Frozen foods are a convenient but precarious eating habit for the busy and the lazy. Even if consumed only once a week I tend to feel naughty about being unhealthy and unadventurous, though that is the norm for all of us of the westernised world.
I’ve been considering my intake of processed food in years gone by, and as I get older it becomes more of a serious consideration. This is mostly due to the sentiment that they are unhealthy. So how unhealthy are they really?
Apart from all sorts of fats and sugars contained in the plastic, vaguely edible looking convenient foods, it is the amount of sodium within products like chicken nuggets and ready-meals that is most alarming.
For adults the recommended daily intake of sodium is 2,300 mg, which is an easy enough figure to remember since our daily intake of calories runs along the same recommended value, from 2,000 to 2,500.
The issue with sodium content is that the majority of frozen ‘goods’ contain between 1,000mg to 1,800mg of sodium. This is especially bad for anyone with high blood pressure, and I believe I fall into that bracket (eek!).
I shouldn’t really have too much of an excuse since I generally have time to cook most days and as I live with my brother he deserves a decent meal when he returns home from work. Some evenings it feels as if we’re both getting tired of things like pizza, which we tend to have once a week.
So why do I continue to buy these foods?
I try not to, but I find myself paying for reduced oven foods due to their knock-down in price, making them seem good value. Also it can be to save me either cooking something I’m getting bored of eating again or cooking something that I know my brother won’t enjoy. For example, he hates mushrooms and is not massively keen on tomatoes. I’ll eat mostly anything.
A reason to feel guilty is that I haven’t tried cooking many new meals over the course of my twenties. Apart from one or two soups and baking bread there isn’t really that much I’ve learnt since I took charge of the kitchen. There’s a list of the meals that I most regularly cook for myself, my family and visiting friends. Those meals are:
- Spaghetti Bolognese/ Carbonara
- Pasta Bake
- Sausage and Mash (Potato)
- Cottage Pie/Corned Beef Pie
- Chicken/Lamb/Pork Roast
- Chilli Con Carne
- Baked Potatoes (with tuna etc.)
As you can see there is some variety to these meals, but it’s not so varied when I’ve cooked them all dozens and dozens of times. I must have done a hundred lasagnes by now, but then mine is restaurant quality!
What I intend to do is quite simple – be a label reader in shops. Sometimes you may witness these label readers taking up time and space in shop aisles. But let’s face it, they are doing it right.
The key is to watch out for sodium content amongst other things. I’ll be checking salt and sugar levels too. Another good piece of advice I’ve come across is to be wary of anything ready-made that contains a cheese sauce. These cheese sauces tend to be high in saturated fats and calories.
Fruits and vegetables are never bad, but it’s important to note that if you’re buying these foods from the frozen sections make sure that the ingredients list only contains what you can see in the packet.
In tinned fruits and vegetables there should be no syrups or preservatives, only the juicy goodness of the Earths’ produce. However, generally such goods are canned within hours of being picked, so their natural nutrients are retained.
A final piece of advice that I’m going to be hammering into my own head is; enjoy some boiled vegetables with the oven baked processed food. It’s not the end of the world to eat rubbish here and there so long as you have a few mouthfuls of things like green beans and carrots on the same plate. If I don’t start doing this someone should whack me over the head with a kilo bag of peas, if you so please.