Are Ready Meals really that bad for you?

I don’t think the lack of time is an excuse for buying ready meals; it takes the same amount of time to put together some cooked meat, vegetables and a carb source in a pan; as it does to open a packet and bung it in the oven/microwave. See the couple of recent videos which I have put together showing a couple of examples which I like to put together and eat when I am getting in late from work and need something in a hurry.

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Freshly cooked food will always be better for you and taste better in my opinion. However, I am not daft (despite what some may think!), I know that for a lot of people the ready meal is a fallback option; so rather than completely demonising them, I want to show you how to pick and choose the best ones out there.

Recently supermarkets have definitely become a lot more aware of what they are putting in their ready meals, and the majority of them now sell ‘a healthier range’. But just because they are labelled ‘healthy’ or ‘good for you’ doesn’t necessarily mean that they are. There are a few things which you should start looking out for and becoming familiar with on the packaging to help you make a decision on what to have.

Calorie content
Overall calorie consumption is key to fat loss. Eat more than you burn and you will put weight on; consume less than you burn and you will lose weight. You will find the calorie content of ready meals (and most foods) on the front of the packaging. For a ready meal, I would usually look at ones around 300-500 but this is completely dependent on your goals and how many calories you could be taking in per day, but as a rough guide I think this is okay.
Be careful that the amount of calories stated is for the whole meal, not just half or some of it. A few companies have begun to be super sneaky with serving sizes in order to make it look like the calorie content of the meals is lower than what it actually is. Chocolate bars in particular are buggers for this – who eats just one stick of a Twix? So make sure you are getting what you think you are.

Protein Content
Protein is key, and fortunately it is becoming more common to find meals advertising high protein content. I would recommend looking for ones which have between 25-30g Protein per serving.

Fat Content
This is where a lot of meals will fail! Fat makes food taste good, supermarkets want to sell you food which tastes good so you enjoy it and come back and repurchase it. Unfortunately this means some ready meals will be super high in fat and not conducive to your goals. On the front of packets, meals with a high fat content will have the amount highlighted in red to try and make it easier for you to distinguish. So look out for ones with either a green fat content amount, or amber. Avoid the red ones!

Salt Content
Again, salt makes food have more flavour so some meals will be heavily salted. We need some salt in our diet so completely avoiding it is not the answer at all. When looking at the ingredients list of meals, the higher up the list, the more there is of it inside. Aim for meals where salt isn’t listed as a primary ingredient, look out for the colour coding on packaging again.

Price
Some ready meals are so expensive that you could buy food for the week for the same amount that you are paying for two. Sometimes it is cheaper to just make your own ready meal! Buy the cooked chicken breast pieces, a packet of microwaveable rice and a bag of ready chopped veg and boom, same time, better for you and less cost. Ask yourself is it really worth the extra money to have less hassle?

So are there any which I recommend?

I haven’t tried very many at all, as like I said I find it just as quick to cook something myself. However, I did do a little tour of the supermarkets to see what was out there and from this put together a list of what I think are ‘good’ options to buy if ready meals are your only choice:

Tesco – Healthy Living Teriyaki Noodles 282 Calories (23P, 38C, 2F)

Sainsbury – My Goodness Smoky BBQ Pulled Pork 305 Calories (25P, 32C 6.3F)

Sainsbury's My Goodness Smoky BBQ Pulled Pork Ready Meal

Morrisons – NUME Paella 366 calories (23P, 55C, 4.5F)

Asda – Ready to Cook Hot Cajun Chicken 381 Calories (28P, 49C, 7.1F)

ASDA Ready to Cook Hot Cajun Chicken ready meal

Weight Watchers – Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pie 310 Calories (25P, 33C, 7.2F)

It also made me so aware of just how bad some ready meals are, you could be consuming nearly 800calories in one tiny portion of Macaroni Cheese from Tesco!!  Simply by becoming more aware of what is in products which you are purchasing is a huge step forward.

Tesco Macaroni Cheese Ready Meal

Hope that you have found this useful and let me know if you have!

Love Abi xxx

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