Safety and Wellness
Is Ready-Made Food Healthy?
My mom does not like to cook, so a lot of time she buys pre-made food. I don't know how or have time or money to cook my own meals. Can I still eat healthy by having ready-made food?
Yes, it is possible to eat healthy ready-made food. Ask your mom to follow these steps when buying store-bought meals or ordering from a restaurant:
- Choose baked, steamed, or grilled meals — not fried.
- Make sure the meal includes plenty of vegetables, but skip the added butter and sauces. If you get a salad, ask for lite dressing on the side and use no more than 1 or 2 tablespoons.
- Avoid dishes with high-fat sauces, like cream sauces. Some dishes in Chinese restaurants can be high in calories because of heavy sauces.
- Choose meals that have whole grains (e.g., brown rice or whole-wheat pasta) or ask for whole-grain options, like whole-wheat bread for sandwiches.
- Watch out for high-fat extras like mayo, sour cream, bacon, or cheese. If your mom is ordering from a restaurant, ask them to hold these. If the food your mom buys comes prepackaged with these extras, remove as much as you can.
- Pay attention to portions. Lots of prepared meals give you way more food than just one serving. If the meal is prepackaged, read the label to see how much a serving size is, then put that amount on a plate. Or, if you don't know the serving size, put an appropriate portion of the food on a plate and the rest in the fridge. Don't eat from the container as it will be harder to stop!
How can you get all this information on your meal? If the food is packaged, read the box or bag it came in — especially the nutrition information label and the ingredients. Or, if the food comes from a restaurant, visit their website. More and more large restaurants are putting nutrition information online, including fat and calorie counts.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: October 2014
*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.