Is freezer food bad?

Is freezer food bad?

Is freezer food bad?

Self-preservation is the first law of nature

Samuel Butler

Freezer food has got itself a bad reputation.

I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s because in that freezer are also plenty of foods that you see as less nutritious than fresh food? The freezer is, after all, the home of the ready meal, the chips, the ice cream, the leftovers that you couldn’t be bothered to eat 12 months ago, and some bread in case you run out!

Frozen vegetables and fruit are right up there on the freezer ‘bad’ list aren’t they? They’re considered the poor cousin to the fresh veg and fruit, and only to be bought in an emergency. Wrong!

It may surprise you to hear then that frozen fruit and veg is actually sometimes MORE nutritious than the fresh options. They are more often than not picked and processed really quickly, so when they hit the freezer they have not really lost any of their nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are largely still in tact. The supermarket fresh section has a lovely colourful array of produce, but how long has it been since they were harvested? I have no idea myself. I just know that you don’t buy them less than 24 hours after picking in most cases. They don’t lose their taste through freezing, but actually maintain it. Plus, when you buy frozen food you also have the luxury of buying them all year round. Strawberries on your porridge in winter – no problem!

When you come to cook those foods you’re essentially cooking them straight from the plant they were picked from. Fresh, you’re a good few days down the line by the time they’ve arrived at the supermarket, been bought, taken home, stored and then eaten. I’m not saying there’s one better than the other, more that the frozen versions are very worthy of a place on your plate. Nutrition aside, let’s also appreciate that they are cheaper, keep for longer, and you’ll have the right quantity for the meal so there’s less food waste. Most of them are ready prepared too, which is fantastic if you’ve had a long day and can’t be bothered to stand in the kitchen chopping and slicing. What an easy way to get your ‘5 a day’ in. Also, remember the previous blog post about hiding veggies in other meals? Well frozen veg is great for that. Grab a handful and sling it in.

Frozen fish and meats can often be a more cost effective way to source what can often be quite expensive food. Frozen chicken breasts and thighs, mince beef, and joints of meat are relatively cheap and are usually the same product as you might find in the chillers. Fish and seafood is super fresh and some say better for the environment. When the recommendation is that people eat a couple of portions of fish a week it’s great to have some stashed away that you can grab when you fancy it. Fish doesn’t take long to defrost either, so you can have it at the drop of a hat.

Again, frozen meat and fish means you can use as much as you need in a meal and save the rest for another day. If you’ve got a larger family this could be a good way to get the bigger quantities for a bit less money. They aren’t always cheaper, but on the whole are, and there are definitely some added benefits to buying frozen.

frozen berries

Let’s not forget the vegetarian and vegan options. There is a huge range of different products in the freezer aisles now. Whether you are a full time vegetarian or vegan, or just like to have a couple of meat free meals in your week, there are some really tasty meat replacement products available.

I think in an ideal world we would all be able to whip up fabulous hearty meals every single day but in reality it’s not going to happen like that. There will be days when you just want to throw some waffles and nuggets in the oven for the kids, and grab yourself a TV dinner, and I’m not here to tell you that’s wrong. What I do ask though is that you try to limit those meals, and find a way to plan ahead so that you can replace them with some other more nutritious meals that you can still grab from the freezer and have ready when you’re in a hurry or not feeling up to cooking. Try and bulk cook some meals. On the days when you are cooking can you portion up a couple extra for the freezer? Can you make up some bags of rice, vegetables, cooked meat etc and freeze them so that it’s easy to grab and reheat rather than cook from scratch? Get creative and see how your freezer can become one of your favourite appliances in helping you to eat well.

Please remember to store and reheat your food safely though. Before putting anything in the freezer label your tubs and bags with the contents and the date you have frozen it, then use it within the recommended time. The Food Safety website gives you a very user friendly list of foods and how long you can keep them for. It gives you fridge times too, as an added bonus. You can even download and print the chart which is handy as a quick reference in the kitchen. When you take the food out of the freezer it is important to thaw and reheat it properly. The Allrecipes site has a nice little section on this. Please do give it a read.

