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Frozen berries. Photo by Ashley Winkler via Unsplash

Frozen Fruits and Veggies for Kids: A Great Idea!

We know that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables helps children be healthier. Sometimes it’s a challenge to find fresh produce, so we can’t help but ask: What about frozen produce? Today’s post is all about the unsung hero of the kitchen: frozen fruits an veggies. It may seem like a strange topic, but one of my goals here is helping kids eat more fruits and vegetables. In their frozen form, fruits and veggies solve many of the challenges found with fresh produce. And, they provide excellent nutrition and reduce waste.

Fruits and vegetables are important.

Humans need to eat some fruits and vegetables. Not only do they help with the immune system, but they may also have more far-reaching effects like lowering the risk of type 1 diabetes in offspring. They may help protect against some of the harms of air pollution.

How much fruit and veggies do kids need? Exact recommendations vary by age and sex (see for specific recommendations). As a rough guideline, it’s reasonable to strive for at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables.

There are also ecological reasons for choosing to eat more vegetables.

We can also think about the ecological impact of including more fruits and vegetables in our diet, especially if they’re replacing animal-based foods. Eating more plant-based foods can help the planet. This is a topic for another day, but if you’re interested, Environment has a nice summary.

Fresh produce can be challenging.

So, we know we should include fruits or vegetables often throughout the day. However, I know I’m not the only one who has purchased fresh produce only to have some of it wilt or rot before it could all be eaten. Personally, I find such waste almost unbearable. Sometimes, I wish I could will my family to maintain enthusiasm for a particular vegetable. The excitement doesn’t always last.

Quality of fresh produce varies.

Another challenge with fresh produce is inconsistent availability and flavor. We live in a time when many grocery stores somehow carry the same fruits and vegetables year-round, regardless of the season. This is a feat of human ingenuity, technology, and resources. (Did you know apples can be stored for a year after being picked?) This is incredible! If someone wishes to eat an out-of-season fruit, they can!

The thing is, we’re talking about children here. Imagine piece of produce that has been picked before it’s ripe, then stored, shipped, stored some more, and then sits on a kitchen counter for a few days. It’s not going to taste the same each time. And, it certainly won’t taste the same as something grown locally and picked recently. It’s hard to blame a toddler for declining the mealy apple of April compared to the sweet crispness of September’s bounty.

Ideally, we would all eat produce when it’s in season. It would be grown locally (a backyard garden would be great) and picked at its peak. Even more ideally, it would be organic. This would limit the issues with shipping and storage. It would maximize nutritional value. (Produce has maximum nutrients when picked and eaten ripe. Carbohydrates, protein, and fats don’t change).

However, this ideal is not practical for most of us. It’s challenging to regularly get fresh, local, in-season produce. I mention it as an ideal. 

So, what’s a busy family to do if they are striving for more fruits and vegetables for their kids?

Enter frozen produce.  Generally speaking, commercially frozen fruits and veggies are harvested at their peak. They ripened on the plant, so they have maximum nutrition. Perhaps more importantly, the flavor is maximized too. So, it’s in this ideal form that it’s preserved (frozen). With today’s processes, the freezing can maintain almost all of the nutrition and flavor.

Frozen fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh produce.

As mentioned earlier, the actual nutritional value of fruits and vegetables varies. Even if we compare apples to apples, we have to think about when they were picked, how they were stored, and even how they’re prepared. I wouldn’t advise most families to overthink these variations. Eating any apple is almost always better than not eating one. It’s certainly better than choosing a highly processed snack.

I want to emphasize that the nutritional differences between fresh and frozen produce are minimal. One could argue that a frozen berry may have superior nutrition to a “fresh” one sitting on the supermarket shelf.

Flavors from frozen fruits and vegetables are more consistent.

“This is the best blackberry I’ve ever had.” This comment inspired today’s post. My family was eating previously frozen berries at breakfast. We marveled at how delicious and sweet they were, despite having spent so much time in a freezer. Yes, consistency with food may be a bit . . . boring, but it’s very reassuring for our youngest eaters. And, as mentioned, because it was picked at its peak, that consistent flavor may also be more delicious.

Choosing frozen fruits and veggies may limit waste.

If we only prepare what we are going to eat, the remaining product can be stored safely in the freezer. This alone reduces food waste. On the flip side, if we do have fresh produce starting to wilt, we can freeze it to store for future meals. Personally, I’ll steam then puree wilting spinach. I can store it in ice cube trays or silicone trays similar to the one pictured below. It then makes for an easy addition to dishes in the future, like chaffles, sauces, or smoothies.

An option for frozen food storage (affiliate link).

Frozen produce may be more cost effective.

This varies, of course. But, the nice thing about frozen produce is that when there’s a sale, there’s little risk to stocking up. It won’t go bad. I’ve also found that organic options abound as well.

Summary: Frozen fruits and veggies are a nutritious and convenient choice.

If we want to serve more fruits and vegetables to our families, frozen produce is a great option. Flavor and nutrition are consistent. There’s little waste.

I’d love to hear if you use frozen produce with your family. If you have any tips or recipes, please share in the comments!

Note: Above link is an affiliate link. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

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