As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues, Canadians are encouraged to do their part by changing regular behaviours and to take precautions to stay healthy and prevent the potential spread of any illness. This, of course, includes doing your grocery and household goods shopping during off-peak hours and purchasing a little extra at a time to reduce exposure to crowded places and to stay at home whenever possible.
“It is easier on the supply chain if people gradually build up their household stores instead of making large-scale purchases all at once. To do this, you can add a few extra items to your grocery cart every time you shop,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a statement.
“Your plan should include shopping for supplies that you should have on hand at all times. This will ensure you do not need to leave your home while you are sick or busy caring for an ill family member.”
You’ll want to make sure you have enough shelf-stable, perishable food items and extra goods and staples that’ll last up to or beyond a two-week period
Although canned food items, vitamins and medication remain on top of everyone’s shopping list, frozen goods are an underrated item to add to your arsenal. Sure, the frozen food aisle hasn’t always had the greatest reputation when it comes to top-quality and nutrition, but they’re convenient and last for weeks in your freezer.
But beyond frozen pizzas, fries and waffles, a nutritionist says you can still get all the essential nutrients and support your immune health by carefully choosing what to buy frozen or choose to freeze.
Here, certified Holistic Nutritionist Carolyn Nichol of Energy Snack Juice Bar gives us a breakdown of the healthiest frozen foods to incorporate into your diet.
“Vegetables are so important. They’re low on glycemic impact and high in antioxidants and some in phytonutrients, which help superpower your antioxidants and fight free radicals in your body,” Nichol said. “The thing about frozen vegetables is that the enzyme action has slowed down greatly. So you’re not getting the same live enzymes that fresh food carry, but you’re still getting the nutrients. Variety is the key to making sure you have lots of nutrients in your system.”
So rather than going to typical TV dinner route with frozen peas, corn and carrots, which Nichol says contain little nutritional value, she says to take advantage of the wide variety of frozen nutritional options that are now newly available on the shelves like squash and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, and cauliflower.
But when it comes to stocking up on your favourite fresh produce and freezing bundles of them yourself, Nichol recommends giving them a quick blanch or steam before storing them bags and putting them in the freezer, especially when it comes to leafy greens like kale and spinach, so they don’t break down as much when they’re ready to cook.
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While bananas and mangos are easy to freeze and easily accessible to buy frozen, Nichol insists on leaning towards fruits that can be locally grown in here in Canada.
“Dark fruits are higher in antioxidants and [stronger] in anti-inflammatory properties. Fruits liked cherries, blueberries and blackberries grow in Canada,” she says. “So your body actually does adapt to them better and is more useful to our immune system.”
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Apples are also a good source of vitamins and nutrients and can freeze pretty well, too.
“Apples keep fresh for a long period of time where berries don’t. If you find your apples are starting to get close to the end of their shelf life, cut them up and freeze them. It’s always good to squeeze a little bit of lemon on it before it goes in the freezer to prevent them from browning.”
Freezing bulks of your favourite cuts of meat, or buying pre-frozen shrimp, burgers and ready-to-go chicken tenders and nuggets are a great way to save time and money on your weekly meal prep. But for other protein alternatives and sources, Nichol suggests incorporating more seeds and nuts into your diet.
“Nuts and seeds have a high content of protein. Yes, they have a high content of fat, but the truth of the matter is nuts and seeds should always be in the freezer anyways,” Nichol says. “Most of us don’t consume them fast enough and their shelf life is not that long. Because of their high-fat content, they never actually totally freeze.”
And because their contents of protein almost don’t break down when kept frozen, they can be taken out and be eaten raw and, of course, easily incorporate into stews and sauces.
Beans, of course, are a great inexpensive alternative. You can buy them dry and now even find them in the frozen aisle.
“I would highly recommend buying them [beans] dry and cook them on a stove or in a crockpot and freeze them yourself in small bags and batches and put them in the freezer instead of opening a can, which usually contains tons of sodium,” the nutritionist adds.
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“Grains like quinoa are almost 20 per cent protein. Whole grains are a wonderful source of fibre, protein, iron, and good carbohydrates,” says Nichol. “But keep in mind, even with the huge health craze that is going on, we don’t have to be eating imported grains like quinoa every day — remember, local is the key. So you don’t want to forget your brown rice, your millet, your buckwheat, those are things that we grow here in Canada.
While ready-to-go grains are widely available in the frozen aisle, Nichol recommends whipping up batches of your choice of grain and freezing them in smaller bags.
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Being stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy refreshing sweet treats. But rather than reaching for your favourite tub of ice cream or box creamsicles, Nichol recommends giving the dairy snacks a bit of a break.
“When it comes to freezer snacks, one thing you really want to try to avoid is any kind of dairy products, especially during a time like this because dairy products really suppress the immune system. So instead of going with ice cream, choose something made with real fruits instead like a sorbet,” says Nichol.
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