Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Convenience Foods—But Are They Really Convenient?

What are we really talking about anyway when we talk about “convenience foods?” Are we talking about complete frozen dinners, pre-packaged “hamburger helper” type dinners, frozen bags of prepared fried chicken tenders from the freezer department at your favorite grocery, or even the drive-thru-pick-up-the-tacos-fried chicken-or-pizza dinners? What makes a “convenience food . . . well . . . convenient—and what about health / nutrition?

Is it just a time thing? Are families forced by work, social and school schedules to buy processed food because cooking “real” food is too time consuming? Remember “real” food?

I know, a lot of questions. And, a little sarcasm as well. But, here’s something to chew on.

Not all convenience foods are created equal. Most convenience foods on the market today are laden with saturated fats, sodium and sugar and provide little to no nutritional value.

Consider that many convenience foods lead to:

  • Weight gain—for adults and children
  • A chronic lack of energy because of associated nutritional deficiencies
  • Hypertension (due to high sodium content)
  • Medical conditions due to high fat, sugar and high cholesterol content

What if “convenience foods” aren’t actually all that—for lack of a better word—convenient? We’ve seen the term “kitchen illiteracy” tossed around. That may be part of the equation. You can do a lot with fresh food in a short period of time (about as long as it takes to heat up giant frozen lasagna for 45 minutes).

And as for cost, if you’re buying frozen, pre-packaged, pre-cooked—and save a dollar and 15 minutes, vs. what you and your family are losing in health and good nutritional behaviors, all things considered, there really isn’t much of a savings.

Last question—just how convenient, in terms of health, wellness and health care cost, is convenience food really?

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