HEALTHY READY TO EAT MEALS – HOW TO MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE?
Food is an essential part of our lives, and we sometimes have it as a part of nourishment, hunger, stress, and at times – mindless eating. Although we would all love to have a nice and healthy home cooked meal every day, it is not always possible. Eating out too often can become too expensive. At some point or the other we all rely on something that is ready-to-eat, easy, readily available, not too expensive!
We all agree that life is busy. Some of us feel that every day is a marathon that we must run. From the time we wake up in the morning till the end of the day, we are constantly changing roles! We may start our day as a mother or father fixing breakfast for our kids and sending them off to school, and at times almost forget about ourselves too! Or we may be living by ourselves, where we are in charge of every single thing in the house! In no time, we change our roles as soon as we go to work, or in these days “log in”! With these crazy lifestyles, we are bound to depend on some type of convenience when it comes to food.
Ready-to-eat meals or read-to-cook foods is an option we all rely on at one point or the other. Grocery stores are full of different options when it comes to any ready to eat product. We have so many choices that at times its almost exhausting to make the right choice. There are so many great and healthy ready-to-eat meals available nowadays, that you just need to take a little time to select the right food that suits your needs. Let us talk about the different types of ready-to-eat foods and how to make the right choice when it comes to selecting the right ready-to-eat healthy meal for you and or your family.
Ready-to-eat foods are categorized mainly into two types –
- Shelf-stable foods
- Frozen foods
Shelf-stable foods come in different forms, and each one is distinctly different from the other. Some come in cans, pouches, cups, trays, dehydrated, and some are freeze-dried.
Frozen foods that are ready-to-eat, either come in pouches, or trays. They are either ready-to-eat microwave meals, or ready-to-cook, which requires some form of cooking or preparation.
Both shelf-stable and frozen foods come with a wide-variety of options when it comes to selecting the cuisine also. There are several options available, vegan ready-to-eat meals, vegetarian foods, fun foods like pizzas and fries, to different cuisines, Italian, Mexican, Asian, and Indian ready-to-eat options. The major problem with these frozen foods is that most of them are loaded with fat and sodium to make them tasty and appealing to the appetite. The problem with most shelf-stable foods is that they are high in sodium! So how do you make a choice? Well, the good news is that there are some companies who believe in taking care of these issues and have come up with great options.
The only way to making the correct choice is learning to read and understand the food ingredient and nutritional labels. As a rule of thumb:
- Simple Ingredients: Only select the food that comes with a list of ingredients that you are able to read and understand. Everything else, absolutely everything else should be considered as a red flag!
- Read the Nutritional Label: Look out for 4 main things – serving size, calories, fat, sodium, fiber.
Make sure to read the serving size – sometimes manufacturers would claim the serving size to be much smaller than an average consumer may consume, to make the amount of calories, fat, and sodium per serving to appear much lower! Below is an example taken from the FDA website which clearly indicate how to read and understand the food label.
The best and most delicate way of preserving food is freeze-dried foods. You just need to add hot water and leave it aside for a few minutes, and the food is ready and as close to fresh food as it can possibly get. The loss of nutrient in freeze-dried foods is also extremely less. The taste and color also remain the same, and they are shelf-stable,
There is a major difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated foods although apparently, they both come as a dry form and are both shelf stable. The major difference is that dehydration process is a high-heat process, and the food loses most of its nutrients, flavor, and color, during that process. Compared to that, freeze-drying is a very delicate process, whereby the moisture from the food is evaporated by getting the food to below freezing temperatures. This process preserves the foods natural color, flavor, taste, and most importantly, its nutrients thereby making freeze-dried foods the most convenient and healthy ready-to-eat food.
I hope this helps everyone to make informed choices which will lead to a healthy, happy, and peaceful life.
Stay Healthy, Stay Happy!
Also read : WHY DO SPICES PLAY SUCH AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN INDIAN COOKING?