Supermarkets ordered to include more fruit and veg in ready meals

Hearing the words ‘ready meal’ or ‘microwave meal’ would not typically invoke thoughts of healthy eating and have long been associated with a quick option for students. As more and more people are developing hectic, busy lives though, they are worryingly becoming a common choice for meals for those who feel like they don’t have the time to prepare a healthy meal.

Health concerns arise because the freezing process in these ready-made meals usually affects the taste of the food and manufacturers try to compensate for this by using heavily processed production methods and loading the food with extra salt and fat. They are usually always a lot less nutritious than fresh food and the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that are used by manufacturers to stabilise the food, have been linked to numerous cardiovascular problems.

With obesity levels predicted to surge in the next 18 years, clearly the government believe they need to act quickly and they have decided to target ready meals in their latest attempt to get the nation to eat more healthily.

Estimates show that around 70% of the UK is failing to eat their ‘five-a-day’ recommended intake of fruit and vegetables. Furthermore it has recently been revealed that only one in ten children and a third of adults are hitting the five-a-day target and now the Department of Health (DOH) are calling for food manufacturers to include more fruit and vegetables to their ready meals as part of government’s ‘Responsibility Deal’. This is an initiative in which the DOH works in cooperation with large businesses to try and reform Britain’s public health.

There are currently 16 supermarkets, food manufacturers and trade bodies that have signed up to the pledge of creating healthier ready meals. They are: Aldi, Co-operative Food, Iceland, Lidl, Morrisons, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, General Mills, Mars, caterers 3663, Brakes, CH & Co Catering, Subway and the British Frozen Food Federation.

Action could not have come as a better time after a recent survey showed that almost a quarter (25%) of Brits are under the impression that chips count as part of a vegetable intake and nearly half think the same thing regarding roast potatoes. For those unaware, they do not count because they contribute mainly starch to your diet.

Why five-a-day some may ask. Well, as well as being low in calories and fat, fruit and vegetables are the pinnacle of a healthy, balanced diet. Eating plenty of fruit and veg can help you maintain a healthy weight, prevent obesity, in addition to helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Because of their high fibre content, fruit and veg can also help with digestive problems, keeping your gut healthy, preventing constipation and even reducing your risk of developing bowel cancer.

Public Health Minister Anna Soubry spoke on the plans to increase fruit and veg in ready meals, saying: “It’s vital that we focus particular attention on encouraging those who currently consume very little to boost their intake.  Research shows that fruit and veg intake ‘tracks’ through childhood and adolescence, so healthy school lunches with at least two portions of fruit or vegetables are really important to give children the opportunity to experience fruit and vegetables from an early age, and to see other children and adults around them enjoying these foods.”

Medical Specialists Pharmacy advise that everybody should at least hit their five-a-day target for fruit and vegetables as there are countless major health benefits from doing so. However, be warned that this does not mean a high intake of sugar and saturated fats can also be maintained. If you are overweight, we would advise adopting a healthy lifestyle and diet in conjunction with a scientifically proven weight loss aid such as XLS-Medical or the prescription medication Xenical. Both are available today from Medical Specialists at incredibly low prices.

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