I’m sure there will still be room for those tubs of ice cream. No-one says you have to only have the super nutritious food in the freezer, and we all need balance in our diets. It’s a rare human being that is happy to live without the less nutritious stuff. It’s good for the soul so go ahead and get yourself some!

Are you pleasantly surprised? Have I convinced you that it’s good? Are you happier filling your freezer with frozen ingredients for meals now?

Hiding food

Hiding food

Hiding food

The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.

Calvin Trillin

Picture the scene – you have a family of fussy eaters. Someone doesn’t like carrots, someone doesn’t like courgette, someone doesn’t like onion……. making cooked meals is a nightmare because you’re trying to get some good veggies and some extra vitamins and minerals into these people and they’re just not having it. Well now is the time to get sneaky my friend. There are some very easy ways to hide food in other foods!

Now before we get into this please note that this is only acceptable if meant with good intention and the other diners do not have food intolerances or allergies. 

There are plenty of foods that as standalone foods aren’t all that great, let’s be honest. I don’t rate courgette as a veg on its own. I’m not a fan of the texture, and the taste is very bland. But it’s these two factors that make it perfect for hiding. If you’re doing something like a spaghetti bolognese get that courgette chopped up real small and in with the mixture it goes. By the time you’ve cooked the sauce down there’s no courgette to be seen. Throw it in a stew too, it makes a great thickener. While you’re at it, throw in some peppers, some celery, some spinach or some kale. All these foods will take on a completely different taste and texture when used as ingredients rather than side dishes and salads. 

Carrots are a little harder to hide, but it’s still possible. Again, chopped up small it’ll go in a sauce like the bolognese or a ragu. What about making a smoothie and throwing in some grated carrot? It gives it a natural sweetness. 

Onion can be chopped down super fine. Once you’ve thrown that in a cottage pie, a lasagne, an omelette, a quiche, or a burger you’ll never know it’s there. Obviously onion has a distinctive flavour so if you really don’t like it then you need to pair it with some other strong flavours.

Cauliflower causing problems? Chop up small and mix some of that into a tomato sauce with the other goodies to pack it out. The flavour will be well hidden. Get it into an enchilada mix and the spices will cover that up.

There are some great sweet recipes too. Beetroot in brownies, avocado in cakes, sweet potato in apple pie. I’m not even kidding. With some creativity who knows where you can sneak those extra vitamins and minerals in. Have you tried avocado in a smoothie? It’s fantastic. Creamy and delicious. 

Lasagna on White Ceramic Plate

Remember also that sometimes just cooking things differently can change the flavours. Roasting carrots with some honey is a whole different world to steamed carrots. Baking cauliflower in a glorious cheesy sauce is so much more tempting than some boiled florets.

So there’s some ideas for you. Not only do you get to use up some leftovers that you’ve got knocking around but you’re helping people to stay healthy at the same time so go forth and hide that veg! Give things a try. Cooking should be fun so there’s no need to stress over it. If they don’t work out it’s ok, you won’t do them again, but you never know unless you try.

I’d love to hear what you do with your fruit and veg so please do share your ideas.

Please note:  This post is intended to be general information that applies to people who don’t have diagnosed medical conditions and are not pregnant, and any figures correct at the time of writing. As always, please see a registered professional before making changes to your diet⁠ and never give anyone else food or drink that you do not 100% know is safe for them. 

 

The battle of the spuds – white potato vs sweet potato

The battle of the spuds – white potato vs sweet potato

The battle of the spuds – white potato vs sweet potato

What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow

A.A. Milne

Ohhhh potatoes. I love potatoes, in all forms, shapes and sizes. Jacket, mashed, boiled, sautéed, roasted, chipped….. So good! White potatoes and sweet potatoes, I love them all.  It’s often thought that sweet potato is better for you than other white potatoes. It seems to be the go to potato for those trying to improve their health, lose weight, reduce cards. For many reasons the sweet potato is seen to be the better of the two. Is that really the case though?

Both are highly nutritious. They have similar calories at around 90 calories per 100g and (maybe surprisingly) they also have very similar carbohydrate, fat and protein content. So where are the differences?

