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CONVENIENCE FOODS: NOT SO CONVENIENT FOR YOUR HEALTH

PREPARED BY:
HAZLAWATI BINTI ALI BABA
ANDERSEN ANAK LANI
HAJJAH ZELIHA @ RANIAH BINTI JOHARI


CONVENIENCE FOODS: NOT SO CONVENIENT FOR YOUR HEALTH

INTRODUCTION

Throughout history, people have bought convenience food from bakeries, creameries, butcher shops and other commercial processors to save time and effort. Bread, cheese, salted food and other prepared foods have been sold for thousands of years. Other kinds were developed with improvements in food technology.

Convenience food, or tertiary processed food, is food that is commercially prepared (often through processing) to optimise ease of consumption. Such food is usually ready to eat without further preparation. It may also be easily portable, have a long shelf life, or offer a combination of such convenient traits. Although restaurant meals meet this definition, the term is seldom applied to them. Convenience foods include ready-to-eat dry products, frozen foods such as TV dinners, shelf-stable foods, prepared mixes such as cake mix, and snack foods. Some convenience foods have received criticism due to concerns about nutritional content and how their packaging may increase solid waste in landfills. Various methods are used to reduce the unhealthy aspects of commercially produced food and fight childhood obesity.

Convenience food is commercially prepared for ease of consumption. Products designated as convenience food are often sold as hot, ready-to-eat dishes; as room-temperature, shelf-stable products; or as refrigerated or frozen food products that require minimal preparation (typically just heating) Convenience foods have also been described as foods that have been created to "make them more appealing to the consumer." Convenience foods and restaurants are similar in that they save time. They differ in that restaurant food is ready to eat, whilst convenience food usually requires rudimentary preparation. Both typically cost more money and less time compared to home cooking from scratch.


TYPES OF CONVENIENCE FOODS

Convenience foods can include products such as candy; beverages such as soft drinks, juices and milk; nuts, fruits and vegetables in fresh or preserved states; processed meats and cheeses; and canned products such as soups and pasta dishes. Additional convenience foods include frozen pizza, chips such as potato chips, pretzels, and cookies. These products are often sold in portion-controlled, single-serving packaging designed for portability.

 ♦   Packaged Mixes

Many food manufacturers have produced flour for baking. In more recent times flour has been sold with other ingredients mixed in, as have other products ready to cook. Packaged mixes are convenience foods which typically require some preparation and cooking either in the oven or on the stove top.

Packaged baked goods mixes typically use chemical leavening agent (commonly referred to as baking powder, for a quick, reliable result, avoiding the requirement for time-consuming skilled labour and the climate control needed for traditional yeast breads. These packaged mixes produce a type of quick bread. Examples include cake mixes, macaroni and cheese, brownie mixes, and gravy mixes. Some packaged mixes may have high saturated fat content.

 ♦   By Country

 ⇒  In Japan, onigiri (rice balls) are popular convenience food. Additional Japanese convenience foods include prepared tofu (bean curd), prepared packages of seafood and instant ramen noodles.

 ⇒  Canned tuna packed in oil is a convenience food in the Solomon Islands.

 ⇒  In Russia, frozen pelmeni, a type of meat dumplings are a staple of the supermarket freezer sections.

 ♦   Retail

In some instances, retail sales of convenience foods may provide higher profit margins for food retailers compared to the profits attained from sales of the individual ingredients that are present in the convenience foods. A survey in 1984 attributed over one-third of funds spent by consumers for food in Great Britain to be for convenience food purchases.


CONVENIENCE FOOD CAN BE CLASSIFIED INTO THREE GROUPS

 ♦   Ready to eat foods (RTE):

The foods that can be directly consumed from the package with or without warming, thawing and without preparation are called RTE foods.

   ○   Dairy snacks: Processed cheese, cheese spread, butter and ghee.

   ○   Dairy sweets: Gulab jamuns, kala jamun, Rasgullas, pedhas and burfis.

   ○   Other sweets: Sohan papdi, sohan halwa, jilebas, Mysore paks, besan laddu and other sweets.

