Hyderabad: Ready-to-eat foods by and large lack micronutrients and vitamins and are said to cause a deficiency of Vitamin B12 in those who consume them regularly. Worse, the excess of salt, artificial preservatives, colours and additives has led to an increase in the cases of hypertension and gastric diseases.
Health professionals and nutritionists say ready-to-eat food has contributed to obesity in the younger population.
Despite their alarm, the market is booming at the rate of 16 per cent per year.
Ready-to-eat food was restricted to sandwiches, cakes, pastries and samosas but has now expanded into a wide horizon of different foods which are pre-cooked, semi-cooked and require only a bit of seasoning to be had with chapatti or rice.
Nutritionist Dr Sujatha Stephen said ready-to-eat foods are packed with more calories but are low on micro-nutrients which is causing vitamin deficiency in children and teenagers. “The younger population, students, those who are employed and those in the graveyard shift depend a lot of these foods and that is leading to early advent of diseases,” Dr Stephen said.
Random surveys by nutritional institutes and colleges have found that 60 to 70 per cent of young people make a choice to eat food from the ready-to-eat category.
The reasons for this choice has been attributed to lack of time, hormonal changes, taste issues with traditional foods, and urge to eat foods which are trending and are a part of their peers’ diet.
The knowledge of whole balanced meals is limited amongst the young. They are not aware that these foods do not provide the nutrients required by the body.
Nutritionist Dr Janaki Srinath explained, “The knowledge of food is based on the pattern in terms of meals, snacks and beverages. The idea of how much calories must be consumed when is still not known to many people.”
Dr Srinath said the ready-to-eat foods have become popular due to the convenience factor. “With people now becoming health conscious they want to know how many calories are there in their food. The calorie and nutrient charts in these foods will empower such persons to make a choice,” Dr Srinath said.
The change is being seen in the form of protein bars, prebiotics and probiotics in the foods but these are
prescribed only for those who are highly conscious of their health and opt for regular nutrition counselling.
For a working populace which is hard pressed for time it is the easiest available option that matters. That is being seen in the huge boost that the ready-to-eat food is receiving, specially from the youngsters.