With skins on the sweet potato wins the fibre competition hands down, with around 50% more fibre than the white potato. Fibre is really important for digestive health, keeping things moving, feeding our good gut bacteria, and helping to protect us against nasty diseases. In the UK we should be aiming for 30g per day so the skin on sweet potato is a good place to start.

In the vitamin stakes, the sweet potato completely mashes the white potato with its really high vitamin A content. Vitamin A is essential for good immunity, maintaining good eyesight, and contributes to healthy skin and hair. 100g of sweet potato provides 107% of your daily recommended intake, while the white potato provides just 0.1%. Quite the difference hey!

It also provides more of vitamins C and B6, which are great for healthy skin, bones, blood and overall cell health.

White potato marginally wins the minerals contest though, It has better potassium levels, which we need for muscle contraction, nerve function, heart health and the regulating of blood pressure.

Roast potatoes
Sweet potato slices

There can be some differences in how the potatoes affect your blood sugar levels, with sweet potatoes on the whole causing less of a spike.

This is good because it means it is being digested more slowly, providing you with energy over a longer period. However, this isn’t gospel truth across the board. It varies widely dependant on the type of potato and how it is cooked.

If you leave the skin on there is less of an impact on blood sugar, whereas in comparison if you peeled, boiled and mashed the potatoes the impact is much higher because it is more quickly digested.

 

So which one wins? I don’t know that there is a clear winner here but if I HAD to choose one over the other here my preference would probably be the sweet potato. I think instead of saying one is better than the other we should say that both have benefits and have a place in a well-balanced diet. More to the point, which one do you like the most? That one is the winner, surely?

Please note:  This post is intended to be general information that applies to people who don’t have diagnosed medical conditions and are not pregnant, and any figures correct at the time of writing. As always, please see a registered professional before making changes to your diet⁠.

Although the post makes reference to meeting the levels of vitamin A in the diet, there are safe upper limits for the intake and it is not advisable to take supplements and also eat foods high in vitamin A. Please take a look at the page from the NHS which gives guidance on this: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-a.

 

The benefits of meal planning

The benefits of meal planning

The benefits of meal planning

A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.

Brian Tracey

There are so many quotes around planning and the motivation and success that can come from it, and that is because it is undeniable that planning ahead does encourage higher levels of success than just muddling through. This is true of all areas of life, and in many industries. Businesses aren’t successful because they played each day by ear – they had plans. Your family holidays are definitely better for planning when you are going, how you will get there, and where you will stay. Of course people do just get up and go and see where it takes them (brave brave people!), but on the whole people plan.

 

Now put that same theory towards your eating habits. Are you better off seeing how you feel in the moment and having something in the fridge that will satisfy your level of hunger, or what you fancy there and then? Come dinner time are you going to be able to rustle up a satisfying meal for the family if you haven’t planned ahead, or are you just hoping that you picked up enough random items at the supermarket to be able to cobble together a cooked meal?

Are you seeing the benefits of planning yet?

I’d like you to try something ready for your next big food shop. Get out your favourite notebook, a spreadsheet, a chalkboard, a Pinterest board (see the previous post about Pinterest planning), the family calendar, whatever takes your fancy, and work out what you are going to eat for the week.

You can just plan out your evening meals, so that you know what they will be and then see what you fancy for breakfast and lunch each day, or go the whole hog and plan it all. The option you choose depends on you and your personality.

Do you need a full on routine and need to know all of your meals are planned, or are you better having planned but still having some flexibility, and so the evening meal planning is best for you?

There are a few reasons why it’s a good idea. Firstly, it’s motivating. If you are trying to improve the variety in your diet, eat more fresh food, lose weight, gain weight, or improve your regularity of meals then planning is super motivating. It gives you the starting blocks to build on and a plan that you can start to follow.

It helps you to shop smarter. You can buy just what you need, reducing food waste and maybe cutting back on the spending too. 

When you know what you want to eat for the week you can form a shopping list, so when you get to the supermarket you can just pick up the items that you need rather than hunting around for options that you may be able to use. Doesn’t that sound less stressful? I really don’t enjoy food shopping so I like to have a list, get in, get what I need, and get out! 

planner book on table with coffee, watch and paperclips

Don’t forget, you can use online supermarket shopping to plan out your basket and check your costs as you plan, so there will be no nasty surprises when you get to the shops. 