   ○   Bakery products: Biscuits, bread and cakes

   ○   Fried snacks: Chips, wafers, fried legumes and other snacks.

   ○   Retort processed foods: paneer curries, Dal fries, parathas can be packed well in retort pouch made of polypropylene for six months. The products can be heated along with pouches and eaten as and when needed.

   ○   Frozen foods: Ice cream, idli, chicken, kabab, fruits and vegetables.

   ○   Extruded snacks: Cereal and pulse based, soya based extruded snacks.

   ○   Traditional sweet meats: Modakas, laddus, madeli, karchikai and holige.

   ○   Adjuncts: Pickles, dry chutneys, fruit chutneys etc


 ♦   Ready to use foods (RTU):

   ○   Foods which need some preparation like cooking, frying and reconstitution before consumption are called ready to use foods.

   ○   Masalas: Butter chicken mix, garam masala, chat masala, meat masala, curry masala, palav mix, puliogare mix, rasam powder, sambar powder, ginger and garlic paste.

   ○   Fresh cut vegetables: Carrots, beans, cabbages and others are washed and cut into slices, cubes and shreds and modified atmosphere packed.

   ○   Ready to cook foods (RTC): Noodles, instant idli, dosa and rava idli, mixes.

   ○   Ready to fry foods (RTF): papads, fingers chips, wafers, fryums and chicken.

   ○   Ready to reconstitute foods: khoa powder, kulfi mix, instant ice cream mix and weaning mixes.

   ○   Breakfast cereals: Corn flakes, wheat flakes, jowar and millet based flakes, pops and extruded cereals.

   ○   Canned foods: Fruits vegetables, pulps, rasagulla, jamun, curries, meat, fish and chicken.


 ♦   Beverages

   ○   Ready to drink beverages (RTD): The drinks that can be directly consumed from container like apple, mango, straw berry and milk based beverages. Horlicks and malt shakes are available in tetra packs, with a shelf life of 4 months. Sweet lassi and cold coffee are available with a shelf life of 6 months. Natural fruit juices in tetra packs are sold.

   ○   Ready to serve beverages (RTS): These beverages need some preparation before serving. The beverages have to be diluted or reconstituted before use. These include fruit concentrates in different flavours, Tropicana, spicy tomato rasam, soup, chicken soup, instant soup powders and instant juice powders like rasna.


ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH CONCERNS

Frozen dinner, to be heated in microwave oven

Several groups have cited the environmental harm of single serve packaging due to the increased usage of plastics that contributes to solid waste in landfills. Due to concerns about obesity and other health problems, some health organizations have criticized the high fat, sugar, salt, food preservatives and food additives that are present in some convenience foods.

In most developed countries, 80% of consumed salt comes from industry-prepared food (5% come from natural salt; 15% comes from salt added during cooking or eating) Health effects of salt concentrate on sodium and depend in part on how much is consumed. A single serving of many convenience foods contains a significant portion of the recommended daily allowance of sodium. Manufacturers are concerned that if the taste of their product is not optimized with salt, it will not sell as well as competing products. Tests have shown that some popular packaged foods depend on significant amounts of salt for their palatability.

Labelling, mitigation, and regulation: Many preservatives and salts are used in this highly processed frozen food item

In response to the issues surrounding the healthfulness of convenience and restaurant foods, an initiative in the United States, spearheaded by Michelle Obama and her Let's Move! campaign to reduce the unhealthy aspects of commercially produced food and fight childhood obesity, was unveiled by the White House in February 2010. Mrs. Obama has pushed the industry to cut back on sugars and salts found in many convenience foods, encouraging selfregulation over government intervention through laws and regulations. Despite Mrs. Obama's stated preference on self-regulation, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it was looking into quantifying the guidelines into law while other groups and municipalities are seeking to add other preventative measures such as target taxes and levies onto these products.

