A guide to healthy ready meals & what to eat and what not
Who doesn’t love the convenience of simply popping some healthy ready meals into the microwave or oven after a long day of work? There is nothing wrong with doing so as long as you choose the right products.
Below I put together a list with readily available foods, categorized into groups depending on how wholesome they are for you and your loved ones. So let’s go ahead and check them out.
How to enjoy foods carefree and save a lot of time!
Ready meals are wonderfully practical: no time-consuming preparation, no big rinsing. However, those who leave the cooking to the industry have little influence on how much fat, salt, and sugar they consume.
Most people are also completely unaware of all the chemical by-products, and they don’t know how many, if any, healthy ingredients are still present.
But there are also healthy options. Our four categories with many examples show which these are and which products you should stay away from.
Basically, the more processed and longer-lasting the food, the more additives such as flavor enhancers or preservatives the companies add. The less processed, the better for your health!
Category 1: You are welcome to access these foods as much as you like
There are certain dishes on the refrigerated shelf or in the freezer counter that you can access without a guilty conscience.
Some frozen foods even contain more vitamins than those that are uncooled and supposedly fresh in fruit and vegetable aisles.
Because one can only use frozen products for frozen fruits and vegetables. After all, you cannot ripen frozen.
Fresh goods, on the other hand, are often harvested unripe and ripen during transport and storage. Here, the products already lose their important vitamins and minerals before they even reach you.
Many also don’t even develop at all, as the precious nutrients would only come into the fruit in the final ripening phase.
The journey through the rows of shelves in supermarkets begins with the healthy “ready meals”. Here you will find mainly foods were only briefly processed and, therefore, do almost without additives. Ideally, you should also buy ready-made organic meals in this category.
Frozen vegetables and frozen fruit
Frozen immediately after harvesting, all vitamins and phytochemicals are preserved. No additives. Seasonal independence.
All the advantages of vegetables and fruits. It also saves time because they usually come already chopped up.
Pre-cooked cereals/grains such as rice or quinoa
Usually cooked gently. Nutrients are preserved. Preservatives are usually superfluous. Quick preparation.
Kidney beans, chickpeas, or lentils. They come ready-cooked and with all nutrients still intact. Plus, you don’t need to soak dried legumes for hours.
Canned tomatoes or tomato paste
Usually only mature and aromatic tomatoes. Lycopene, a phytochemical derived from tomatoes, is even more readily available from canned tomatoes and tomato paste than from fresh ones.
Stocks in the glass, e.g, beef or chicken stock
This can be a good basis for soups and sauces if you buy the organic version. It provides great time savings, as well!
Category 2: Enjoy in moderation
Into this category fall those ready-made meals which usually no longer work entirely without additives. You should, therefore, only enjoy them in moderation.
Due to the higher processing, those foods also contain fewer nutrients. But every now and then you are welcome to use the following products without feeling guilty.
The same applies here: prefer the organic version. I also recommend that you always read the ingredient list to identify exactly what additives the chosen foods include.
They are great alternatives for busy mornings and come mostly without preservatives.
Mostly without preservatives or added flavors. Try to stick to varieties without breadcrumbs, as they soak up fat when baking. MSC seal guarantees sustainable fishing.
Cut and freshly packed. The longer the salad gets stored, the more germs can form. A prolonged storage time also causes the loss of nutrients. Be sure to wash/rinse your salads again before eating. Spice up the salad with really fresh ingredients.
Nutrient loss is no longer as high as it used to be. It saves so much on preparation time. If possible, look for an alternative in the deep-freeze department. Frozen options guarantee a better taste and more nutrients.
Finished tomato sauces and pesto
Practical for casseroles, pasta dishes, etc. Pay attention to the list of ingredients. You can read on the label whether it is a variant with or without additives. Combine with fresh ingredients!
Potato dumplings from the low-fat refrigerated counter
Quick preparation. Include vegetable side dishes to ensure vitamin supply.
This item from the refrigerated shelf usually comes without preservatives. Quick preparation. Goes well with canned tomatoes and a topping made from fresh ingredients.
Pasta from the cooling shelf
Vacuum packed noodles hardly contain any additives. They come pre-cooked and you can prepare them rather quickly.