It helps you to evaluate your own diet (if that’s what you are hoping to do). It’ll help you to spot patterns, see what you are eating overall, see where you might want to make some changes. Do you think you could use it as a way to plan in some more fruit and veg, or some more wholefoods, so that you can get more fibre in your diet?

Meal planning also takes away some of the stress of deciding what to eat each day. If you work full time for example, and need to feed the family at the end of a long day, then having a plan can help with this. Maybe you could plan ahead and be prepared enough to pop the slow cooker on in the morning, or even just have some veg peeled and chopped ready to cook.

Make meal planning a nice time too. Grab a coffee in the morning, or a tall cold drink in the evening if that is better for you. Find a space you like to sit in and look through some recipes. Get online, or check out one of the free magazines that your local supermarket offers you. Recipes are everywhere. Enjoy the satisfaction of having lots of lovely meals planned for the week ahead.

 Just some ideas. There will be other ways to plan your week, but I hope that’s got the brain ticking and got you inspired. Now where’s that pen and paper………?

Please note:  This post is intended to be general information that applies to people who don’t have diagnosed medical conditions and are not pregnant, and any figures correct at the time of writing. As always, please see a registered professional before making changes to your diet⁠.

Use By, Best Before & Sell By Dates

Use By, Best Before & Sell By Dates

Use By, Best Before & Sell By Dates

My mother accidentally gave me food poisoning. She fed me baby carrots for a snack before Christmas dinner – but they had expired in June! I threw up for the next 24 hours.

Busy Phillips

Food labelling can be confusing, especially around the dates that we find stamped on them. Best Before, Use By, Sell By…. so similar yet mean different things. I will try to break them down and explain them for you.

Best Before

This date is all about the quality of the food, and not so much the safety. It may say Best Before or Best Before End.

If you eat the food before this date you’ll be eating it at it’s best in terms of flavour and texture. For example, fruit and vegetables may start to lose their ripeness after this date. Tinned or dried foods will also have this date. Although they last much longer than fresh foods, there will still be a time where it’s not so good to eat.

You won’t do yourself any harm eating after this date, it just won’t taste as good as it would before if you’ve stored it correctly. 

Use By

This date is about safety. You’ll find it on foods like fresh meat and fish.

If you store the food correctly it will be safe to eat until the Use By date, but after that you risk food poisoning. Once this date has passed you should not eat the food.

Two bottles of milk on a table

Sell By

This one is a bit confusing to you as someone shopping, because it is really there to help the shop keep their shelves stocked correctly. You don’t need to worry about this date when wondering whether or not to eat something. 

The Smell Test

Lots of people say that if it doesn’t smell bad then it’s still fine to eat, despite the Use By date, but don’t be tempted to do this. There will be times where food is not safe to eat even though they smell fine. There are bacteria that you just cannot smell if they are present. It’s not worth the risk.

And Drinks?

What about drinks? Yes, the dates apply in the same way for these too. Stick to the dates on the bottles and cartons to be on the safe side.

 

Remember, all of this applies if you are storing your food correctly. You can prolong the life of some foods by freezing them, and again the label on the package should tell you how long you can safely freeze it for.

Ultimately, if we can consider what we are going to eat in advance we can help reduce the amount of food that we have that passes these dates. If you know what you need, you can buy what you need, and throw away less food. This can only be a good thing right? 

Fresh eggs don’t float

Fresh eggs don’t float

Fresh eggs don’t float

A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.

Bernard Meltzer

It’s true, fresh eggs do not float. It’s a quick and easy way to test whether or not your eggs are still fresh. 

Pop the egg in a jug of cold water. If it sinks to the bottom and lies down it’s fresh as they come. If it sinks but stands on end it’s still fresh and good for eating.

As the egg ages it will sit higher and higher in the water, so if it floats to the top it’s not fresh at all and so you might want to consider discarding it.

Why is this? It’s because of the amount of air in the egg. When eggs are super fresh they have just a tiny amount of air in, but then over time the amount of air in there increases, and that is what makes it float in the water.

Don’t just throw away your eggs just because you THINK they’re not good. Test them first.