In response to the attention, in April 2010 a coalition of sixteen manufactures all agreed to reduce salt levels in foods sold in the United States under a program based on a similar effort in the United Kingdom. However, the initiative has met with resistance from some manufacturers, who claim that processed foods require the current high levels of salt to remain appetizing and to mask undesirable effects of food processing such as "warmed-over flavor". The coalition expanded its mission in May 2010 by announcing that it intends to reduce the amount of calories in foods. By introducing lower calorie foods, changing product recipes and reducing portion sizes, the coalition stated that it expected to reduce the caloric content of foods by more than 1.5 trillion calories in total by 2012.

Social income: As previously stated, convenience foods cover a variety of food groups and come in numerous forms. Thus, there are a variety of healthy and unhealthy convenience foods. Research such as the 2002 study by Kimberly Morland PhD et. Al, have correlated inequalities between low-income communities and increased access to unhealthy convenience foods. Comparing low-income communities to more affluent communities, there are four times more supermarkets located in white communities than the black communities (commonly found in food deserts). As a result, the 2002 study concluded that with limited access to healthy food options in supermarkets, members with in the low-income and minority communities have unequal access. A 2010 study by Dharma E. Cortes, PhD et. Al also found a connection between consumption of unhealthy convenience food and minority communities. Limited access to healthy food options have resulted in an increase in obesity amongst members in these communities.

Many low-income families struggle with buying fresh fruits and vegetables and nutritional meals for their families because of the price of the products. These families are most often located in food deserts and fresh food is not readily available in their community. Thus, families resort to buying food that is high in fat, sugar, and salt because these highly processed options are inexpensive. These highly processed foods make up a significant portion of unhealthy convenience foods.

There has been much discussion over the past few years as to how to make good food (fruits and veggies especially) cheaper. The theory is that people eat badly because they are poor and cannot afford better food. But we now know it's the perception of "convenience" that is driving the trend to eat fattening food.

Middle income people are the most overweight and eat fast food more regularly than anyone else. In contrast, 80 percent of those with low incomes cook at home at least five times a week. It is perhaps time to recalibrate our calculations as to how to get people to eat better. If people are choosing fattening food because it is "easy," even when they know it is bad for them, convenience needs to be the focus of our efforts to end the epidemic, not more education. Finding from a recent study at the Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota Medical School suggests that public education regarding the unhealthfulness of fast food may not influence fast food consumption. Interventions targeting the issue of convenience and quick or efficient preparation of nutritious alternatives to fast food could be more promising."

Convenience food, diseases or processed food, is commercially prepared food created as an easy way to get and consume. Most convenience foods provide little to no nutritional value and have excessive amounts of sodium, sugar, and saturated fats. While everyone should avoid these types of foods, it is highly recommended for individuals with health conditions like heart disease, hypertension, or diabetes to avoid these foods altogether.

Processed foods are also loaded with preservatives (MSG for example), unnatural colouring, added flavouring, and other unappetizing substances. If consumed regularly over time, such foods can quickly begin to harm a person’s health, which can contribute to serious health issues, for example – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and strokes.

The craving for processed food is more contributed to its added flavors and textures than the food itself. Convenience foods are developed with excessive amounts of salt and fats to give you a sensory overload to get you hooked, thus addicted to the need for its satisfying taste. However, since the taste for this type of added and unhealthy sodium is a learned habit, and if you want to “quit,” you can! It can take a few weeks to months to detox your taste buds, but it is better to do a gradual reduction in salt intake from processed foods. This way, your taste buds can relearn the tastes of foods in their natural form at a more effective, slower pace.

The body’s ability to digest these foods can be difficult, as convenience food become modified when processed. Processed foods typically lack micronutrients which are required in trace amounts for the normal growth and development of living organisms, like our bodies. Micronutrients, more commonly known as vitamins and minerals, play an important role in your health by keeping your internal systems functioning properly. They include such vitamins and minerals as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, and B-vitamins, and minerals including magnesium, iodine, sodium, zinc, and copper.


SO HOW DO WE MAKE IT EASIER FOR PEOPLE TO EAT BETTER?

