Before being stocked on grocery shelves, convenience foods go through a lot of processing and packaging. Some of these methods are as follows:
Accelerated freeze-drying: This method is carried out by using high-vacuum techniques. When standard conditions of temperature and pressure are provided, it creates an ideal condition for food dehydration without cell collapse. However, it is very costly since the food product’s texture and retention rehydration potential are improved drastically. Frozen berries and carrots.
Additives: These are chemicals added to foods and drinks to enhance their taste, appearance, texture, and storage properties. They can be added to serve different purposes, which include extending the shelf life or act as an antioxidant. For example, vinegar and artificial food coloring.
Aseptic canning: This is an advanced development in canning foods. It is mainly carried out for food items like fruits that are adversely affected by heat in sealed containers.
Boil in bag: Portioned convenience foods are packed in plastic containers, sealed, and frozen. The consumer heats or cooks the food in boiling water for the duration stated in the food carton.
Dehydration: This method is carried out for food items with a high chance of permitting microbial growth. The moisture of these food items is reduced to such an extent that any microbe cannot grow and reproduce. Examples include pulses, grains, and leafy vegetables.
Dehydro-freezing: In this preservation method, the food product’s moisture content is reduced by
50%âˆ’70%, after which it is frozen immediately. Since the cells do not collapse, the product has good texture retention properties. Examples include kiwis and grapes.128Â°F below zero. The food is flushed through nitrogen and is frozen instantaneously. Numerous tiny crystals of ice are produced on the surface of the food, which is essential for good texture retention.
Smoked preservation: This technique is used on various raw and uncooked foods. To use this method for fish, it has to be salt-cured before being smoked. Examples of foods that are smoked to be preserved include smoked sausages and smoked meats.
Spray drying: It is a method of dehydration where the food is collected in a slurry and passed through a hot air chamber. The food dries immediately and turns into powder. Examples of food items that undergo the dehydration process are milk powder, instant coffee, and dried soup.
Advantages of convenience foods
Although convenience foods might seem unhealthy, they do have some benefits. If chosen rightly, it is easy to get a source of protein and fiber from a convenience store at an affordable price. Other advantages of convenience foods are as follows:
Convenience foods have a reduced cost of operation.
Less space and equipment are needed to produce convenience food items.
The operation cost can be reduced since there is no need for much labor.
There is less waste, food spoilage, storage, and cleaning.
Unforeseen high requirements of foods can be met easily using convenience foods.
The wastage can be reduced considerably, particularly when menu items are coated or reheated straight from the freezer.
Controlling portion sizes becomes manageable by using a required portion size. Therefore, many food items are also available in single-portion sizes.
Disadvantages of convenience foods
The average consumer does not have to completely avoid packaged and convenience foods. However, they should try to keep a balance since they can have many disadvantages. The disadvantages of convenience foods are as follows:
The natural freshness of products like fruits and vegetables cannot be obtained by using convenience foods.
If frozen convenience foods are not kept at the right temperature, the color, texture, flavor, and nutritive value is highly impacted.
Convenience foods can only be used for a specific period.
The cost of some convenience foods such as carrots and tomatoes can vary according to the changing seasons.
In some instances, the original product loses most of its nutritional value. For example, when a fresh product like berry is made into a spread, it loses most of its vitamin C.
Regularly consuming highly processed foods will make it challenging to transition to a healthier diet.
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