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Over the last couple of years, there’s been a huge increase in so called “plant based” processed foods as well as those badged as “Vegetarian” or “Vegan”. You’ll probably have noticed them during your regular trip to the local supermarket. The message accompanying them is quite simple, a plant based diet is healthier, so these products are an easy way to make the switch. 
But is it really that simple? 
Well, as so often is the case, the answer is both “yes” and “no.” 
“Yes”, a healthy diet is one high in fresh plant foods. In other words centred around fresh fruit, salad and vegetables; not forgetting seeds, nuts, beans and pulses. And the key word here is “fresh”; so fruit, salad and vegetables in their natural unprocessed state. 
Just as important is they’re produced locally and in season, to provide our bodies with the nutrients needed at that time of year. It’s a topic we’ve written about regularly before and, if you need some inspiration of some of the local foods at their best right now, click here and here
And “No”. Sadly, processed foods provide nowhere near the quality and nutritional value of those produced at home using fresh ingredients. While it can be a bitter pill to swallow – no pun intended (!) – the focus of processed foods are on cost and convenience for the Consumer; shelf life and profit for the Producer. We’ve written about the hidden dangers of ultra processed foods before which can be found here
Added to this, processed foods contain ingredients that are not the best to be eaten regularly for good health. And we’re being diplomatic here! Soy, Vegetable Oils, Sugar, Salt as well as preservatives, flavour enhancers and the like. In fact, reading the list of ingredients can be quite a revelation. Not only in terms of what the product actually contains, but why on earth some of these ingredients are there in the first place… 
It's one thing having a better quality ready meal in the freezer for an emergency – provided you’ve carefully read the list of ingredients before purchasing it (!) – quite another to eat them as a regular part of your diet. 
Having had this conversation regularly with Clients for many years, we know what some people will be thinking. That ditching ready meals is much too much like hard work, let alone more expensive. However, this need not be the case. 
Despite the impression from the plethora of cookery programmes on television, quick and simple meals can easily be prepared from scratch at home, often in much less time than it takes to heat up a ready meal in the oven. It’s much more about thinking ahead, to make sure your cupboards and fridge are stocked with the basics, so everything is there when you need it. A very easy place to start is by making a salad or selection of fresh vegetables the mainstay of every meal and, if you haven’t already got them, both a steamer and slow cooker are indispensable pieces of equipment for every kitchen. 
Once again, it’s a case of looking past some very clever – not to mention selective (!) – marketing and doing a little research of your own. Good food doesn’t need to be complicated, a little forethought and imagination are that’s needed. It’s amazing what you can make from a slightly random selection of vegetables lurking at the bottom of your fridge, with a lovely warming vegetable based soup being a very quick and easy place to start, particularly at this time of year! 
As always, the choice is yours. 
Photograph by unknown author 
Tagged as: Diet, Lifestyle
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