I'm going to assume that you probably didn't know that during March we celebrate National Frozen Food Day. Yes, there is a day for everything! But thanks to the frozen food industry and modern technology, there's a wide assortment of conveniently packaged and prepared meals, appetizers, desserts and more available at our fingertips. We know that these foods are certainly convenient, but are they healthy?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the freezing process itself does not destroy nutrients. However, many prepared foods or frozen vegetables are either blanched or precooked to some degree causing some water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C and B vitamins to break down or leach out. While vitamin C loss during blanching varies among vegetables, some lose around 25%. But cooking or blanching food doesn't automatically lead to loss of nutrients. In fact, some nutrients, such as lycopene in tomatoes, are actually increased when cooked. The take home message is that while some frozen vegetables may have lost a few nutrients, they still have many remaining nutrients that are important for our bodies. When buying frozen vegetables, look for ones that are plain, without added sauces. Those with sauce will have more fat and sodium.
Unfortunately, many commercially prepared frozen products, aside from frozen vegetables, are filled with saturated fat and sodium. If you're looking for individual frozen meals, compare the nutrition facts label. Select meals with no more than 500 calories and 600 milligrams of sodium. Give the meal a boost with extra vegetables and a side of fruit. If buying desserts, look for ones without partially hydrogenated oils.
Frozen breaded chicken strips, pizza, fish sticks, family-size lasagna and much more may be easy options, but generally, they aren't the healthiest. Consider making your own dishes and freezing them yourself, and save the less healthy easy options for an occasional go-to meal when you're crunched for time!
Spaghetti Pizza Casserole Printable PDF
12 oz. whole wheat spaghetti noodles
¼ cup fat-free milk
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 (23.5 oz.) jar low-sodium spaghetti sauce
8 oz. part skim shredded mozzarella cheese
3 ½ oz. package turkey pepperoni
Cook the spaghetti noodles in a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes or until al dente. Rinse immediately in cold water and drain well. In a medium-size bowl, whisk eggs and milk. Add parmesan cheese and seasonings. Add the spaghetti noodles to the egg mixture and toss until noodles are coated. Transfer noodle mixture to a greased 9x13-inch disposable baking pan. Pour the spaghetti sauce on top of noodles. Top with approximately half of the pepperoni. Sprinkle shredded cheese and top with remaining pepperoni. Cover with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil, and freeze.
To serve: Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Bake at 375?F for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.
Yield: 8 servings
Nutritional analysis per serving: 340 calories, 12g fat, 550mg sodium, 40g carbohydrate, 22g protein