Frozen food has long had a bad reputation: rubbery texture, a burnt taste (or complete lack of flavor), and the frustration of that cold center, even after microwaving far longer than the box recommended you should. These days, we’ve become hyperaware of what’s in our food, and health-conscious folk have turned their noses up at the freezer aisle. But as our collective knowledge on best foodstuff practices continues to expand, so too has the way we’ve been preserving our cuisine so that we can buy now and enjoy later. Here, a few companies who are reinventing the old, cold idea of frozen food, and replacing it with healthy, delicious fare.
The idea that you can — and should — eat breakfast for dinner is the premise behind Grainful, which gives a fresh (yet frozen) spin on steel cut oats by turning them into savory meals. Why steel-cut oats? For starters, they’re less processed than the rolled variety, plus gluten-free, heart-healthy, and fiber-rich with complete proteins. And Grainful’s offerings not only save you time in the kitchen to prepare, but give the popular morning grain a kick (we tried the spicy Tuscan Bean and Kale and Thai Curry, both tasty and hearty as a big snack or light meal). grainful.com
Does the thought of poking vents through plastic to allow a frozen meal to “breathe” while slowly rotating it in the microwave conjure up images of congealed, tasteless fare? Not even close if the meal is made by Saffron Road. The brand, which features world cuisines such as Thai and Indian, takes pride in making sure all its ingredients are Halal certified (promoting sacred practices of the land and fair treatment for farmers). Its dedication to food sourcing has no doubt helped the company land atop many best frozen food roundups. Expect to find low amounts of sodium and sugar among dishes, which include meat, vegan, and gluten-free options, in grocery stores from Whole Foods to Walmart. saffronroadfood.com
Breaking the mold in the frozen food aisle is Luvo, whose self-venting packaging allows food to steam evenly as it is heated. While many companies precook entire entrees before packaging, the folks at Luvo batch-cook many (though not all) of the ingredients, helping your meal to retain its flavor and texture. The technique works: The meals from Luvo — with organic brown jasmine rice, butternut squash, pineapple, cashews, and shiitake mushrooms — were some of the best we tested. luvoinc.com
If you weren’t actually required to heat up one of Veestro’s organic preservative-free meals to consume it, you wouldn’t believe it was once frozen. The vegan-based company manages to retain the flavor and crispness of produce, and through hearty, homey snacks and meals like veggie empanadas and pizza napoletana. veestro.com
“By freezing perfectly ripened and freshly picked produce, you ensure optimal nutrient preservation,” says Rachel Drori, founder of Daily Harvest, whose enticing smoothie ads may have found their way into your Facebook feed. “You don’t need to refine or add anything to the food; the freezing process in and of itself preserves the produce in a far superior and easy-to-digest way.” The company ships you pre-portioned ingredients, you add a liquid, then mix in the blender, and you’ve got a nutrient-packed meal in 30 seconds. Choose between 14 different smoothies and three soup options. (Take them up on the recommendation to use almond milk, coconut milk, or coconut water; it adds another level of flavor.) daily-harvest.com
The gluten-free, USDA-organic delivery service FUEL takes customized meal plans to a whole new level. The company is the first to offer “genetically and biologically customized nutrition.” Translation: You provide height, weight, age, activity levels, fitness goals (whether you are looking to maintain your weight, build muscle, or lose weight), and whether you prefer a Paleo or low-fat diet, and FUEL’s algorithm calculates your daily calorie needs and cranks out meal-plan suggestions. (Sorry, vegans and vegetarians; no animal product–free plans.) And while the personalized nutrition science is questionable, the menus are a collaboration from an actual medical doctor, food scientist, and serious chef.tryfuel.com