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Frozen food and its nutritional value

The modern way of life characterised by speed, lack of time, extended working time, distance and increasingly less affordable locally produced food on the one hand and time constraints that make shopping in grocery stores and supermarkets possible only on a weekly basis on the other hand makes people resort to irregular and unhealthy eating habits. But we cannot also deny the fact that consumers are still tremendously biased against frozen food. They think this type of food has less nutrients compared to fresh food and that it is much more expensive. But none of this is true.

More vitamins and minerals!

According to many independent surveys (surveys conducted independently of the food industry) frozen food is a safe food, that retains even more vitamins and minerals than food bought fresh or food prepared at home using fresh ingredients. This is because the food used in frozen food production has an extremely short route from the field to the manufacturing plant. According to the rules, only healthy and fresh food can be used in frozen food production.

Easily prepared and affordable!

Besides that, it is cheaper per unit of prepared meal. There is no waste as is the case with fresh vegetables. Preparation is easier and it saves time and money, since energy consumption for the preparation of meals is lower. There is even more control over the portion size. We take only the needed amount of food from the freezer, the rest can be stored further to be used at a later time. During the time of the year when locally produced food is less available, frozen foods enable us to keep our menus diverse and to satisfy our nutritional requirements for micronutrients.

Expiration date and appropriate thawing methods are important.

It is important to take care of appropriate storage methods and hygiene while handling frozen foods at home. It is true that bacteria cannot grow on frozen food and this makes freezing the safest method for storing food. It is however erroneous to think that food can be kept in the freezer indefinitely. Even frozen foods have a date of expiration after which they lose flavour and it is best to discard them.

Do not store industrially prepared foods in the freezer after the date of expiry marked on the packaging. Maximum storage time in the freezer for other foods varies, for ice-cream it is 1 month, for fruits and vegetables from 4 to 6 months, for baked goods and bread from 6 to 8 months, for chicken and fish for 9 months, for margarine and butter 9 months and from 9 to 12 months for other cut meat.

To prevent any undesirable effects of freezing which affect the final quality of the product it is necessary to store them at home using appropriate packaging. Always keep the industrially prepared frozen foods in their original packaging. Once the packaging is opened, keep the remaining foods in an air tight bag/container. It is advisable to squeeze out all the air from the bag when re-packaging foods. It is also suitable to freeze already vacuum stored food, because most of the oxygen is removed during vacuum packaging.

In order to avoid bacterial infections from food prepared with frozen food products, both, the personal hygiene in the kitchen and hygiene of food preparation are important. We have to realise that the nutritional value of food depends on how the food is handled before, during and after the cooking.

We should never thaw frozen meat, fish and poultry as well as other foods at room temperature on the kitchen counter or using warm water. The temperatures between 5 °C and 60 °C are ideal for bacteria to multiply.

We can use a microwave to thaw frozen food quickly or rinse the frozen food with cold water and thermally treat it immediately. Newer kitchen ovens also have a program for thawing frozen foods. We can also safely thaw frozen food by leaving it in the refrigerator overnight. When thawing food in the refrigerator we should always put the frozen food in a dish and place it on the lowest refrigerator shelf. This prevents a flood in the refrigerator and contamination of other foods (dripping!!!).

 

Andreja Širca Čampa, Bachelor of Food Technology and Clinical Dietician

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