Are prepared foods the problem?
I’ve noticed, with all the reading I do about nutrition, that a lot of Americans’ health problems have been laid at the doorstep of prepared foods.
And I’ve also noticed, when I cruise the aisles at the grocery store, that there’s less and less in the way of UN-prepared foods for me to purchase. It’s not just canned soups and frozen pizzas I’m talking about—things we’ve traditionally thought of as prepared foods—it’s in every department.
Now I don’t have to buy onions, bread crumbs, and ground beef to make meatloaf. Because there’s a completed meatloaf itself for me to buy, right there next to the hamburger. I don’t have to mash potatoes to go with it, either. I can buy them already mashed, with butter and salt already on them.
Even over in the produce department, it seems that a lot of the rinsing, trimming, and chopping has already been done for me. Do I really want to go to the trouble of buying a head of romaine lettuce which I then have to trim, wash, dry, and tear into salad pieces? Because right next to it is a bag of romaine that’s already been through that process. And am I really going to buy a whole head of cauliflower when I just can buy a bag of cauliflower florets which, by the way, can be cooked right in that bag, so there’s no need for me to even heat a pan of water on the stove?
I go back and forth on those decisions, myself, but either way it seems that this is where our food is headed, at the retail level. Not only are we no longer growing our gardens and tending our own chickens, most of us, but we don’t even want to trim the woody stems off broccoli. And we’re willing to pay to have the preparation for cooking—if not the cooking itself—done for us.
Personally, I don’t even know if it’s even worth arguing about whether this change is good or bad, because I do suspect that it’s permanent.
People are willing to pay for convenience, and I don’t blame them because I’m in the same boat. So I would never say that the solution to better eating is to get entirely away from prepared foods. I suspect, rather, that the onus is on the food industry to make prepared foods that are healthy for us.
nush foods is one company, I’m proud to say, that’s doing that. Our snack cakes are individually-packaged, prepared foods. Yes, they are convenient. They are delicious. They are portable. And they have shelf-life. But that shelf-life doesn’t come from added preservatives. And that deliciousness doesn’t come from added sugar. So they won’t spike your blood sugar the way most other prepared snacks do, and they’ll give you a nice dose of protein, fiber, and healthy fats to get you through your hungry-time. Frankly, I hope a lot of other food companies will follow our lead.
In the meantime, I do still make my own meatloaf.
If you’re interested in food trends, there are always some interesting perspectives to be had from the industry itself. Here’s one piece on trends from preparedfoods.com.