Amanda Halls, R.D.N., L.D.
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Thinking about what is in the bottom of your freezer and what year it was frozen can be overwhelming. While freezing foods prolongs their shelf life, frozen food can still expire.
Here are a few suggestions for maintaining a healthy freezer:
- It's important to go through your freezer at least once per year and throw away any questionable food or items more than a year old.
- Freezer burn also can happen. This comprises the taste and integrity of food. If you have frozen foods that are still edible, but they are getting close to their expiration date, move them to the front of the freezer to grab first when meal planning.
- Freezer cleaning also presents a good time to throw away any frozen foods that may be tempting and result in broken healthy eating habits. Some examples include ice cream; frozen pizza or pizza rolls; cookie dough; breaded and fried meats, such as chicken wings or fish sticks; and frozen candy bars. Once cleaned, filling the freezer with healthy items makes meal prep easy.
- Frozen vegetables are a great option for vegetables that aren't in season. An added benefit is frozen vegetables often have less sodium than their canned counterparts. They're easy to make and can be frozen until ready to eat.
- Fruit also can be frozen and made into smoothies, topped on frozen yogurt or simply enjoyed as a cool, refreshing snack.
- A budget-friendly option is buying unfrozen, nonbreaded meat from the store in larger quantities. Then before freezing, place a serving size in each freezer bag.
- A healthier option to premade frozen pizza is making pizza dough when you have time and freezing it. Homemade pizza dough tastes better and has no preservatives. You can add healthy toppings, such as low-fat cheese, vegetables and olive oil- or pesto-based sauces. Try pulling out the frozen dough in the morning, letting it thaw in the refrigerator and rolling it out — determining the desired thickness as you do so — when you're ready to eat. Add flavor to the dough by using basil, oregano, onion powder and garlic powder. In addition, sprinkling cornmeal on the crust adds texture.
- Remember to label and date all freezer items to track how long food has been frozen.
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