Fresh, Frozen or Canned: Your Guide to Choosing the Right Veggies

Fresh, Frozen or Canned: Your Guide to Choosing the Right Veggies

Publish Date August 21, 2023 4 Minute Read

As the long summer evenings of backyard cooking make way for the rush of school night dinners and packed lunches, many of us are looking for quick, convenient ways to feed the whole family. We all know that a healthy and balanced meal should include a rainbow of fresh vegetables, but 9 in 10 adults aren’t getting enough throughout the week. Could canned or frozen vegetables be the answer? If you’re looking for an easy way to incorporate these nutrient-dense necessities in a pinch, frozen and canned vegetables are a great way to start. Here are some tips for choosing between fresh, frozen and canned to maximize your veggie intake.

Fresh Produce

The fresh and colorful Produce section of your grocery store is a great place to find weeknight dinner inspiration. This produce is picked just before it’s ready to eat, and usually ripens during transit. Though some nutrients, like vitamin C, are sensitive to high temperatures, nutrient loss is minimal as these veggies make their way to the store, so you can count on high quality and peak freshness.

Fresh Tips

    • Shop the sales. Consider your Shopper’s Card, weekly ad and digital deals. Typically, fresh veggies are in season locally, making them an affordable option. Keep in mind that produce purchased on sale is typically ripe and ready to be eaten, so plan accordingly.
    • Shop for the week, not the month. When shopping fresh, it’s important to be realistic about how much you and your family will consume. Don’t worry, though. If you do over-purchase, you can always freeze your extras. Lay veggies out on a cookie sheet to freeze, then transfer them to a sealed plastic bag once they’re frozen. You can store them in the freezer for up to a month.
    • Take inventory. Whether they’re in the fridge or freezer, you should keep a list of the veggies you have on hand. This will help you reduce waste, find recipe inspiration and save energy by reducing the need to open your refrigerator and take a look.
    • Save your greens. Extend freshness by opening any store-bought containers of greens and adding a few sheets of dry paper towels to the top and bottom. If you notice significant moisture, change out the paper towels.
    • Consider the prep. While prepared produce may be pricier, buying chopped or sliced veggies might be the difference between money wasted and money well spent if it means reducing your food waste. Once again, the key is to be realistic about the prep required and the time you have throughout the week.
    • Cook with care. If you want to preserve your veggies’ water-soluble vitamins, don’t pour green water down the drain. Try blanching your veggies for a tender-crisp result by briefly boiling them and transferring them to an ice bath. Alternatively, you can steam, roast or grill your veggies to add even more flavor.
    • Be a one-pan wonder. Try making a weekly all-veggie dish to make use of any extra produce. Try a Friday frittata or Saturday stir-fry to reduce waste and get those veggies in for the week. As a bonus, using just 1 pan means easy cleanup and more incentive to cook those veggies. Check out these ideas for tasty 1-pan dinners.

Frozen Veggies

Whether you frequent the fresh Produce section or you’re new to the veggie game, stocking up on frozen basics is a must. Frozen vegetables are picked at peak freshness, meaning they’re loaded with vitamins, antioxidants and flavor. They’re convenient, super nutritious and won’t go bad if your dinner plans change midweek.

Frozen Tips

    • Buy sliced and diced. If you’re looking for easy ways to incorporate veggies, buy sliced, diced and chopped vegetables. Try frozen chopped onions or diced sweet potatoes for an easy way to add veggies to your morning omelet or your evening meal.
    • Try a veggie mix. Kroger® Stir-Fry Starters Frozen Vegetables makes a perfect base for your recipe and will get the whole house smelling delicious in no time. Cooking outdoors? Try grilling veggies, which are frozen in a container ready to grill.
    • Use steamer bags. Say goodbye to mushy vegetables with game-changing steamer bags. Just pop them in your microwave for perfectly steamed veggies in under 5 minutes with less dirty dishes. You can also create your own microwave steamers. Place frozen veggies in a microwave-safe bowl with 2-3 tablespoons of water and cover with plastic wrap.
    • The sodium’s in the sauce. Though tasty, veggies frozen in sauce often have a higher sodium content than those without, so be sure to check the nutrition facts. The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much of your recommended daily intake of a particular nutrient is found in 1 serving of food. Keep in mind that 2,000 calories a day is the standard for general nutrition advice, and aim for less than 5% of your daily allowance when checking sodium levels.

Canned Veggies

We know that fresh and frozen vegetables are a healthy choice, but what about canned? Canned vegetables, like frozen, are picked at peak freshness, boosting their flavor and nutrition. They’re affordable, convenient and make vegetables available year-round. If you usually buy fresh or frozen, consider keeping canned vegetables stocked for emergencies as part of your storm prep. Canned vegetables may even last beyond their expiration date, as long as there are no dents, rusting or bulging of the cans.

Canned Tips

    • Look for low-sodium options. Canned foods have gotten a bad rap for being high in sodium, but there are more vegetables on the market with no salt added than ever before, like no salt added black beans. Additionally, draining and rinsing traditional canned vegetables can decrease sodium content by up to 40%.
    • Buy single serve. Single serve options, like these single serve carrots, are great for heat-and-eat lunches and dinners for one.
    • Look for canned veggie recipes. Many recipes use canned vegetables for their convenience and flavor. Try this southwest-inspired stuffed pepper.

The Bottom Line

The best kind of vegetables are the ones that help you incorporate more into your day. Most likely, this will mean a custom combination of fresh, canned and frozen veggies. Want more expert advice? Just like your fresh, frozen or canned produce, nutrition advice should come from a source you can trust. Looking for convenient and cost-effective ways to add more fruits and vegetables into your meal planning? Schedule an appointment with one of our registered dietitians to make a plan.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.