For many people, these *checks notes* unprecedented times have changed the way we eat and even buy groceries. Beyond stockpiling canned beans and TP, my freezer is now filled with things like frozen berries, zucchini noodles, spinach, and cauliflower gnocchi—anything that requires the bare minimum of effort from me to turn it into a healthy meal now that I’m cooking practically all of my meals myself. But one of the freezer aisle foods I’ve been overlooking? Frozen seafood.
In general, frozen food has a bit of a bad reputation that’s not deserved, registered dietitian Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD, says in an episode of Well+Good’s YouTube series You Versus Food. “The actual act of freezing foods does not make foods healthy or unhealthy,” Beckerman says. Essentially, freezing just acts as a “pause button” that extends the lifespan of the food (and the vitamins and nutrients it contains), she says. This is as true for fish as it is for fruits and vegetables. “Fish can be even more nutritious when frozen,” she says, because it’s typically frozen almost as soon as it’s caught, which preserves nutrients at their peak.
Meanwhile, the “fresh” fish on display at the grocery store actually might be several weeks old, Beckerman says. Most of it has been previously frozen anyways, she says, because it’s important for quality and safety. Yet that fish is often more expensive than what you’d find in the freezer section…which basically means you’re being charged a premium for defrosting. Womp, womp.
Plus, Beckerman says that buying frozen seafood might come with sustainability benefits “because it decreases waste.” (Basically, frozen fish has a longer shelf life than fresh, which reduces the risk of it going bad before you’re able to use it.) Of course, you still want to follow cross-reference your frozen picks with a reputable organization like Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to ensure that the fish you purchase isn’t endangered.
Not all Americans are as short-sighted as me when it comes to buying frozen seafood. In fact, Alaska Seafood tells me via email that recent data shows that the U.S. is seeing record sales of seafood—and in August, frozen seafood sales went up by 42 percent compared to the same time last year.
That said, it’s also great if and when you can to buy fresh seafood directly from fishermen through CSA programs and direct-to-consumer operations like Drifters Fish and Wild Alaskan Company. When doing so, prioritize fish that are “in season,” to ensure that your catch of the day is truly fresh. But in general, if your main source of seafood comes from the grocery store, it can be a pretty good idea to just skip the counter and go straight to the freezer section.
Watch the video above to see the other foods Beckerman recommends buying frozen—and the two foods she says you should always buy fresh.