Fresh food verse frozen -- how do they match up? Can frozen meals be as good for you as fresh produce?
It's the meal match up, the microwave taking on the stove -- head to head in your kitchen. Can ready made meals compete nutritionally with fresh food and how much money do I need to spend?
We chose pasta, pizza, fish, beef casserole and a desert from the freezer section, with nutritionist Suzie Burrel comparing them to fresh produce.
The frozen spaghetti bolognaise for one will set you back $3.49. To buy these fresh ingredients will cost you $16 but it will feed a family of 5 -- so it works out cheaper at $3.20 per serve. “Nutritionally there is a massive difference between a fresh cooked variety and a frozen variety of pasta” says Suzie.
Not only is the frozen meal more expensive, the extra cost doesn't equal extra nutrition. “We are looking at the equivalent to 50 grams of meat which is less than half what you would normally have so a very low level of protein there's a lot of fillers a lot of bulking up with pasta and there's absolutely no vegetable bulk in there so no carrots or extras that you normally have at home” explains Suzie.
Frozen pizza from the freezer is $5.89 -- to make it with fresh ingredients works out at $7.50 - $1.60 more. You might save money but you lose nutritionally. “The pizza is the worst, there's basically no nutritional quality in a frozen pizza the meat is fatty, there's very little vegetable matter and it won't fill you up there's literally no nutritional quality” says Suzie.
The fresh ingredients for fish, chips and veggies will cost $18 for two or $9 per serve. The same price for the frozen varieties -- but that's where the similarities end. “So the salts and sugars of course making plain tasting foods taste better because if you microwave them, cook it again you loser a lot of the flavour in the water so then you have to bulk them up in a frozen variety of food. It’s a lot of additives a lot of people don't want in their diet” says Suzie.
“When it comes to the taste of fresh verses frozen - there's no comparison” says Kate.
And there's often no harsher food critics than your children. Kate's daughters Polly and Masey can spot a frozen meal a mile off. “When it comes to creating a meal, I feel a lot happier knowing exactly what I put into a meal. With the packaged ones, even with when I read the ingredients, I'm still reluctant to even use them. I'd like to know exactly what goes into the children's dinner” says Kate.
A beef goulash meal costs $3.50 per serving for both fresh and frozen. “It is
a healthy choice but a very small healthy choice -- you might need two or three to fill you up” says Suzie.
“I think the difference is large -- the amount of protein and nutrition you're getting from a frozen meal is always going to be less from when you are using fresh vegetables”, said head chef at Bay Leaf Catering, Patrick Collins.
Patrick says cooking on the stove can be just as fast as using the microwave.
If you could find the time to make apple crumble, it would cost you $8, double the price of buying it in a box. But … “You're buying mostly fat and sugar because it's only got about 40% of apple in it”, says Suzie.
So is it really like comparing apples with apples -- half the price for half the apples.
The stove is the clear winner for nutritional value in all of the products tested and you save money on the fresh produce. “The only meal that competes at any level is the fish and vegetables. Even then you're paying the same amount for it, so we would argue why not buy fresh so you're not getting all the nasty additives you're putting into your body with the frozen variety” says Suzie.
“Try it, try cooking your own meal for two weeks and I guarantee you'll feel a lot better and you'll have more money in your pocket” adds Patrick.