Low-calorie, fiber-rich, and nutrient-dense, fruits and vegetables top every runner's ideal grocery list. But what should you buy at this time of year, when supermarkets are stocked with out-of-season green beans, tomatoes, and strawberries that are tough, mealy, or flavorless? Head to the freezer cases. Frozen produce is just as healthy, sometimes more nutritious, and often better tasting, says Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D., a sports dietitian and ultramarathoner.
A few key tips to keep in mind: Choose frozen produce without sweeteners or sauces, which add fat, sugar, and sodium. Avoid bags with large icy chunks, which indicate they've thawed and been refrozen--this degrades the flavor and texture, says Scritchfield. And with a wide variety of options, think beyond tossing frozen strawberries in your postrun smoothie. Here are innovative ways to use frozen fruits and vegetables to boost flavor and nutrients in every winter meal.
Frozen artichoke hearts have a mildly sweet flavor and provide six grams of fiber per half cup. A recent study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed nearly 90,000 subjects for six and a half years and found those who ate the most fiber gained less weight than those who had a low-fiber diet. "Fiber can slow digestion," says sports dietitian and runner Cara Marrs, R.D., "which keeps you full."
Artichoke and Pesto Pasta
In a skillet, saute three ounces shrimp and one cup frozen artichoke hearts for three minutes. Toss with cooked whole- grain pasta, 1/4 cup store-bought pesto, and 1/2 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes.
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A 2010 Nutrition Journal study discovered blackberries have about twice as much antioxidant power-- including potent anthocyanins--as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. "Anthocyanins may help reduce the damage to muscle cells brought on by training that can lead to muscle soreness," says Scritchfield. Each cup of frozen blackberries contains eight grams of fiber and a wealth of manganese, a mineral necessary for strong bones and healthy muscle connective tissue.
In a blender, whirl together 1/2 cup thawed blackberries, two tablespoons olive oil, one tablespoon balsamic vinegar, one teaspoon honey, and a handful of fresh mint. Drizzle over salad greens.
This cruciferous vegetable is chock-full of must-have nutrients for runners, including folate, vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. "Potassium works to maintain fluid balance in the body and help maintain proper contraction and relaxation of the muscles," Marrs says. Because we lose potassium through sweating, we need to continually replace it by eating potassium-rich foods.
Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts
Defrost and pat dry a bag of frozen Brussels sprouts. In a bowl, whisk together two tablespoons maple syrup, one tablespoon olive oil, two teaspoons grainy mustard, and salt. Slice sprouts in half, toss with maple mixture, and roast at 400°F for 20 minutes.
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