One of the first things that many of us do upon trying to eat more plant-based foods is to hit the grocery store and stock up on some awesome, meatless convenience foods. It is much easier to delve into the foray of eating plant-based when you first try a couple of frozen options to see what kinds of meals you like best. But relying on frozen foods can mean relying on unhealthy ingredients, GMOs, added sugars, refined oils, juices from concentrate and artificial flavors. Yuck! No one wants to eat those things.

Are you ready to give up some of your frozen favorites and try your hand at homemade versions? Your health and wallet will thank you! The Earth will thank you too for using up less plastic and packaging! It’s a win-win for all. Here are some frozen food items you should stop eating, and how to make alternatives.

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Veggie Burgers

There are so many flavors and textures of veggie burgers that perusing the grocery store and looking at all of these options can be quite exciting. Several brands offer frozen veggie burgers in a variety of flavors. The only problem is, many of these frozen varieties can contain artificial ingredients, preservatives, GMOs, hexane-extracted soy, and unhealthy oils. Your best bet is to try making your own veggie burgers. Whip up your burger mix on a Sunday, cover it and place in the refrigerator, and you can make burgers for a couple of days from that mix. When you are ready to eat, your cooking time will be as simple as forming the mix into a ball and frying them up! Here are some awesome veggie burger recipes to whip up in your own kitchen tonight.

Ice Cream

One of our problems with conventional ice cream is that it contains dairy. But if you have ever eaten ice cream that’s made with a type of non-dairy milk, then you know you can hardly tell the difference between one made with cows milk and one with almond milk. Perhaps the reason why more people do not make ice cream with coconut milk or soy milk is simply because they never thought that they can! After all, we grew up with the ice cream man circling our neighborhoods, and the only non-dairy options available were Popsicles or sherbets. Our idea of “ice cream” is very much rooted in dairy. But tell your childhood memory to get out of here and put down the traditional ice cream in favor of making your own ice cream. These homemade versions are also much lighter in sugar than store-bought ice creams.

If you must purchase ice cream from the store, try some of the coconut milk varieties from So Delicious (soon to be acquired by Whitewave Foods). They are absolutely delectable!

Popsicles

Perhaps you read the last point about ice cream and thought hey I will just opt to buy Popsicles or frozen sherbet instead; those are healthier, right? Nope, not necessarily, because even fruit pops – which seem so innocent and full of only fruit – can pack on added sugar and artificial ingredients. Of course, you can find brands whose ingredients are mostly real fruit. But to save some money and avoid any additional, unhealthy ingredients, try making your own pops instead.

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Frozen Strawberries

True, buying frozen fruit is a great way to ensure that the fruit was picked at the peak of ripeness and flash frozen right away so it locks in the nutrients. But remember, unless you are purchasing frozen berries that are labeled as organic, you may be buying strawberries that contain genetically modified ingredients and pesticides. This is important since strawberries are among the dirtiest produce items. In fact, nearly 60 kinds of pesticides have been found on strawberries. Instead of buying the regular frozen strawberries, purchase the fresh, organic berries and try freezing them yourself. It is very easy to freeze fruit. Place the fruit on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer, making sure that the berries are not touching. Otherwise, they will stick together when they freeze. Or, you can just buy the frozen, organic berries, but that might be more expensive than the DIY option.

Pizza

Pizza can be a big culprit of fat, carbs and excess calories and salt in our American diets. Trader Joe’s BBQ Chicken Pizza, for example, contains almost a third of the recommended daily sodium intake — and that’s just if you eat the correct portion size, so imagine how much salt would be in your system if you ate the entire pie! Also, buying frozen pizza means that product could very well be made with white flour. Opt for brands that use whole wheat flour if you must go the frozen route, and better yet, try your hand at making your own pizza.

Flavored Veggie Mixes

One popular product that we see a lot in grocery stores is frozen mixes of different vegetables that include some sort of sauce or seasoning. The idea is that you steam the veggies over the stove, let the sauce packet thaw or prepare the spice mix, then just toss everything together. Or, some of the products call for placing an entire bag of frozen veggies and sauce in the microwave. The flavors and sauces range from creamy and cheesy to zesty and spicy. These mixes are super convenient and their packaging makes them look like healthy side dishes. However, they can contain hydrogenated ingredients, butter, preservatives, or added salt and sugar. Also, why the heck would you want to zap your nutrients in the microwave? Watch out for ingredients that were likely derived from GMOs, such as soybean oil, canola oil, and any piece of fruit or vegetable that is on the dirty dozen list. Instead of buying these frozen mixes, make your own sauces and dressings. Check out this piece on How to Make Creamy, Rich Sauces Without Dairy, and try your hand at these vegan sauces and these other tasty sauces.

Image source: Lizawashere/ Flickr

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