What’s So Bad about Prepackaged, Frozen, and Canned Food?

Several shelves of frozen meals behind glass doors at a grocery store
Avoid the siren call of frozen meals | Photo by Elizabeth Layman

Prepackaged, frozen, and canned foods are easy and convenient because most of the preparation has already been done for you. You just heat it and eat it–or you may not even need to heat it. Examples of these foods are canned soups and meats, packaged mac’n’cheese, frozen pizzas, and other frozen dinners.

It’s okay to rely on prepackaged food sometimes for quick or easy meals, but our bodies also need fresh food to be healthy!

The problem is that this convenience food requires a lot of processing at manufacturing plants. This takes out many of the natural vitamins and other nutrients. The packaging, which keeps it from spoiling quickly, requires added preservatives and more chemicals. Artificial colors are sometimes added to make it look fresh. Sometimes you eat microscopic bits of the packaging itself without realizing it.

Adding back in some synthetic (fake) vitamins doesn’t make it the same quality the fresh food would have been. We’re left with poor quality food that may be very old, sometimes even many years old. To make it taste okay, artificial chemical flavors are sometimes added, often with a lot of extra salt, fat, sugar, or all three. That’s certainly not good for us!

A stack of canned food, including canned beans and corn
Try cutting back on canned goods | Photo by Elizabeth Layman

Fresh food spoils quickly, so you know when it’s too old to be good for you. Fresh food still has its natural flavor that goes with natural nutrients. Fresh food looks like it came from the earth, not a factory. When you shop, look for foods on the outside walls and aisles of the store. Usually, the center aisles have the processed food in packages.

An interesting side note is that the white potatoes is one of the few fresh, natural foods that is not healthy. This is a vegetable, but it is almost all starch with little nutrition, just calories that turn into sugar in your body. Save white potatoes for special holiday meals only. For regular meals, choose sweet potatoes instead, which have much more nutrition. Here is an easy sweet potato recipe.

If you’re still wary about buying fresh foods, frozen vegetables are not a bad secondary option. Frozen vegetables are usually better than canned vegetables because they are frozen quickly, when the food was still fresh, and the freezing process keeps most of the nutritious ingredients inside the food. However, it is good to know that some nutrients are lost in freezing, and the longer you keep the frozen vegetables in your freezer, the more nutrients are lost.

Even if you slowly add fresh, natural food to your diet by swapping out one prepackaged, frozen, or canned food for one fresh food every few times you go grocery shopping, your body will thank you.

Orange, yellow, pink, and purple carrots on display at a grocery store
Add a few more pieces of fresh produce each week | Photo by Elizabeth Layman

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