Can frozen vegetables take the place of fresh?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Wednesday, 10 August 2022.
Tagged: canned food, frozen meals, healthy cooking, healthy eating, nutrition, wellness

Can frozen vegetables take the place of fresh?
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The motto for healthy eating used to be ‘Eat fresh’. However, many of us have little time, so frozen ingredients are a handy replacement for most fresh ones. Plus, the price of fresh vegetables has risen recently due to floods and a shortage of pickers. So yes, some frozen vegies can make up your five serves a day. But you still need to eat some fresh produce to get enough vitamin C, folate and thiamine in your diet. This includes vitamin C–rich fresh fruit such as oranges or kiwi fruit (remember, you only need two serves of fruit a day).

How fresh is ‘fresh’?

So, what are we comparing frozen produce to? You have to ask yourself just how ‘fresh’ your fresh vegies really are. These days, fresh no longer means ‘just picked’. If your fresh vegetables have been sitting at the farmer’s markets, the greengrocer or the supermarket, and then in your fridge before you prepare them, their vitamin levels will have already declined. Not to mention those shipped from interstate or overseas!

In addition, the time from picking to freezing for most frozen vegetables is short; therefore, they retain more nutrients when frozen.

How to cook frozen veg

Home-cooked frozen vegetables can be as nutritious as fresh, as long as you cook them quickly in as little water as possible according to the packet directions. In general, freezing (at –18ºC/0ºF for about 6 months) is the most nutritious and efficient way to preserve food. Remember, frozen veg have already been half-cooked, so they only need a final heat. If not, you’ll notice a difference in texture.

Freezing is better than canning, because frozen vegetables retain a lot more heat-sensitive nutrients (particularly vitamin C, thiamine and folate). They also tend to have a better texture. Salt is often added to canned vegetables such as tomatoes and chickpeas – a big drawback.

You can’t keep your frozen veg forever. Frozen peas, corn and mixed vegetables all have a time when they’re best to eat – it’s usually within a year; after that, their quality begins to decline.

How long will frozen veg keep?


Time in the freezer                                   

Commercially frozen vegetables

1 year stored in original package


1 year


5 months


1 year


1 year


1 year

Capsicum (bell peppers)

3–4 months


1 year


1 year


8 months

Green beans

1 year

Leafy greens

8 months

Mushrooms (cooked)

1 year


8 months


3–4 months

Winter squash and pumpkin (cooked)

1 year

Zucchini and summer squash

8 months

     Source: Adapted from The Spruce Eats website

 The bottom line

 Frozen vegetables are cheap and easy to store in the freezer. Use them when you run out of fresh. They contribute to your five-a-day serves. Yes, they have some – not zero – vitamin C, folate and thiamin. Just don’t overcook them.

Catherine Saxelby About the author

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Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her award-winning book My Nutritionary will help you cut through the jargon. Do you know your MCTs from your LCTs? How about sterols from stanols? What’s the difference between glucose and dextrose? Or probiotics and prebiotics? What additive is number 330? How safe is acesulfame K? If you find yourself confused by food labels, grab your copy of Catherine Saxelby’s comprehensive guide My Nutritionary NOW!