There is an often looked-over way to see how healthy (or unhealthy) your diet is - check your freezer. In 1913, refrigerators were introduced for home use. There are obvious benefits to this invention. The ability to keep food fresh was life-changing! Yet, as with most breakthroughs there is also a downside. A snowball effect that has overhauled our eating habits. With the food industry’s ability to make products that have a long shelf (or freezer) life, synthetic ingredients were added and “food” really became “edible food-like substances”. (Cheers to my man Michael Pollan for that description.)
Think of the TV dinner. In the 1950s there evolved a prepackaged meal that included a meat, starch, veggies like peas or corn and a dessert that took over how Americans ate dinner. And not for the better, obviously. Now we can walk down aisles and aisles in the grocery store of processed, frozen foods. We are in a hurry to eat and rarely even sit as a family anymore. Because stress changes the way we digest, even the healthy food we eat can be affected and nutrient absorption can suffer.
Many times, we store food in our freezer for a easy, minute meal. This could be a tell tale sign of how nutritious or just delicious your daily diet is.
Ask yourself the following:
1. Is my freezer packed with pre-packaged dinners? Diet meals like Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers are made from tons of artificial ingredients. Plus, they are often packed in plastic that is then microwaved causing chemicals to leak into already chemically-laden food. Yuck - see below.
2. Is my freezer filled with quick frozen foods like french fries, chicken nuggets and pizzas? We all have nights where quick meals are a must, but low-quality high-processed food is often frozen and able to heat up quickly.
3. Is my freezer filled with ice cream? Ok...let’s not blame it on the poor pint. There are tons of crap you can keep in your freezer. Not just frozen cream. Dyed ice pops, frozen diet desserts, etc.
We get it. Processed foods, sweets. So why even have a freezer at all? Top 3 reasons:
1. Frozen fruits and veggies for smoothies! Is fresh better? Yes, most of the time. But taking out a frozen mix of berries and kale to add to a nutrient-dense smoothie is a great choice and can cause you to make it into a daily habit!
2. Make your own ice pops! Make a smoothie, fresh pressed juice or sliced fruits. Put them in ice pop containers for an easy + healthy treat on hand.
3. Leftovers or prep meals! We are busy. I’ve been seeing a lot of people doing total meal prep by cutting up foods and portioning out for easy dinners during the week. Or, leftovers! My family and I love to make a big pot of veggie soup, but it’s way too much for one week. So we freeze the rest in glass containers and then another week's worth of food is ready.
As mentioned above and in regards to microwaves. I am one of the few who won't use it for anything but a sponge, and here is why. Dr. Mercola shares: "When plastic is heated, toxic chemicals like BPA and phthalates can leach out of the containers or covers, contaminating your food with endocrine and hormone disruptors. A paper published in 1990 reported the leakage of many toxic chemicals from the packaging of common microwavable foods, including pizzas, chips and popcorn. Chemicals included polyethylene terpthalate (PET), and well-documented carcinogens like dioxin, benzene, toluene and xylene."
The good news is companies like Trader Joe's have tons of frozen options that can be opened and thrown right into a toaster over or cast iron skillet. I try to keep it fresh when I can, but truthfully once the school years starts up and I'm planning for 100 things at once, time get crunched so tossing a bag of frozen vegetables into a skillet with some pre-made grains and protein of choice for a quick and healthy dinner is A-OK for my family.
Take a look through TJ's or your local health food store - there are actually a ton of great options in the frozen foods section. But be an ingredient detective! If it's a veggie/rice stir-fry bag, you should be able to recognize all the vegetable and type of rice. If in starts to creep names you do not know or cannot pronounce, put it back. A lot of packaged foods also add extra sugar + salt, so be aware.
When you find a food you love, share it with your friends and on our forum! I learned about a ton of new frozen options from my girlfriends just sitting at the park last night. One of the best ways to keep a healthier lifestyle is constant knowledge! Defrost + share.
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