Dieting and processed foods

As ever in the month of June, the conversation in many mainstream newspapers has turned to health – the obesity epidemic, the Paelo diet, the Dukan diet… the list goes on, with the “fat versus sugar” battle leading to recent calls on the UK government to cut sugar intake by half from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.

Among the disgruntlement come familiar cries to abstain from eating processed foods in order to lose weight, decrease risks of heart disease and substitute cupcake calories for cucumbers. From the U.S., Dr. Lustig, the writer of Fat Chance and a contributor to the documentary Fed Up, places chips and crisps at the head of the list of foods likely to promote obesity. He also identifies the food environment (“obsogenic” as defined by the BBC) as a prime factor in leading consumers to over-eat. Any environment which encourages passive activities, eg. driving or taking the lift, over active ones, eg. walking or climbing the stairs could be in these terms an “obsogenic” one. Furthermore, streets lined with pasty, chip and pizza shops are believed to encourage the consumption of “calorie-dense” food, making it more difficult to find healthier options when on the move.DSCN1782

Whilst the over-consumption of processed red meat has been shown to be detrimental to your health, there has been surprisingly little coverage of processed calorie-restricted foods as part of dieting. This is despite the adoption of calorie-restricted lines by major supermarkets including Waitrose’s Love Life range and Marks & Spencer’s Fuller Longer offering.

As opposed to home-cooked diet food delivered to your home or workplace which can quickly become very expensive (£29 a day for food from evolve, a company providing Paleo meals excluding grains, sugars and dairy), these UK retailers have tried to incorporate healthy eating for one individual into the weekday shop. Considering that 1 in 4 Britons has not bought fresh fruit or vegetables in the last week because they cannot afford them, canned vegetables, vegetable sauces and the addition of at least one portion of vegetables to each of the Fuller Longer line (for instance) could certainly be considered beneficial.

The premise, for Marks & Spencers’ line, is very simple. Eat three calorie-restricted, high in protein meals from the range a day, with an optional two snacks from a suggested list in order to lose up to a stone in four weeks. One reviewer from the Daily Mail found that buying from the line cost an average of £56 a week, in comparison to paying £21.45 a month for Weight Watchers but then having to pay for food on top of that figure. With a range of over 50 meals, Marks & Spencer have attempted to make a range of processed food (including lamb shank, pulled pork and chicken curry) an integral part of dieting. The reviewer from The Daily Mail found it effective, losing six pounds and 2 inches off the waist, taking this individual from a size 14 to a size 12. Not all processed food needs to be maligned as unhealthy by virtue of its origins – convenience dieting can work for some as well as living off celery.

Lagarde autoclaves + LOGOHolmach has worked to promote the use of retorts for extension of shelf life on ready meals in the UK for nearly 20 years, with an 80% market share in batch autoclaves. Chris Holland, Managing Director, recently gave a talk on the role of retorting in reducing food wastage at the Thermal Processing Conference, Campden BRI.

For further information on retorting ready meals or extending shelf life on  chilled products, please call 01780 749097 or e-mail .



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