in taste and easier to work with than trendy kale, spinach is a great addition to your freezer stash. Frozen spinach is a nutrient superstar: it’s low in calories, high in fiber (about 5 grams per 1 cup frozen) and packs vitamin C, iron, folate and some protein, according to the USDA.

“Fresh spinach and other leafy greens do have a short shelf life, and it can be challenging for some families to use it before it spoils,” says Ehsani. “Frozen spinach is super convenient in that sense, as you don't need to worry about it going bad. It's easy to add to soups, stews and stir-fries,” she adds. Try it in this Spinach, Feta & Rice Casserole.

6. Green Peas

Ever wondered why so many of the high-protein pastas are made with green peas? It’s because green peas are packed with protein (and fiber!). A 1-cup serving provides 7 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber, according to the USDA. This fiber-protein duo is an ace at helping you feel satiated at meals, which can support weight loss.

While you can cook them fresh, here’s a foolproof guide on cooking the best peas from the freezer, too. You can toss them in soups, casseroles or pasta dishes to enjoy in a fuss-free way. Try this Creamy One-Pot Orecchiette with Sausage & Peas.

  • Opt for frozen veggies and veggie blends that are not seasoned. The ingredients list should only list the veggie(s). Pre-seasoned blends often contain added fat and salt. After cooking, you can add olive oil or salt, pepper or other herbs and spices to match your taste preferences.
  • Consider adding bags of chopped onions and sliced mushrooms to your freezer stash. These veggies offer a convenient way to add flavor and more nutrients to simple soups, stews and sauces. 
  • Look for frozen spinach portioned into cubes or smaller serving sizes. This makes it easier to toss into a smoothie or sauce.

Tips for Choosing the Best Frozen Veggies for Weight Loss

The Bottom Line

Frozen vegetables are a nutrient-rich, convenient addition to your kitchen arsenal, whether your goal is weight loss or not. Not only do they contain the same nutrients as their fresh counterparts, they are extremely versatile in the kitchen. Be sure to add your favorite frozen vegetables to your next grocery haul to reap the benefits these produce picks provide year-round.

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