Frozen Foods Help Make Mealtime Easy With Parkinson's

Head to the freezer and make life easier! Clients with Parkinson's disease (PD) who are trying to save time and effort often ask me, "Are frozen foods healthy?"

Yes, there are endless healthy frozen food options available! With PD, chopping and meal prep can be challenging, time-consuming, and require extra patience. If you've had a week of doctor's appointments, taking fitness classes, or boxing for PD at the community center – or are just plain tired of cooking – skipping all the meal prep seems like a bit of heaven. That's when frozen foods can save the day!

Frozen foods to the rescue

Fresh, crisp vegetables are delicious. There’s indeed nothing better than the crunch of a garden-fresh bell pepper or a bite of a juicy tomato harvested at its peak. But there are times when the thought of going to the store to restock the fridge with fresh food seems grueling.

During the holiday rush. After a day of doctors’ visits or physical therapy. When you’re under the weather. We’ve all been there when the uncooked veggies you bought last week start to brown, and all the fruit, grains, and protein sources are gone. This is when the freezer can become a complete lifesaver!

The right frozen foods can pack a nutritious punch and are loaded with phytonutrients important for Parkinson's disease. For example, fresh produce is picked during peak harvest and flash-frozen, typically on-site, preserving its high nutrient content.

When produce isn’t local, it can undergo lengthy travel and grocery store time before it makes it to your fridge. The longer the food sits after harvest, the more nutrients it loses. Just remember to rotate your foods when stocking the freezer, or you’ll end up with a bunch of freezer-burned has-beens.

Cost savings

Frozen produce can save you money! You can use your cost savings to help support your PD however you see fit! For example, ordering out healthy when you're too tired to cook. Or paying for food delivery when grocery shopping is just too overwhelming. For example, frozen berries can range from 19 to 35 cents per ounce (organic), whereas fresh can be 44 to 83 cents per ounce (organic). When in season, fresh berries taste best, but it’s unlikely you’ll notice the taste difference when serving frozen berries in oatmeal, yogurt, or a baked dish.

You can also freeze your own fruit or veggies. For example, if you were planning to cook up that kale tonight that expires tomorrow, but you just got a last-minute dinner invite, freeze it. Then add it to smoothies or grain dishes next week. Or if you bought an abundance of fresh fruit like nectarines on sale and they went from hard to ripe in a day, chop and freeze them.

They’ll be delicious in an oatmeal fruit crisp or added to hot cereal. Even slightly overripe watermelon can be frozen, then later enjoyed as a mocktail, blended with ice, a little lime juice, and a sprig of fresh mint.

Tips for freezing

When freezing food, remove all air and seal tightly. Date and label your frozen foods. Keep a permanent marker on top of the fridge or freezer for labeling convenience. Time can fly by, and even frozen foods have an expiration date.

Frozen food sometimes gets a bad rap as being overly processed. But there are endless frozen staples that can complement a meal and make meal prep easy and save money. In the cooler weather, warm veggies in a savory dish hit the spot. And it doesn’t hurt that you don’t have to wash or chop them, and the texture is easier to adjust for swallowing problems.

Keeping frozen foods in the simplest form allows you to start with a blank canvas and then add flavor that matches your food mood and preferences. Here are some of my client's favorite meals made with frozen foods.

Easy meal ideas for PD

  • Frozen mango warmed up in oatmeal or breakfast yogurt.
  • Frozen spinach cooked with canned fire-roasted tomatoes, fresh herbs, and sauteed onions.
  • Frozen quinoa served with grilled salmon and veggies.
  • Frozen mixed vegetables, stir-fried with chicken, shrimp, or lean protein of choice.
  • Frozen peas and brown rice, cooked with scrambled egg and soy sauce.
  • Frozen white corn mixed with low-sodium salsa and black beans over frozen quinoa, topped with roasted nuts or feta.
  • Frozen broccoli and frozen shredded potatoes chopped in a food processor or blender then mixed with vegetable broth to make an easy soup.
  • Frozen veggies heated then mixed in with pasta and marinara.
  • Frozen cauliflower rice added to frozen couscous, heated with lemon juice and herbs.
  • Frozen string beans cooked with olive oil, pepper flakes, and soy sauce, tossed with firm tofu, and served over brown rice.
  • Frozen cherries heated in the microwave, mixed with cocoa powder, crushed walnuts, and cinnamon for a sweet treat.

Save time, energy, washing, and chopping with healthy frozen foods. But before you head to the store, clean out that freezer. You may have some veggies hiding that could make your next great meal!

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