We always hear about the processed foods we should avoid (which is most of them), but we rarely highlight the processed foods that can make healthy eating a lot more convenient. Now, here is a list of healthy whole foods to replace some of this popular convenience food:

   •   Instead of packaged chips like potato chips, make your own chips or fries from whole organic russet potatoes or sweet potatoes at home. Simply thinly slice or wedge cut potatoes; add a little bit of olive oil, toss, and bake. Skip the ketchup for dunking and try one of these 6 Unique and Delicious Dips and Spreads instead. Do you have an awesome recipe for homemade potato fries? We would love for you to share it with us!

   •   Buy fresh, seasonal produce instead of canned. Many canned veggies are high in added sodium, even when the label says “low sodium.” If you must buy canned, do get the low sodium ones and rinse the heck out it. First, drain the liquid from the can, then transfer the contents to a strainer for further rinsing under cold water.

   •   Use a juicer or squeeze your own fruit or vegetable juices! Doing this will not only provide your body with rich nutrients, but it will also give you a healthy boost of energy to go about your day.

   •   Opening a pre-packaged frozen meal at home still makes it a processed meal. Many households these days are crunched for time and it seems as though cooking at home has been shoved to the side lines. Instead of buying frozen meals, set aside some time on your weekends or available time to make healthy homemade meals to portion out into freezer containers for the entire week. Though it is frozen, you made it from scratch at home! Try out these plant-powered recipes, The World’s Healthiest Veggie Burger Patty, and Lentil Tacos/Burritos. Veggie patties and burritos are super simple to wrap and store in the freezer for an easy to warm up dinner later in the week.
If you’re feeling confused about whether a processed food is healthy or not, think about which of these categories the food falls into:

   →   Food you could make at home (with ingredients from a normal store): hummus, bread, peanut butter, cheese, yogurt, frozen fruit, beans, canned tomatoes, etc.

   →   Food you could not make at home (because the ingredients are not used in home kitchens or not available to the public): Cocoa Puffs, Cheetos, Cool Whip, Skittles, etc.

Perhaps true convenience then is stocking your kitchen shelves with good food, having it come to you when it is freshest, and never stepping foot in the supermarket again. It’s the food you could make at home, with time and effort, which is generally much healthier.


REFERENCES

   •   Ensminger, Audrey H. (1994). Foods and Nutrition Encyclopedia: A-H. 1. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convenience_food

   •   Jean Anderson; Barbara Deskins (October 1995). The Nutrition Bible (1st ed.). William Morrow & Co.

   •   Kozłowska, Katarzyna & Szczecinska, Anna & Roszkowski, Wojciech & Brzozowska, Anna & Saba, Anna & Raats, Monique & Lumbers, Margaret. (2019) :PERCEPTION OF CONVENIENCE FOOD BY OLDER PEOPLE LIVING IN WARSAW (ON THE EXAMPLE OF VEGETABLE SOUPS).

   •   Lawrence, Geoffrey; Lyons, Kristen; Wallington, Tabatha (2012). Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainability. Routledge. Chapter 8, pages. Retrieved from https://books.google.com.my/books?id=4ciRFgy8lMoC&pg=PT130&dq=convenience+food+history&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NPDeUY3_AembiQKYkYCYBA&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=convenience%20food%20history&f=false

   •   Ricci, Elena Claire & Banterle, Alessandro & Stranieri, Stefanella(2018): Trust to Go Green: An Exploration of Consumer Intentions for Eco-friendly Convenience Food. Ecological Economics

   •   Retrieved on 17 April from https://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/convenience-foods-not-soconvenient-for-your-health/

   •   Retrieved on 17 April from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/conveniencefood

   •   Retrieved on 17 April from https://livehealthy.gov.nu.ca/en/healthy-eating/store-boughtfoods/convenience-foods

   •   Retrieved on 17 April from https://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/essentialingredients/convenience-foods.

   •   Sweet, Lynn (11 May 2010). "Michelle Obama Unveils Anti-Childhood Obesity Action Plan". Politics Daily

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