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Convenience foods can assist in saving time and money when preparing nutritious meals. When you’re busy, on a budget or low on the mental capacity to prepare food from scratch, they provide a great alternative.
Fresh produce has a wide range of nutrients in a more absorbable form and is often affordable when purchased in season. The freezing or drying produce preserves the food whilst retaining some nutrients and allowing us to eat them when they’re not in season. However, nutrient levels deplete after being frozen for two years, so clean the freezer regularly!
There are a few things to consider when looking at convenience foods. For example, the additives and salt (or sodium) are worth keeping an eye on. ChemicalMaze is an excellent app if you’d like more information on food additives, and you’ll find the sodium level on the nutritional panel. To choose a ‘low salt’ product, pick one with less than 120mg of sodium per 100g.
As a nutritionist, here are some convenience foods I’d recommend:
Tinned tuna and salmon are excellent sources of omega-3 and protein. They’re easily transportable and can be added to a salad for a quick lunch or on rice cakes or crackers for a nutritious and balanced snack. However, limiting tinned fish to one serving per week is best due to the heavy metal exposure.
Berries are an excellent source of antioxidants, but their season is short, and they can be expensive. That’s where frozen berries come in! The levels of antioxidants remain stable once they’re frozen, and they’re high in other micronutrients too. So frozen berries are a tasty addition to smoothies and baked oats.
Frozen dumplings are my personal go-to for a cheap, easy, quick meal after a busy day! House of Goodness has created some delicious gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free and sesame-free dumplings! AND there are some FODMAP-friendly options. And if you’re inclined to DIY, they have dumpling flour to make your dumplings at home. I wouldn’t recommend them daily, but they’re a good option when there’s nothing in the fridge.
There are so many fantastic milk alternatives on the shelves these days! Macadamia, rice, oat, almond, coconut, soy, cashew, hemp and quinoa are a few options if cow’s milk doesn’t agree with you. If you’re not up for making your own from scratch, you can purchase a base or one off the shelf. Just check for additives, including sugar and select the one with the least additives.
Herbs and spices not only add flavour to your meal, but they also have some essential nutritional benefits. Turmeric, for example, contains curcumin which has gained popularity for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Unfortunately, fresh herbs and spices aren’t always available, making dried the perfect solution. You’ll find garlic, oregano, thyme, basil, chilli and sage in my pantry.
Want the warming, nourishing feeling of bone broth without making it? Any good health food shop will stock a variety of concentrates you can mix with boiling water and sip away. Nutra Organics Chicken Garden Herb Broth is my favourite on its own or as the base for a soup.
Ghee is an alternative to butter with a high concentration of monounsaturated Omega-3 fat. These fatty acids support a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. It’s also lower in lactose than butter due to the clarifying process. You’ll find ghee at the supermarket and in most health food shops.
I’m a big fan of salad dressings or adding pesto, especially if it means eating more vegetables! However, salad dressings and pestos can be full of preservatives, additives, salt and sugar, so check the ingredients. Go for one with as few ingredients as possible and one you can pronounce the ingredients! I also avoid sunflower and vegetable oils because of their inflammatory effects. Roza’s Gourmet has a great range of pestos, aiolis and mayonnaises and dressings (plus so much more), all free from artificial preservatives with some gluten-free options.
Don’t have the time or headspace to prepare fermented foods? Some fabulous options on the supermarket shelves will nourish your gut in all the right ways. Remedy Kombucha, Kehoe’s Kitchen Kimchi and Sourkraut, Nexba Kefir, and so many more are available at the supermarket. However, they can be a little pricey so keep an eye out for specials.