3 Reasons to Rethink Frozen Food

Last Update: March 2, 2024

From an icy loaf of early-pandemic sourdough to leftovers from who knows when, it’s not uncommon for things to get lost and forgotten in the back of the freezer.

We’re calling it: now’s the time to reclaim that space and turn your freezer from a dark, chilly cave of neglect to one of your kitchen’s most-used (and loved) resources. With a return to routine on the horizon—back to school, back to the office, back to “normal” life in general—it’s never been a better time for some new healthy shortcuts. Thrive Market’s high-quality frozen proteins, organic frozen produce, and convenient frozen meals and snacks for every diet will guarantee you’ll never underestimate the power of your freezer again. Read on for three reasons to rethink frozen food.

Reason #1: Yes, frozen food can be healthy

If you hear “frozen food” and think of sodium-laden, preservative-filled TV dinners, prepare to have your mind changed. From frozen organic produce to heat-and-eat dishes for every diet, today’s frozen aisle looks more wholesome than ever. The frozen foods at Thrive Market have been thoroughly scrutinized to ensure they measure up to our higher-than-high quality standards. Like everything we sell, they are always non-GMO, organic whenever possible, and totally free of artificial preservatives and added fillers.

For quick weeknight dinners and healthy meal prep, frozen produce is a convenient shortcut that encourages better eating habits—and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t require compromising on quality or your values. Not only do frozen fruits and vegetables remove tedious prep work, a common barrier to healthy eating, but they’re just as good for you as their fresh counterparts.

No one knows premium frozen produce better than Cascadian Farm. Founded in the early 1970s by Gene Kahn, a farmer in Washington state who was part of the original organic food movement, the brand now sources high-quality fruits and vegetables for its frozen products from organic farms around the country. Khan is something of an icon in the organic food world; he worked with the USDA to help pioneer what are now widely used organic farming standards. As the company has grown, they’ve been able to support farmers who are going the extra mile for sustainability and climate change mitigation by practicing regenerative agriculture.

Cascadian Farm reports that their organic fruits and vegetables are frozen soon after harvest, a process that retains maximum nutrients by deactivating natural enzymes. Because of how long it can take to pick, process, and distribute fresh produce (especially foods that have to travel across the globe to reach your local grocery store), frozen produce is often higher in nutrients, since storing fruits and vegetables at room temperature—say, in the grocery store—can degrade nutrients like vitamin C by up to 15% per day.

So what about the rest of the dinner plate? For high-quality, ethically and sustainably sourced proteins, your freezer is your friend. Mike Hacaga, the Lead Product Innovator for Thrive Market’s Meat and Seafood program and an industry veteran, explains that changes in the seafood industry in particular have resulted in major benefits for the consumer. That means the frozen salmon, scallops, tuna, and other fish you’ll find at Thrive Market are as good if not better than what’s fresh at the fish counter.

“Before, [fishing] boats would keep their fish on ice below deck, and bring them back in after seven to 10 days,” Hacaga explains. “The quality of the fish was dependent on how it was handled on the boat.” The industry has since evolved, and these days, more seafood is frozen at sea within just a few hours of catch using a technique called blast freezing, which reduces the temperature of the fish quickly and preserves its fresh flavor and texture. “It doesn’t have all the miles on it that a fresh item might have,” Hacaga says.

It’s a similar story with poultry, Hacaga reports. In Thrive Market’s case, “we’re dealing directly with the farm,” he says. “We’re getting product that’s harvested and put into the freezer potentially the same day, or at the latest, the next day. When you’re dealing with a supermarket, a fresh product has a shelf life of seven to 10 days. The expiration date is already ticking by the time you pick up the package in a store, take it home, and get it on the table.”

Reason #2: Frozen food can help you reduce food waste and save money

No one likes discovering last week’s bunch of broccoli has spoiled in the back of the fridge and having to toss it in the trash—not the environment, nor your grocery budget. A study conducted at The College of William & Mary found that the average American consumer spends $1,300 a year on food that goes to waste. On a broader scale, that adds up to 30 to 40 percent of the nation’s food supply, according to the USDA. These figures are particularly staggering when you consider that 54 million Americans are facing food insecurity, and that wasted food is also a waste of the planet’s finite natural resources, as well as a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions when it winds up in a landfill.

Since frozen foods allow you to portion out only as much as you need and preserve the rest for future meals, they’re a great way to help you reduce your household’s food waste. A study from the British Food Journal found that frozen food actually generates 47% less food waste in the home than non-frozen foods.

