The processed and manufactured food industry has boomed over the last 30 years due to our lifestyles changing, and perhaps we have less time. Many people are living on pre-packaged foods which provide a way for older people to keep their independence. However, these ready meals are not always good to live on and as we age, we must take much more care of our health and understanding of the truth about the ready meal industry. Do people really know what is in their food?
Large food manufacturers churn out 250,000 meals a day with their main objective being as quick and as cheap to produce as possible – without much care as to whether it’s good for us. It is up to us to understand the truth of what we are consuming, for our own health, and also for our environment. Here are the truths about the ready meal industry that you need to know:
Food Processing Machinery
To achieve the enormous output of ready meals, all processes are automated and controlled by machines and robots. This means that there is no need to have skilled staff with an understanding of good food and nutrition.
All that’s required of any employed food handlers is an ability to type numbers into the computer and press a start button. Far from the wholesome way you would make yourself a meal in your home.
Ingredients that are used in these meals can also be quite far from what you would ideally like to consume. The use of ingredients such as artificial cheese powder, for instance, that reduces costs instead of using real cheese. And, instead of the process of cracking eggs, which would require the employment of people, or complex machinery – there are replacements used made from whey protein and are often dried, crystallised or concentrated.
When you are cooking or baking at home, you wouldn’t think of purchasing these types of products to make your dinner, so why would you want to buy a meal with them in?
If you take a look at the ingredients list on some of these products then it’s good to go by the rule of – if it doesn’t sound like food or it is unpronounceable, then I don’t want to consume it.
E Numbers are commonly seen in the ready meal food industry. Although an E number doesn’t automatically mean that it’s artificial or bad, some E numbers can be found in nature, like Paprika (E160c) or Locust Bean Gum (E410). It’s a code number applied to a food additive approved by the EU.
E numbers, however do include chemical nasties which are used in everyday food. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG, E621) is known to cause side effects for some people, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, palpitations and muscular pain. Colourings and flavourings are some of the most frequently used artificial additives.
Sulphites are quite often seen in an ingredients list, and more people are becoming allergic to this, it’s not found in our natural food and is used to stop browning or discolouration of manufactured food. Sulphites consist of sulphur-based chemicals, including sulphur dioxide (SO2).
Additives and Preservatives
Preservatives such as E320 and E321, which also have totally unpronounceable names by the way, are nasty chemicals – artificial food preservatives that are more often found in some oils, margarines, baked goods, meats, and cereals are linked to allergic reactions. There are also concerns that they cause a carcinogenic effect in the body.
Additives are chemicals that are used to alter natural flavours and colours of foods to make them last longer. You wouldn’t browse a laboratory to buy some powders and chemicals to preserve your own whole food at home, you’d pop it into the freezer.
Salt and Sugars
High levels of salt and sugar in our diets carry a health risk, and most of us are aware of that. High levels of salt and sugar are used to enhance the flavour of foods – for example, high amounts of sugar might be used in a tomato based product as sugar enhances the taste of tomato.
Our bodies get addicted to exaggerated taste sensations – and more people are sugar addicted. If something claims to be sugar free, or uses sweeteners, be very wary – there are usually a lot of chemicals used, or aspartame which is a highly dubious laboratory created sweetener that many people have side effects from.
It’s better to source food made with high quality raw and wholesome materials and inevitably a small amount of seasoning.
Our advice for sourcing ready meals for an older relative
Ask your supplier if the meals you buy contain artificial colourings flavourings or preservatives? Check the back of packet information, or ask for a list of ingredients included in the meal.
In most cases a good, balanced diet of traditionally cooked meals will keep you healthy and well nourished. The added bonus is that they taste better too!
There are suppliers of ready meals that take care to provide handmade meals, produced in the same way you would at home and using the same, wholesome ingredients. Ask your MyLife Assistant, or relative to help you check what you are eating, and find a supplier for healthy nutritious meals.
For more advice or information or to talk to someone about purchasing healthy handmade meals contact: