The idea of ready-to-eat dal chawal, chicken biryani, shrimp rice and more is tempting. They are easy to prepare, take less time and are relatively inexpensive. So yes, after a long day, a ready-to-eat meal will be much more appealing than going to the kitchen and preparing a few dishes. Some also find foods like chicken sausages and chicken salami to be an easy and tasty way to start the day. But do ready-made foods provide all the nutrients your body needs? Read on to find out why avoiding ready-to-eat meals is a healthy thing to do.
What are ready-to-eat meals?
Ready-to-eat meals, often called ready-made or prepackaged meals, are fully cooked food products, prepared and packaged for quick and easy consumption. These meals are usually available in various forms, such as frozen dinners, canned soups, microwaveable meals, and prepackaged salads.
Reasons to avoid ready-to-eat meals
Prepared meals can vary greatly in nutritional content. Some may be relatively healthy and provide essential nutrients, while others may be high in unhealthy ingredients like added sugars, saturated fats and sodium, says Dr Sanjay Singh, a general practitioner at Cygnus Laxmi Hospital in Varanasi . It is essential to read the nutrition labels and ingredient lists of these products to know their nutritional quality. So your chicken salami might give you some protein or a can of corn or peas might be slightly healthier. But not all ready-to-eat meals contain all the nutrients your body needs.
Here are some reasons why you should avoid these packaged foods
1. Rich in processed ingredients
Many ready-to-eat meals contain a large amount of processed ingredients, including preservatives, artificial flavors and colors. These additives can have harmful effects on your health if you consume them regularly.
2. High in sodium
The sodium (salt) content of ready-to-eat meals is often high to enhance flavor and extend shelf life. Excessive sodium intake can contribute to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the expert says. According to the National Health Service, about three-quarters of the salt we eat comes from food, including prepared foods.
3. Low nutrient density
Some ready-to-eat meals lack essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals. They can provide empty calories without the nutritional benefits needed to maintain good health.
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4. High in unhealthy fats
Some ready-to-eat meals can be high in unhealthy saturated and trans fats, which can raise cholesterol levels and ultimately increase the risk of heart disease, the expert says.
5. Weight gain
Many convenience foods come in oversized portions, which encourages overeating and can lead to weight gain and associated health problems like obesity. Additionally, on average, many ready-to-eat meals are high in calories due to added fats and sugars. Therefore, replacing them with healthier home-cooked meals can result in significant calorie savings. For example, if a typical frozen ready-to-eat meal contains approximately 500 to 800 calories and a person eats one of these meals daily, they could save approximately 3,500 to 5,600 calories per week. Over time, this calorie reduction could contribute to weight loss or help maintain a healthy weight when combined with a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
But you can make your meal healthier by including fresh vegetables or salad. And for this, you don’t need to be a cook or be a chef yourself.