Wondering if packaged food is healthy or not? Find answers here
In today’s fast-paced world, where technology seems to be taking over all aspects of life, we often look for ways to complete day-to-day tasks quickly and easily. Cooking is one such task that requires you to devote quite some time in prepping, cooking and plating. Here is where packaged food often comes to your rescue. The popularity of these foods has been rapidly increasing over the past few years as they can be easily stored and are ready to eat, which make them perfect for busy schedules. However, choosing them wisely is the key to good health.
Are packaged foods processed?
In order to increase the shelf life of these foods, they may undergo some amount of processing, and, therefore, are not considered to be in their natural forms. Many people think that packaged foods might be harmful. However, not all packaged foods fall under the unhealthy category. For example, curd is often bought as a packaged food but is healthy.
Hence, one must be aware of the pros and cons of a packaged food in order to make the correct choices. Packaged foods can range from minimally processed ones to heavily processed ones. Foods such as chopped and roasted nuts and packaged green leafy vegetables are said to be minimally processed, while premade ready-to-eat foods like frozen patties, nuggets, and microwaveable foods are considered to be heavily processed. Some foods like canned fruits, tomatoes, and other vegetables are packaged to preserve their freshness and lock in nutrients, and therefore, are not considered to be harmful.
How to make healthy choices when buying packaged foods?
often associate packaged foods with high sugar content and preservatives. However, it is important to understand that not all packaged foods have to be that way. Sometimes, a certain level of processing is required to remove harmful bacteria and other undesirable elements from the food. While packaged foods ease our day to day tasks and are easy on-the-go options for our hunger pangs, choosing the correct (read as healthy) ones can be a bit of a task. Packaged foods can sometimes help you eat more nutrient-rich foods as well. Such food items and drinks are sometimes fortified with essential vitamins and minerals.
So, while buying packaged food, you need to make it a habit to read the labels carefully. In reality, very few people actually check the labels that are printed on every packaged food item. Food packages provide quite a bit of information about the product inside, but the nutritional panel contains the most important information.
Here are some important things to note
- It is important to look at the amount of carbohydrates, sodium, fats, and calcium present in the processed food.
- It is also important to look at the number of calories each serving provides. This tells you how much energy you can get from eating one serving of this food.
- When checking the nutrient information, it is recommended that you choose foods that have more of the nutrients you want to have, and less of the nutrients that you are trying to avoid, in order to maintain good health. So, it is better to look for foods that have less sodium, added sugar or saturated fats, as these nutrients are linked to obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Packaged foods with more nutrients like calcium, iron, vitamin D and fibre are preferable.
- Sometimes, food labels also tell you the recommended dietary allowance or RDA for a certain nutrient. Therefore, by looking at the information, you can gauge how much of the food you should ideally consume.
- You should also read the ingredients' list provided. The one mentioned on top of the list is usually present in the highest amount in the food. And the one at the bottom is present in the least amount. So, if a food item has carbohydrates or fats at the top, it means you should consume it in moderation.
- Reading labels is also good as it gives you information about any foods that can be a possible cause of an allergic reaction.
So, the next time you go grocery shopping, it may be wise to compare the labels of the products rather than just the prices, to make a healthier choice. When buying packaged food, it is good to keep in mind how often you will be eating these foods. Some foods can be consumed on a daily basis, while some should be consumed occasionally. Therefore, one must keep in mind the nutritive value of the foods as well as the frequency with which they are consumed, in order to conclude if they are healthy or not so healthy.
So, as you can see, not all packaged foods are bad for you or your child. Choosing them wisely and consuming them in the right quantities is the key to good health. Packaged foods undergo some amount of processing in order to increase their shelf life. And the level of processing varies depending on the type of food. So, while heavily processed foods can be consumed in moderation, minimally processed ones can be nutrient-dense and healthy on a daily basis. So, it is important to keep in mind the type of food and read the nutritional values printed on the label of the package.