As a nation we struggle to know what to eat and ready meals can become the quick go to choice for the lazy. Something as natural and necessary as food and drink can be a bit of a mystery! The problem is overwhelm via choice overload. If we were restricted to just fresh fish, beans, pulses, lentils, some fruit and veg and a few grains then generally we would be absolutely dandy.
Problem is we aren’t limited to this, far from it! Consequently we opt for convenience, frozen processed, reconstituted meats, preserved product that can potentially do more harm than good, oh and as for fruit and veg, they’re too expensive right, and they perish too quickly so no point buying them!
The unsung hero?
OK, so perhaps I am overplaying this a little, ready meals aren’t optimal, but for many they ARE an improvement!
First of all they are generally balanced, I mean look at what you get with them, there’s a protein source in the form of meat or beans, pulses and lentils mixed with a sauce or gravy perhaps, then there’s a section with your starchy carbs (rice, potato etc) and finally there is usually always some form of veg in the mix too (albeit not very much).
So I repeat, ready meals are by no means optimal, but my goodness are they better than oven chips and chicken nuggets, or processed burgers and smiley faces. A bowl of pasta and cheese is lovely but not a patch on a roast dinner ready meal.
I know I know, it sounds crazy for me to be championing a ready meal, Tom Irving the ‘ready meal lover’…I wonder if that will stick?
Yes they contain a lot of salt and/or potassium, granted the manufacturers may not cook them in a particularly ‘gentle’ way so as to preserve the B-vitamins in the leafy veg or the cancer fighting glucosinates found in cabbage for example (commonly lost in ready meals).
Reasons not to rely on them
I should really qualify myself by saying that by no means are ready meals to be consumed daily, the processed meats that are often cooked at ultra-high temperature produce those nasty heterocyclic amines which are known carcinogens. The salt content should also be a deterrent from consuming daily BUT the fact remains that ready meals provide more good than bad for the overall health of the nation.
In an ignorant society where nutritional education isn’t what it should be, socio-economic status hamstrings us and perceived barriers to healthy eating are everywhere, the humble ready meal is without doubt one of the most nutritionally balanced meals many families consume in the week. Ironic!