As the air gets a little cooler and we start thinking about turning our clocks back, many of us become more dependent on our pantries and freezers to help us prepare our meals. We all know fresh vegetables are usually the best but what about when your vegetable of choice isn’t in season? Or when it becomes too expensive because it is out of season?
The general rule seems to be to go with frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables (like spinach) can even have more nutritional value than fresh ones. Frozen vegetables are picked, blanched and frozen usually within hours of harvesting. By freezing them immediately, they have no time to lose their nutritional value. For the highest USDA grade on your frozen fruits and vegetables, look for the ‘U.S. Fancy’ grade which generally means the fruits and vegetables are of the highest standards, not over ripe, clean, well-formed and decay free.
Canned vegetables actually lose their nutritional value during the heat of the canning process. Many of those nutrients end up going into the water that the vegetables are sitting in. Some canned vegetables also sit in sugar, salt and other preservatives. A few canned vegetables are an exception to this decrease in nutritional value – like tomatoes and pumpkin.
Frozen vegetables seem to beat out their canned counterparts but don’t fret if canned is all you can get your hands on. Canned vegetables are still better than no vegetables or overly processed foods. If in doubt, you can always count on the Guiding Stars to help you choose the options with the least added salt and sugar and the best nutritional value.