The closer the best-before date is, the higher the bacterial load can be. Avoid variants with fillings e.g. tortellini and dumplings. This way, you save additives such as chemical flavors.
Good “always successful” variants do exist and are alright once in a while. As long as you add eggs, milk and butter yourself, you avoid most additives. If you want less sugar in the cake, however, you have to bake it yourself.
Are organic ready meals better?
In the organic supermarket, you can now choose from a large selection of ready foods. The advantage here, compared to conventional products, is that practically no artificial additives are allowed.
The level of pollutants is also generally lower since companies use no chemical pesticides and fertilizers. However, the organic seal also protects neither from too much fat nor from sugar.
The level of nutrients in the ready-made organic meals also depends on the degree of processing and the quality of the raw food.
Category 3: Here, less is more
This part already contains heavily processed products. In order to compensate for the loss of taste and nutrients, companies usually involve many chemical additives.
This is the only way to get the dishes to match their fresh role models in terms of enjoyment and appearance.
The foods also contain a lot of sugar and fat, stabilizers for aroma and consistency. Read the table of contents carefully! This is particularly important for people with allergies or intolerances.
Also, always combine these dishes with fresh ingredients. Otherwise, you will quickly have a plate full of empty calories, and you will lose your natural nutrient supply.
Mashed potatoes as a powder
When drying, the product loses most of its valuable vitamins. Boil potatoes the day before, so you can quickly prepare puree yourself.
Frozen hash browns
Pre-fried (very high in fat) and mostly enriched with wheat flour. Use good vegetable oil for the preparation and use fresh fruit as a side dish instead of apple sauce from the glass.
Frozen pizza with toppings
High-fat content, often with flavor enhancers and other preservatives. Only buy pizza dough instead; you can also try a cauliflower pizza crust.
Top chose pizza dough with fresh ingredients, such as tomatoes or arugula. Or just eat half, and add a large salad instead.
Frozen dishes including sauces
These come with a high content of unsaturated fatty acids and often added isolated vitamins. Choose wisely and stick to products with a high vegetable content and without the cream sauce.
Breadcrumbs soak in the pan full of fat. Bake in the oven without fat. Pay attention to the MSC seal for sustainable fishing.
Sauces in tetra pack
Although they save lots of time, they mostly contain many hardened fats, flavor enhancers and preservatives. There are less chemistry and more taste in self-created sauces
Mostly as much sugar as most other chocolate bars. Granola bars are candy and not a healthy alternative. Better a helping of fresh fruits or nuts for the small hunger in between.
Category 4: You should definitely avoid this
Last but not least, the dishes come into existence in which more chemists than cooks are involved. They ensure that e.g. a powder tastes more intense than a fresh strawberry.
A bag of soup called “broccoli cream” contains only traces of real broccoli. There is nothing left of the healthy ingredients in the vegetables – vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals.
Hardly any natural ingredients, but many additives such as flavor enhancers, preservatives and may ore chemical flavors.
As a healthy and quick alternative, you can create a soup base with vegetable broth, and combine it with frozen vegetables and herbs, depending on your taste.
Salad dressing made from powder
These contain many additives such as artificial flavors and flavor enhancers.
A quick alternative: for every 100 ml of oil there are 50 ml of vinegar and water, 10 g of mustard and honey each. Season with salt and pepper. Finished.
Complete frozen dinners
High salt content, many additives for aroma, preservation, consistency and appearance. Neither in terms of enjoyment nor in terms of health comparable to the original. Better to give it up right away.
High sugar content, hardly any fruit, but many additives instead. Take the flavors of natural yogurt and stir in the frozen/fresh fruit or dried fruit yourself.
Rice pudding, pudding and Co have very high sugar content, empty calories and artificial flavors. In tis case, it is really best to prepare the dishes yourself. Simply cook milk rice and sweeten it with cinnamon, maple syrup, raw honey, banana slices, and/or berry puree.
What’s our take away from this? That it’s best to prepare your own foods! If you have a lot of time, cook more than you need and freeze the rest. On stressful days you only need to thaw these portions and have your own, healthy ready meals!
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So, ‘thank you’ for your patience, devotion and existence, and know that you are cherished, appreciated and endlessly loved. ~Namaste~