So, are they? Or are they actually doing more bad than good? I’ve recently noticed that supermarkets have a quick or convenient food section, usually quite close to the entrance. This might have pre-packaged sandwiches, salads or pasta and sauces for that easy dinner option. But what benefit are they giving us, apart from helping us avoid the entire supermarket? Convenience foods are marketed as being quick, easy and simple for lunch or dinner when you’re in a rush.
We now live in a time where it is easy to eat unhealthily mostly due to drive throughs and deliveries (don’t get me started on UberEATS). Luckily, healthier options are on the rise, and some have always been around but are now getting their time in the spotlight. First, lets talk about the negative issues surrounding convenience foods. When I say convenience, I’m talking about foods from the grocery store – not fast food! That’s a whole other blog post in the making.
Some foods that we view as convenient are really just processed foods in disguise – and they’re advantageous in the fact that less time is spent preparing and cooking. This means they are perfect for someone who has limited cooking abilities (not wanting to point fingers but university students can successfully live off Mi Goreng…). A classic convenience food is a frozen pizza, which brings me back to childhood on a Friday night. Even the freezer meals that are labelled as healthy aren’t doing you a lot of good.
What is the risk of eating too many convenience foods I hear you ask? Some processed foods have ingredient added, such as sweeteners, oils and preservatives – this is how they last so long! If you eat foods that are high in sodium, added sugars and unhealthy fats on a regular basis, you run the risk of further health problems.
But, never fear, classic convenience foods have the potential to be made nutritionally beneficial by adding healthier options. Take the frozen pizza for example. Adding extra veggies on top can make it slightly healthier dinner, however I wouldn’t treat this as a weekly meal option. Use this idea only when it’s convenient and you’re in a bind. Now lets talk about convenience foods that are healthy and have been around for years (and aren’t expensive!):
– Pre-packed vegetables, such as spinach or stirfry mixes. These are perfect for lunches in salads or sandwiches, or for a quick stirfry dinner. Try and be careful with the pre mixed salads you see at the grocery store, as they often come with a salad dressing on the side. It’s common for dressings to be higher in sugars and fats, so instead go for lemon juice and olive oil as a quick dressing.
– Frozen fish can be healthy if you go for the non-battered or crumbed and bake it in the oven rather than deep-frying.
– Frozen vegetables are perfectly fine to have on hand.
– Canned foods, such as tuna or baked beans are excellent to have in the cupboard. For tinned fish, aim for those in water rather than in oil. Opt for the low sodium options for the baked beans.
– Tinned legumes are great, and can be made into hummus or added to salads or stews. Rinse before use and they are good to go!
– Pre-packaged/cooked rice is great! You can buy them in single or multiple servings and can be ready in 90 seconds. Add some protein and vegetables, and this is a great quick meal.
– Frozen fruits are great, as they can be blended into smoothies or a simple snack if you want something sweet.
– While we like to recommend that the food we eat is seasonally appropriate and fresh, we understand that some people don’t have access to these types of foods!
– Try and be organised. I’ve spoken about meal prepping and organising meals in advance. Pre chopping veg or buying pre-cut chicken can help you out if you’re finding you have no time to cook a healthy meal, and begin to rely on those convenience foods (the unhealthy ones!).
These are just a few recommendations on how to make your own foods convenient! Saves you having a rummage in the grocery store freezer section for that ever-so-tempting pizza!