Thursday, March 1, 2012

Convenience Foods Versus Convenient Foods

As our lifestyles have become busier, there has been an increasing demand for quick and easy foods from the grocery store.
Everyone seems to be in a hurry and one of the short-cuts happens in the kitchen. Unfortunately, the "convenience foods" that arose out of this trend were not always on the positive side of health. Many were more highly processed (often resulting in fewer nutrients), high in preservatives and other additives, high in sodium, higher in calories, low in fiber, high in saturated and/or trans fat, or high in sugar.
Besides the potentially negative impact on health, studies looking at the efficiency of using these foods did not always show a significant amount of time-saving when compared to lesser use of these products. Cost was often higher as well.
Rather than choosing "convenience foods," a solution might be to stock up on "convenient foods." These would be food items that retain much of their nutritional value without all of the less healthful negatives of processed foods, while still contributing to time efficiency. These foods can be added to a family's standard grocery list so that they are always available, reducing the need for extra trips to the grocery store.
In looking for convenient foods to add to your shopping cart, reading food labels can help you to choose those that are lower in sodium, saturated or trans fat, and sugar. Watch out for "flavor packets" as these tend to include a lot of sodium and other food additives. You may want to use only minimal amounts of the contents of these packets, or omit them. You can also omit or minimize any added butter called for in the directions.
Time-saving but healthy items for breakfast might include unsweetened oatmeal packets, eggs, whole grain bread products, or high fiber/low sugar cereals. Frozen fruit without added sugar is perfect for a quick fruit and yogurt smoothie or for making fruit sauces to top french toast, waffles, pancakes, hot cereal, yogurt, or pudding.
Some other meal and snack ideas that are ready-to-eat without any preparation (except maybe portioning them out for individual serving sizes) are nuts, seeds, and soy nuts. Many people would benefit from the unsalted versions of these.

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