Convenience foods fill the shelves of the modern day's kitchens. With no time to cook fresh food, consumers are opting for the "ready to cook" and "ready to eat varieties" of food. It occupies a major chunk of the diet of an individual. From cereals to fruit juices, the processed convenience food varieties available in the super markets have really simplified our lives in the kitchen. Processing of these food not only decreases the cooking/ processing time, but also increases the shelf life of the products. The colours and flavours added to these products enrich the sensorial appeal of the product and increases the varieties.
Though consumers encourage the concept of convenience foods, increasing consumer awareness on healthy dietary practices is impacting the convenience food market. Consumers have started realizing the importance of reading labels in order to opt for healthier food choices. Despite the advantages of convenience foods, consumers feel that processed foods are not ideal choices because of the added food additives that are unhealthy to the human system and the diminished nutritional quality of the product. Manufacturers are hence identifying ways to promote their products with a "healthy tagline". One such successful technique is fortification of the product with lost nutrients and additional nutrients. Products are being fortified with vital nutrients such as dietary fibre, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Convenience foods are also being fortified with functional ingredients such as catechins, beta glucan, whey, carotenoids and flavonoids. The latest trend is fortifying a product with nutrients that cater to improve a single condition, such as juice to improve bone health- fortified with nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus and collagen.
It is always wise to read the labels of the packaged food items that are picked from supermarkets. This practice enables us to make wise and healthy choice of food products. Including convenience food in the diet rarely is acceptable, but replacing it with wholesome fresh food is never advisable. Hence try to include natural fresh food more and limit your consumption of processed food products.