When it comes to packaged foods, you must keep eyeball on the ingredients before keeping them in your cart. You need to ask yourself whether these packaged foods be healthy?
Processed frozen meals came to America for the first time in the early 50s. During those years American dinner tables witnessed meals that needed zero prep and didn’t result in sinks loaded with dirty dishes. In no time, scrumptious frozen desserts also made their way to our cuisines.
There was no need to prepare everything from scratch. Whether they were meals or snacks, the efforts it took to cook finger-licking good food was over. The ultra-processed food took over our kitchens. But all this comfort had certain pitfalls. It was necessary to keep these packaged foods fresh for a long time. For this reason, they added preservatives, additives, and at times, loads of sodium and sugar to keep the taste intact.
It didn’t prove to be the best for American health. According to research published in 2019 in the journal Nutrients evaluated that packaged foods and beverages are responsible for 80% of the total calorie intake in an average American. The study additionally found that these highly processed foods were packed with saturated fats, sodium, sugar, and loads of calories, which can ultimately escalate the risk for obesity, chronic diseases, and could have other fatal consequences.
As per another research in 2016, 90% of the sugar that people consumed came from ultra-processed foods. This apparently resulted in astoundingly high statistics of type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, and obesity post this era. It can be difficult to limit meal portions or even eat the recommended amount of fruits and veggies because of these process foods.
Most of the packaged foods never prioritized health as a goal. But now, the times have changed. Many big and small companies are giving more attention to nutrition in the packed meals. There is a variety of “healthy” meals available out there that can even be a little confusing to the customers. But there some better options in packaged foods too.
HOW TO IDENTIFY HEALTHY OPTIONS IN PACKAGED FOODS?
There is a wide range of processed food, which makes it difficult for consumers to identify the best option for them. Here is what you can do to pick the perfect meal for yourself.
PICK THE MEAL WITH 5 OR LESS INGREDIENTS
Products with more ingredients mean they have preservatives and additives and are likely to be a threat to your health. Remember, less is more! Take your time to search the meals with 5 or less ingredients. For instance, a pack of chips with three basic ingredients will be a better choice than one with a long list of unknown ingredients.
DON’T LET MARKETING TACTICS CLOUD YOUR JUDGEMENT
Just imagine! You walk into a grocery store and see impractical marketing claims stuck to apples, pretty ridiculous right? We all know that apples are healthy, and we don’t need any ads for that. Basically, the more health claims a product has, the more likely it is to be unhealthy.
Don’t allow these false claims to mislead you. Beware of sentences like “made with whole grains” or “made with real fruits” or “zero calories” – there is a huge possibility that all these claims are obscuring the truth.
AVOID ANY UNFAMILIAR INGREDIENTS
Packaged processed foods may or may not contain real food ingredients.
Even if the package claims that the meal is completely “healthy”, it may contain high amounts of additives like MSG, nitrates, nitrites, BHA, BHT, gums, artificial coloring, and real or artificial added sugars.
LET FIBER CONTENT GUIDE YOU
If you want to identify healthy options in packaged foods, check the fiber content. Ingredients like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are rich in fiber. These foods are really filling as they take time to get digested. Fiber benefits in decreasing cholesterol levels and lowers the risk of colon cancer. The recommended amount is 3gm or more per serving.
WHOLE FOODS FOR THE WIN!
Make sure to look for whole foods, not their variations. The greatest example of junk that smokes and mirrors healthy food is vegetable chips. We’re not asking you to make chips your biggest enemy. But the truth is, most of them are just potato chips with a dash of vegetable powder to add the flavor. Artificial flavors and additives are never healthy. Find products with actual fruits and vegetables.
The era of packaged foods is not going to end anytime soon. Sometimes they do have the required nutrients for your body. Choose your packaged meals carefully and it’ll be your best decision when you’re running out of time and cooking is not an option. Make sure to check the nutrients and never compromise on your health.