Spring Clean Your Eating Habits with Our Simple Alternatives to Convenience Foods
by Clare Fairs, March 19, 2018
When we’re busy, it’s all too easy to turn to jars, packets and ready meals to feed your family or yourself. But you don’t have to! Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing our tips and ideas for steering clear of unhealthy processed foods without spending hours in the kitchen.
A day rarely goes by without a news story about health problems linked to the consumption of processed foods. Most recently, a major study suggested that eating too many highly-processed foods could significantly increase the risk of cancer. Other studies have also linked ready meals, sugary cereals and salty snacks to obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The trouble is, our fast-paced modern lifestyles and exposure to marketing messages leaves many of us grabbing food on the go, rather than cooking from scratch – despite being well aware of the health implications. ‘Ultra-processed’ factory-made foods constitute half of all the food bought by families in the UK, according to a report published in February. We know they are high in salt, sugar and fat, lack vitamins and fibre, and contain additives, preservatives, flavourings and colourings – and yet, we still continue to buy them.
The study by the Sorbonne in Paris and the University of Sao Paolo was based on over 10,000 healthy adults consuming 3,300 different food items. Foods categorised as ‘ultra-processed’ included baked goods and snacks, sugary cereals, ready meals, reconstituted meat products and fizzy drinks. Their conclusion? Every 10 per cent increase in consumption of these types of foods was linked to a 12 per cent rise in cancer risks. Fresh or minimally processed foods, on the other hand – fruit, vegetables, pulses, rice, pasta, eggs, meat, fish and milk – were associated with the lowest risks.
As Study author Dr Mathilde Touvier said: “For the moment, the results suggest it would be better to eat raw or minimally processed foods.”
Processed foods take their toll on the environment as well our bodies. Production processes are often energy-intensive, and plastic wrappers, trays and bottles are piling up on landfills or being burned.
But how do the busiest of us make time to prepare natural wholesome meals?
Real food the easy way
Once you get into the habit of cooking and eating real food, you’ll find it’s actually much easier than you think!
As a busy working mum, I’m often tempted to pop a readymade macaroni cheese in the microwave or let children have the cereal they’ve seen advertised on TV. It’s only when you take a closer look at the packaging that you realise a harmless looking macaroni cheese ready meal contains 80% of a woman’s maximum recommended daily amount of saturated fat while a bowl of Coco Pops contains half a 5-year-old’s maximum recommended sugar intake for the day.
Over the next few months, we’re going to share some simple recipes to help you swap the factory food for fresh and tasty real food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
You won’t need to spend hours in the kitchen. Many family-friendly healthy meals can be made in minutes with just a few ingredients. And you won’t need to plan too far in advance! By filling your cupboards with a few staples and buying a few nutritious fresh ingredients, you’ll be able to whip up homemade granola sweetened only with honey; a choice of pasta sauces that aren’t packed with sugar, salt and additives; nutritious soup that doesn’t need a red warning label; and super speedy real food versions of your favourite Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Italian and British meals. Make extra portions and fill your freezer, and you’ll have something nourishing for the most hectic of days – when your body needs it the most.
Hillfarm cold pressed rapeseed oil has less saturated fat than any other oil and can be used in a huge range of ways. Its delicate nutty flavour is fantastic in dressings, sauces and marinades, and its high smoke point makes its a healthier alternative to butter or other oils for frying, roasting or baking. This makes it the perfect go-to oil for many quick and healthy meals.
Other store cupboard essentials include tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, canned fish, pasta, rice, soy sauce, honey, and balsamic and/or cider vinegar. If you’ve got some fresh herbs too, you’ll always be able to enjoy a quick and healthy meal free from nasties.
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