As parents of picky eaters know all too well, trying to raise kids with healthy eating habits can be a struggle that often results in having to toss rejected foods. Research shows that children need to be exposed to new foods multiple times (sometimes up to 15) in order to develop a taste for them. Yet this repeated food experimentation can be a challenge, especially for families with limited resources who can’t afford to buy groceries that might go to waste—something researcher Caitlin Daniel discovered through studying low-income families in the Boston area. The bottom line? If you want to encourage healthy eating habits in your kids without wasting food and breaking the bank, frozen foods can come in handy.

Unlike the aforementioned head of fresh broccoli, that bag of organic frozen broccoli florets will be good for up to a year, and safe to eat even longer (though it might start looking a little worse for wear after the 12-month mark; after that point, try pureeing into a soup). Your wallet and the planet will thank you.

Reason #3: There are tasty, healthy frozen foods that will work for any diet

Whatever healthy means to you—vegan until dinner, quarterly Whole30, go keto or go home—there’s something in Thrive Market’s frozen “aisle” for you. From tried-and-true brands like Amy’s Kitchen to newcomers like Daring Foods and Oatly, you can bet there are healthy frozen options that will work for you and your family’s lifestyle.

Best vegetarian and vegan frozen foods

Our lineup of vegetarian and vegan frozen foods makes it easier than ever to go plant-based. Choose from innovative plant-based meats from Beyond Meat, Daring Foods, and Good Catch; comfort classics from Mikey’s; tried-and-true veggie burgers from Dr. Praeger’s; Just Egg’s sandwich-ready “plant eggs;” and dairy-free ice cream treats from Oatly, Chloe’s, or Jolly Llama.

Amy’s Kitchen is a brand that’s been turning out healthy vegetarian frozen dishes for more than 30 years. Founded by Rachel and Andy Berliner in northern California, the company has come a long way since they welcomed their namesake (daughter Amy) and cooked up their very first pot pie. Now, you can enjoy frozen burritos, pizzas, and bowls made with organic, GMO-free ingredients. The company prides itself on ethical practices throughout their supply chain, establishing on-site health centers with bilingual doctors for their Spanish-speaking employees, working with local farmers, and hand-crafting (literally) everything from pizza crusts to salsa to tofu.

Best gluten-free frozen foods

Avoiding gluten? Good news: pizza, pasta, and bread are still on the menu. Stock up on Birch Bendersgrain-free toaster waffles, bagels from Canyon Bakehouse, and Against the Grain baguettes and never feel deprived again.

Cappello’s may be our most-buzzed-about launch of all time. The Thrive Market staff (whether they’re gluten-free or not) constantly sings the praises of the brand’s pizza crusts, pasta, and cookie dough that offer craveable texture with ingredients like arrowroot flour and cage-free eggs instead of wheat.

Founded by Ben Frohlichstein and Stacey Marcellus, a pair of friends who first bonded over their shared love of food and passion for healthy living, Cappello’s is on a mission to set a new standard in the frozen food aisle and make packaged foods more sustainable and nutritionally conscious. Choose from plain pizza crusts that let you unleash your culinary creativity; pies topped with whole milk mozzarella and uncured pepperoni; pillowy gnocchi begging to be tossed in rich tomato sauce; and vegan chocolate chip cookie dough that can be sliced, baked, and savored in minutes.

Best keto frozen foods

When you have a freezer filled with convenient keto foods, suddenly the low-carb, high-fat diet feels a lot less restrictive (and a bit more fun, too). In addition to all the high-quality cuts of meat you need to prepare keto dishes, enjoy heat-and-eat favorites like Birch Benders Chocolate Chip Keto Toaster Waffles, recipe-ready organic bone broth from Bonafide Provisions, and no-sugar-added keto ice cream from Enlightened.

If you’ve exhausted every keto bread recipe on Pinterest, allow us to introduce you to Base Culture. While the company is “founded on paleo principles,” their keto bread has garnered a loyal following among devotees of the diet, including popular keto YouTuber Bobby Parrish (aka FlavCity).

When an avocado toast craving hits, choose from the brand’s Original Keto Bread, made with ingredients like almond butter and flaxseed, or the 7 Nut & Seed variety, which gets extra hearty texture from a medley of pecans, chia, hemp, and sunflower seeds. Both versions are free of dairy, soy, grains, artificial ingredients, and preservatives.

How to buy healthy frozen foods at Thrive Market

If you’ve ever ordered frozen meat, seafood, or meal bundles from us before, you’ll be happy to learn the experience has gotten even better—along with all the new choices, now, you can buy frozen food items a la carte.

Here’s how it works: Build a frozen box by choosing the individual frozen items you want, then complete your order and get ready for your frozen items to arrive. They’ll be insulated and on ice for a safe journey straight to your door.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before changing your diet or healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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Kirby Stirland

Kirby Stirland is a writer, editor, and New York transplant living in Los Angeles.

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