Nothing beats the convenience of frozen foods when it comes to preparing and serving a quick meal. They store well in the freezer, last a long time, and are simple to prepare. Loading up on frozen foods can also be a great way to save money if you buy them on sale. You can also freeze fresh produce to keep them fresh for a long, which is an excellent way to reduce waste.
As an alternative to traditional ready meals, many supermarkets and food companies now offer their line of healthier ready meals. These may be lower in calories, fat, salt, and sugar, but they are still deficient in other essential nutrients.
Many supermarkets also offer a luxury or premium selection of their own-brand-ready meals. While these may taste better, they do not appear to be any healthier. They are more expensive, higher in calories, fat, and salt, and contain no more nutrients than other ready meals. Despite their packaging, luxury supermarket ready meals were higher in calories, fat, and salt than ‘value’ ready meals.
There’s no denying that ready meals are convenient, instant, and often inexpensive. But, while they may be efficient, do they also provide the nutrients your body requires to live a healthy life?
Let’s begin by understanding, what exactly are frozen foods?
According to Wikipedia, food is preserved by freezing from the time it is prepared until it is consumed. Farmers, fishermen, and trappers have been storing grains and produce in uninsulated buildings during the winter season since ancient times. By turning residual moisture into ice, freezing food slows decomposition and inhibits the growth of most bacterial species. There are two processes in the food commodity industry- mechanical and cryogenic also known as flash freezing.
While natural food freezing using winter frosts has been used for centuries by populations in cold climates, the freezing technique, like the frozen food market, is evolving to become faster, more convenient, and cost-effective.
Whether you know them as microwave meals or frozen meals, there are numerous reasons why you might choose a ready meal over a home-cooked meal. Perhaps you don’t have time to cook, live alone and aren’t motivated, don’t know how to cook, or don’t enjoy cooking. Ready-to-eat meals are frequently high in salt and fat while being low in other nutrients. Eating high-calorie foods regularly may cause you to gain weight, while eating too much salt may cause your blood pressure to rise. So, it is believed that consuming ready meals regularly increases your risk of developing related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
The three most common things you need to remember about frozen foods are-
- The act of freezing does not make food nutritious or unhealthy but the nutritional content of the food that is frozen is what matters.
Frozen fruits and vegetables can be as nutritional as fresh counterparts, but frozen foods such as pizzas, snacks, and appetizers can be less nutritious than frozen fruits and vegetables.
- Freezing does not affect a food’s calorie count, fibre content, or mineral content.
The freezing process can affect a few vitamins such as folate and vitamin C, but the majority of a food’s nutritional value will be preserved after freezing. Freezing also does not affect the amount of fat, protein, carbohydrates, or sugar in a portion of food. However, the fluid content can change, which is frequently visible.
- Before and after freezing, a closed container of food should weigh the same.
However, if the food drains a lot of liquid as it thaws, the food you serve may weigh a little less. If the only fluid lost is water, the calorie count for that serving will not change, but the apparent size of the portion may.
When shopping for frozen foods, prioritize what will be most satisfying while also keeping added sugar, sodium, and high-calorie sauces in mind. When you go beyond a simple bag of vegetables, this can become a little more difficult.
The nutritional scale found on the front of some food packaging can assist you in comparing the nutritional content of various ready meals and guiding you to a healthier choice. This section contains information about the calories, fat, salt, and sugar content of the food. It’s also a good idea to keep in mind that the ingredients on the back of the packaging are listed in descending order of quantity. So, if fat, salt, and sugar are listed first, it means that the product is mostly made up of these ingredients.
When frozen meats, fish, seafood, and poultry are made without added ingredients, they have the highest nutritional value. Avoid breaded chicken, fish sticks, corn dogs, and other battered or breaded frozen foods if you’re looking for low-calorie options. Look for non-breaded frozen chicken breasts, shrimp, and fish fillets.
Adding at least one portion of fresh vegetables or salad to any meal is one of the simplest ways to make it healthier. As a result, it is an excellent way to increase the nutritional value of a ready-to-eat meal. While you waiting for your meal to cook, boil some broccoli or frozen peas, sweetcorn, and spinach on hand. You could also purchase fresh fruits for dessert.
Finally, make sure the nutritional information corresponds to the serving size you intend to consume.
Let’s face it, you probably work for 8+ hours a day and it is critical to be able to save time whenever possible. Heating a frozen meal will take you less than 10 minutes out of your day. Frozen meals are frequently flash-frozen these days, which means they are quickly frozen at a lower temperature and this is significant because the food’s cellular integrity is not compromised, allowing all nutrients to be fully retained and preserved.
Purchasing frozen foods can assist you, your supermarket, and the entire supply chain in reducing waste. Nonetheless, because frozen meals are available in single-serving sizes, they can also assist us in learning and selecting portions wisely. Thus, one need not be scared of frozen foods, rather, they should mindfully choose while purchasing them.