Ready Meals and Prepared Foods

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ready-mealsAn essential feature of today's busy lifestyle, convenience foods have been with us for a long time - canned foods have been available since the beginning of the twentieth century, while frozen and chilled dishes are hugely popular. One advantage of ready meals and prepared foods is that most of them can be heated quickly in the microwave. This is a great boon for busy people, especially in a family where everybody seems to have conflicting schedules!

Nutritional value

Most households will have a small stock of cans, such as baked beans, spaghetti hoops, sardines or tuna, fruit and vegetables. These storecupboard foods are useful in an emergency but it should be remembered that their nutritional value will always be lower than foods which are fresh or frozen.

Choices

We are able to buy a huge array of ready-to-cook chilled and frozen foods and dishes. Used sensibly, these are a great way to keep a busy household fed. However, they cannot replace freshly cooked foods and it is wise to check labels carefully for nutritional value. A person of normal weight needs a main meal that will provide not less than 500 calories.

Complete meals can be bought frozen or chilled and are very useful if you lack time. However, it is worth checking whether some dishes may be cheaper and as easy to make at home.

Pasta sauces

Pasta cooks quickly, so cook it yourself, but choose a ready-made pasta sauce to add to it. Pasta sauces can be bought fresh chilled, in jars or in long -life packs. Check for fat content - sauces based on cheese or mascarpone will be high in fat while tomato-based sauces should be lower. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese is the traditional enhancement for pasta, but will also increase the fat content. For more balance and nutrition, add frozen or freshly prepared and cooked vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms, spinach or tomatoes to your pasta dish or serve with a salad.

Microwave cooking

Microwaving is an excellent and safe way to reheat or cook food, but it is very important to make sure that ready-prepared chilled dishes or thawed frozen food reaches the correct temperature, otherwise it won't be properly cooked.

For a meal in minutes that combines fresh with ready-made food use the microwave to bake a potato to go with your shop-bought salad or quiche. Simply prick the potato with a knife and cook it on Full Power for 6 minutes, turning once. Leave the potato to stand for 10 minutes, then it's ready to eat.

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