Ultra-processed foods are taking over grocery shelves with their added flavor, affordable prices, and long shelf-life.
Ultra-processed foods including pre-packaged meals, breakfast cereals and bars, and packaged rice and pasta mixes are excessively processed through the addition of sugar, sodium, fat, preservatives, and other additives.
An easy way to replace ultra-processed foods is to recreate your favorite foods using whole foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and beans. Last week we covered frozen veggies and described how to make your own healthy frozen dinners. This week we’ll use frozen fruit. You will be surprised at all of the wonderful ways you can use it to increase your fruit intake and lower the intake of super processed foods like sugary drinks and cookies!
Frozen fruit is considered unprocessed and contains essential nutrients such as fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Frozen fruit is picked at its ripest point and frozen to ensure the conservation of nutrients without added sugar or additives.
Frozen fruit can be an affordable option for fresh fruits. It maintains nutritional value and won’t perish as quickly as fresh fruit. Whether you purchase frozen fruit at the store or freeze the fruit you have at home before it becomes rotten, it can save you money.
The next time you have the urge to grab a smoothie drink from the store, consider making your own fruit smoothie at home to avoid the added sugar. It can be as simple as blending your favorite frozen fruit, adding a green like spinach or kale, and a little liquid such as plant-based milk or 100% juice.
Another great option is creating infused water with frozen fruit to replace the ultra-processed beverage options such as soda and sugary drinks. Try adding frozen strawberries and pineapple to your glass of water. The frozen fruit will not only chill your water but the natural sweetness from the fruit flavors will transform your water into an energizing beverage.
While you may not consider flavored oatmeal packets as ultra-processed food, check the food label. You’ll be amazed at the amount of added sugar per serving size. Every 4 grams of added sugar equals one teaspoon. That’s 3 teaspoons per packet! Frozen fruit can provide natural sweetness as well as fiber, vitamin C, and potassium in each serving. Try cooking old-fashioned oats and adding in your favorite frozen fruit such as berries or peaches.
For a tasty treat, dip individually frozen raspberries into vanilla Greek yogurt and freeze again. When you’re craving something sweet, take a small handful of these raspberries out of the freezer to satisfy your craving.
As the temperature heats up with the spring and summer months coming, use a popsicle mold to create fruit freezer pops over store brought ice cream treats. Try frozen blackberries and mango with Greek yogurt. Blend together and place in a mold and freeze overnight for a refreshing treat.
Frozen fruits are a great way to reduce the intake of ultra-processed foods and meet nutritional recommendations of consuming at least 2 fruit servings per day!
Below are other ways to use frozen fruit:
• Top cottage cheese with frozen peaches or berries.
• Simmer frozen fruit with a little honey or maple syrup to make a pancake or waffle topping.
• Use frozen fruit in a simple fruit crisp.
• Blend frozen fruit into your plain yogurt and top with chopped nuts.
• Make a fruit compote for chicken, pork, or fish.
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD