Q: My family tries to eat healthy year round, but fresh produce can be so expensive in the winter time, is it ok to use canned or frozen?
A: Yes and Yes. It is true that produce can get expensive when it is out of season which can make it seem impossible to eat healthy. It might surprise you to know that aside from picking produce straight from your garden and eating it instantly, the healthiest way to eat produce is frozen! The minute fresh produce is picked, it begins to deteriorate which means a loss in nutritive value and phytochemicals (all big words to mean the “good stuff”). When produce is going to be frozen it is picked right at the peak of its ripeness, meaning its nutritional value is the highest it will ever be. It is then instantly frozen, which stops the natural deterioration process, so all that goodness is maintained in the food until it is ready to be eaten. Canned foods are a little different. There are some downfalls such as excess sodium and possible chemicals from the lining of the can, buying organic, BPA-free, low-sodium canned produce will help to reduce those risks. Otherwise my next suggestion would be to rinse the food well before cooking. Most of the sodium and some of the chemicals can be rinsed off therefore making the food a little healthier. The good thing is that you are eating your vegetables, so do what you can each season, follow the ads, save a buck here and there if you can. But keep eating those veggies, in whatever capacity you can afford.
Here’s some food for thought: Next year consider growing a garden or investing in a CSA. Then you would be able to can and freeze your own produce for those long winter months. That way you control what goes in there, and can save some money over the long run.