By Colleen de Bellefonds
When it’s freezing outside and the sidewalks are covered in ice, it can be a pain to hit the store. Plus, many of our favorite fruits and vegetables are out of season. That’s where your freezer comes in. A well-stocked freezer means you always have healthy food on hand, with no spoilage or waste. And, you can enjoy your warm-weather go-tos such as tomatoes or berries, just as nutritiously as when they’re fresh. Wondering what to stock? We asked eight health influencers what they always have in deep freeze to make clean eating easy all winter long.
Fitness and nutrition coach Natalie Uhling keeps edamame in her freezer all year. Uhling, creator of the NUFit fitness program, points out that it’s packed with 8 grams fiber and 17 grams protein per 189-calorie cup. “It’s a super-easy midday snack when I need a quick pick-me-up. Plus it helps me keep my energy up during busy days,” she says. Uhling suggests mixing edamame with brown rice and vegetables or adding it to a stir-fry.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
McKel Hill, R.D., founder of the nutrition and fitness site Nutrition Stripped, as well as McKel’s Stripped Reset: A 21-day Guide to Reset + Optimize Your Health; @nutritionstripped
Registered dietitian and author McKel Hill loves keeping her favorite homemade creamy butternut and apple squash soup in her freezer since it’s warming, simple to make and incredibly nutrient-dense. Butternut squash is rich in the fat-soluble antioxidant beta-carotene, at more than 100 percent of your daily needs. Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which supports the immune system (important during the winter) as well as your skin, nails and hair.
Butternut squash is also a good source of other nutrients, including iron, potassium and eye-boosting lutein. Hill recommends making a double batch whenever you make soup, so you can heat some up in a pinch for a fast, light dinner.
Photographer and healthy food blogger Sarah Britton says she always keeps green peas in her freezer to add to stews and to whip up pea soup. “They’re a very nutrient-dense, simple way to add protein and fiber to your meals,” she says. In one 134-calorie cup, peas pack more than 8 grams each of fiber and protein, plus a healthy dose of folate and vitamins C, K and A. Add frozen peas to dishes toward the end of cooking instead of microwaving to thaw so you preserve the nutrients, she suggests.
Health columnist Bonnie Taub Dix, R.D., says salmon is her frozen health food pick, since it’s an excellent source of protein (at 22 grams per 3-ounce serving) that’s also rich in heart-healthy, brain-boosting, inflammation-busting omega 3 fatty acids. “I’ll buy extra salmon at the fish store so I can freeze several pieces and spontaneously defrost it, cut it into chunks and sauté it or bake it in the oven with my favorite topping,” she says.
Her Salmon With Mustard and Horseradish recipe: Mix 1 tablespoon mustard, 1 tablespoon horseradish, 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon agave, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, a pinch of garlic powder, white pepper to taste, 1 tablespoon fresh herbs (dill, parsley, thyme) and ¼ cup chopped nuts. Blend together, spread on salmon and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350F, until salmon flakes with a fork.
Clean eating chefs and sisters Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley say fresh ginger is the one basic they keep in their freezer. “Our Filipina mum always says a tasty meal starts with a base of sautéed onion, garlic and ginger,” says Melissa, adding that ginger freezes perfectly—kept whole and unpeeled it can last for up to 6 months, and tastes much better than when it’s in dried powder form.
Ginger has medicinal benefits—research shows it can ease nausea, for example—and it’s well known for being anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants. “Traditionally it has been valued for its warming properties—fantastic when you have a winter cold,” Melissa says. Try fresh ginger mixed with fresh mint as a digestion-aiding tea after a meal, or use it to season stir fries, stews, curries, soups, dressings, dipping sauces, marinades, porridge and all kinds of baked goods.
The sisters’ favorite way to enjoy ginger, though, is their “Pep-Up Tea,” a popular beverage at their cafe. “It perks you up, while tingling your taste buds,” says Melissa. Toss 1 tablespoon fresh finely grated fresh ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric and a pinch of cayenne pepper to a kettle. Add 2 1/4 cups hot water, stir and brew for 10 minutes. Strain and pour into mugs, adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a touch of raw honey.
In winter, fresh blueberries are out of season—that’s why integrative dietitian Jackie Topol, R.D., keeps them in her freezer. “Blueberries have among the highest levels of antioxidants of any fruit. And wild blueberries, which you can find frozen, have double the amount of antioxidants as regular blueberries,” she says. “Plus the antioxidants in blueberries are protective against heart disease and cancer, they promote brain health, and they help with blood sugar control.”
When it’s cold outside, Topol likes to use frozen blueberries in warm dishes like fruit crisps or oatmeal bakes. For a super-simple grab-n-go breakfast, try Topol’s Blueberry-Banana Overnight Oats: Pour ½ cup almond milk and ½ cup oats into a Mason jar. Then top with ¼ cup frozen blueberries, ½ sliced banana, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup. Cover, refrigerate and enjoy the next day.
CHOPPED ONIONS AND LIMA BEANS
Felicia Stoler, M.D., R.D., exercise physiologist, host of EP Vetted Health News and author of Living Skinny in Fat Genes: The Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Feel Great; @feliciastoler
Exercise physiologist Felicia Stoler, M.D., counts on frozen foods for nutrients, flavor and convenience. One of her favorites—chopped onions. “I hate cutting onions more than anything,” she says. But if you do a whole bunch at once, “they last forever.” She also counts on frozen mixed veggies, especially those with lima beans. “They’re great to add to shepherd’s pie or pot pies, using leftover chicken or turkey meat,” she says. Stoler also adds them to soups, chilis or stews.