It’s easy to see the appeal of a ready meal after a long, hard day at work. There’s no effort, no preparation time – you simply stick it in the microwave and wait for it to ping.
But what if you’re doing more harm than good to both your body and your mind with such a dietary choice?
Let’s explore the truth behind the sugar and fat contents of ready meals and how they could be leading you to a world of difficulties when it comes to maintaining your health and wellbeing.
Do we really know what is in ready meals these days?
Thanks to the traffic-light system we now see on most of our supermarket foods, it is possible to see in greater detail than ever what’s in our food; manufacturers are required by law to tell consumers what they put in their products.
Unfortunately, though, many ready meals still contain added sugars for the purposes of improving taste even after unnecessary bad fats have been removed. Convenience and cost could still be a bigger factor for some shoppers, but interestingly, manufacturers aren’t necessarily required to split added sugars out from natural sugars on their labels, despite other stipulations set out by the government.
This can lead to great confusion over how much sugar is in the ready meals to which we have such easy access.
How much sugar is in supermarket ready meals?
Whilst the fat content is labelled more clearly, the real sugar content must be deduced from the ‘carbohydrates (of which sugars)’ amount. This figure can be surprisingly high for some of the nation’s favourite savoury dishes; 15g for every 100g is considered to be a high sugar content.
Take microwaveable curries, for instance. They can contain around 15g of sugar in the sauce of a ready meal alone. Although the recipes may have changed since then, a 2015 study into the sugar contents of sweet and sour meals from various supermarkets found that one dish contained twice as much sugar than a can of Coca Cola (39g, or over seven teaspoons).
Saturated fats can spell trouble for people who consume a great number of supermarket meals like oven-ready pies, too. The Daily Express found in 2016 that one particular supermarket’s Chicken and Leek pie at the time contained 73% fats and 150% of our recommended daily saturates, which is an alarmingly high figure.
Food manufacturers are under constant scrutiny to make their convenience food as healthy as it can be, but the fact that taste is often removed when fat is removed means that sugar content can be higher than dieticians and, of course, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) would like.
Sometimes, unless you study the ingredients of your ready meals in fine detail, you might not even know you’re eating excess sugar in some cases.
Ingredients like the sauces that go with some ready meals, such as burgers or Hunter’s Chicken, may contain much more sugar than you realise, so (as with everything), it’s important to consume them in moderation.
There’s not much wrong with enjoying the convenience of a ready meal from time to time, but it will most certainly not be good for you in the long run if you make a habit of it.
What happens if we have too much sugar and fat in our diets?
When we put too much sugar into our bodies, there can be all sorts of adverse effects on our health.
For instance, to the best of their abilities, our bodies use the sugar we consume as energy to burn during physical activities, but if we give it more than it can burn, our livers then resort to turning it into excess fat. It is this fat that is stored in deposits around the body, which may lead to the likes of obesity and heart disease (not to mention the dental problems).
It follows, then, that the more sugar we eat in ready meals and the like, the more strain we are putting on our bodies and our long-term health.
If you fancy a ready meal now and again, make sure it is only now and again and work it off with regular exercise, so your body doesn’t need to store excess fat as a result.
If you’re concerned about your body’s reactions to the food you eat and you think ready meals could be causing unpleasant symptoms, contact us today to speak to a qualified dietician about the potential of running a food intolerance test on over 200 different ingredients – it may turn out that you need to avoid certain types of ready meals altogether.