Posted on 16 January, 2017

Pros and Cons of Pre-Made Meals

By Jacob Andreae in Nutrition, Time Management Pros and Cons of Pre-Made Meals

[Image source: Get Fit at Home]

It’s 6:00pm. You just got home from a long day at work. You’re tired and you’re hungry. You look in the fridge and stare blankly for something to eat, or ideas on what to cook for dinner. Thirty seconds later and you realise you’re still staring into the fridge. Nothing jumps out at you. Nothing appeals to you. It all seems too hard and you close the door. Sound familiar?

I do this all the time! When my partner, Holly, tells me to close the fridge and make something, I can hear my dad’s words from twenty-five years ago. Despite being good at making some delicious meals, sometimes I hate the effort it requires. Thinking of what to make, taking out all the ingredients, preparing all those ingredients, cooking if required, and then cleaning up - takes time and effort. When I do it’s worth it. But when you’re short on time in the morning or during the day, or tired and hungry at the end of the day, it hardly feels worth it. Enter… pre-made meals.

A pre-made meal is a pre-packaged meal prepared by a food company - either a big company such as Light ’n Easy or a smaller local food prep business. In a sign that there’s definitely a demand for pre-prepared meals, the number of individuals, restaurants and cafes providing prepared meals is growing dramatically.

Here are some pros and cons of pre-made meals so you can make an informed decision to either eat them or prepare your own:

Pros and Cons of Pre-Made Meals

Pros

  • Quick to prepare
    Pre-made meals have been prepared and cooked by a qualified or experienced chef in most circumstances. This means they require nothing but heating up.
  • Time and energy savers
    Pre-made meals are like having a personal chef without the cost of having a personal chef. Because you only need to heat them up, they are super easy in times when you’re short on time and low on energy.
  • Are much more gourmet than previous options
    As the demand for pre-made meals increases, the market becomes more competitive, and as a result, the quality of pre-made meals enhances. They are much tastier than the pre-made meals of a few years ago.
  • Wide variety
    With demand for pre-made meals comes demand for variety. You can now get pre-made meals in a wide variety of options and flavours.
  • Improved packaging
    One of the concerns for some people in regards to heating food in the microwave is the leaching of harmful substances from the container. Some people stay away from microwaves altogether and some choose to use their own microwave safe containers. To meet this concern, you can now purchase pre-made meals in a microwave safe container.

Cons

  • Extra preservatives
    Due to the extra shelf-life, pre-made meals need to be prepared in a way to last. This means extra preservatives, which is never healthy. They’re also higher in salt in order to help them preserve longer.
  • Low in nutrients
    By the time food gets from its original source to your mouth, it’s lost a lot of its nutrients. Foods are richest in nutrients when they’ve come directly from their source. Pre-made meals need to be preserved in some way in order to reduce waste and maximise profits. The two methods to achieve this is to freeze them or add preservatives.
  • Portion sizes
    Portion sizes have increased over the last twenty years. This has led to a normalisation of eating more. The suggested serving size of foods is set by the manufacturer. Pre-made meals can contain multiple servings.

Quick & Easy Tips for Supercharging Your Pre-Made Meal

If you decide the positives outweigh the negatives, or you’re happy to accept the disadvantages of pre-made meals, here are some quick and easy tips for making your pre-made meal more appealing and nutritious:

  • Add two handfuls of vegetables before heating it up
    Spinach leaves and chopped mushrooms are two veggies I recommend.
  • Add a quarter of a cup of nuts before heating it up
    Pine nuts go well with almost anything and taste even better if they’re roasted.
  • Drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil over your meal either before or after heating it up
  • Choose frozen pre-made meals over those found on the shelf
    These can be more nutritious and lower in preservatives.
  • Look for pre-made meals that are about 250g per serving
    I suggest you see a dietitian to establish exactly how much you should be eating, if you have a food intolerance, or if any concerns arise or persist. They can provide personalised medical advice.
  • Choose pre-made meals that are more nutritious
    On the nutritional value chart on the back, in the 100g column, choose pre-made meals that have a big gap between the carbohydrate and sugars row (this means it contains more complex carbohydrate and less sugar), less than 10g of total fat (look for pre-made meals with minimal saturated and trans fats), and low in sodium (this is salt and it should be less than 125mg, but this is difficult to find in anything that is packaged).
  • Drink 250-500ml of water before eating
    Many people think they’re hungry, when in fact, they are slightly dehydrated. Drinking water before you eat will also help to fill you up.

Pre-made meals are quick, easy and convenient. As the demand for pre-made meals increases, the quality of packaging, nutrients and variety also increases. Some brands can still be filled with excess preservatives and low in nutrients, but choosing a good quality supplier or adding your own fresh ingredients can overcome this. Pre-made meals are becoming a good option for busy people who still want to eat healthy.

Have you had any experience (good or bad) with pre-made meals?

About Jacob Andreae

About Jacob Andreae

I write and speak about Fitness, Nutrition and Mindset. 

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