HomeFoodAre ready-to-go meals any good for you?

Are ready-to-go meals any good for you?

Those little rectangular containers of ready-to-go meals seem to be taking up more and more supermarket real estate. They certainly represent a lot of convenience, but are they healthy?

Well, like most arguments, there are good and bad sides.

There is a perception that fresh is better than frozen, but often these ready meals are chock-full of preservatives to give them a longer shelf life. On the other hand, many frozen vegies and meals are snap frozen and don’t require the same number of preservatives, if any at all.

Also, frozen meals usually stay at a more stable temperature in the freezer while chilled meals are exposed to more temperature fluctuations, which could encourage bacteria growth.  

For example, they may be displayed in the supermarket in an open-face fridge. And when at home stored in a domestic fridge with doors often opened and closed and possibly even at an incorrect fridge temperature, which could encourage bacteria growth.

What’s in it

And, of course, the meal you choose can also be an issue. If you are constantly choosing high-fat, low-nutrition meals then naturally they are going to be less healthy.

Try to tailor your meal choice to your needs and make sure there is a good mix of protein and vegetables. Chicken curry and rice can be delicious, but unless there are few vegies in the mix you are missing out on vital nutrients.

If you have a favourite frozen or chilled meal and you don’t think it has enough vegies, you can always tip a few more in.

Add frozen peas, fresh cut-up carrots or even a small tin of chickpeas before you reheat it to boost the nutritional value. Edgell is currently selling chickpeas in 70g snack cans in terrific flavours including garlic and rosemary, and lime and chilli. I hate chickpeas, and even I eat them.

Some meals are also aimed at a certain audience. Some are low fat and some are for boosting muscle mass. Which is fine, but make sure you are buying the right meal for you.

Those protein-heavy meals are great for fitness fanatics but eating too much protein can lead to high blood fats and heart disease among other problems.

Similarly, low-fat meals have their place but can be dangerous for older people who may need tailored diets.

What’s on the list

Check the ingredients list if you want to make sure you are buying the right meal for you.

In Australia, the ingredient with the most volume is listed first and so on down the list.

If the first few ingredients are high in fat, sugar and salt, it may be a good idea to find an alternative.

If you are having trouble choosing, CHOICE has done a comparison of chilled meals available in most Australian supermarkets to take some of the guesswork out of it.

In the top spot is Fast Fuels Mediterranean Chicken, with an 82 per cent taste and nutrition rating, followed by Easy East Pesto chicken (79 per cent) and in third place Dineamic Roast Chicken on 78 per cent. We always love to know who comes in last, so at the bottom is World Kitchen Spaghetti Bolognese at 63 per cent.

For the full CHOICE rundown, visit here.

Do you eat ready-to-eat meals? Does their nutritional value play a part in your choice? Why not share your opinion in the comments section below?

Also read: History of the humble sandwich

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisherhttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/JanFisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


  1. I much prefer my own cooking, partly because I have food sensitivities. I buy a few frozen and prepared meals, but feel I can make it more cheaply myself. They are handy, but only as an occasional meal. I realise that I’m fortunate in having a lifetime of cooking meals, biscuits etc and enjoy it. Not everyone has been lucky enough to have that.

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