Time-saving “Food”: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


What is time-saving “food”? It’s food we might eat to save time that isn’t much like real food in one way or another. This can be both bad and pretty good too.

Busy moms need to feed ourselves and our families. Too often we have so little time that we’re left with few choices and even fewer good choices. A poor diet can make us even more tired than we might already be!

To save time I often “eat” a protein shake that doesn’t even resemble food, but thankfully has better nutrition than a doughnut or bagel. Now if the rest of the family would eat them, everything might be a little easier, but not nearly as pretty or tasty.

Some “food” looks and tastes a lot like real food, but is so sorely lacking in nutrition I have to question its validity as a foodstuff.

My mom worked for much of my childhood. She was a nurse with a schedule that often left her little-to-no time to cook a real meal.

Occasionally we ate fast “food” which was usually fast indeed. Back then fast food never meant salads. The closest things to vegetables were the ketchup, onion, and pickles on our burgers, and I usually picked those off. Today’s fast-food options are only slightly better.

As a kid we feasted on TV dinners and frozen meals. The TV dinners could be kind of fun. They have the word, “TV,” in the name – it must be at least entertaining even if it’s not that good for me, right? And there were plenty of other non-TV frozen meals with such favorites as Stouffer’s Creamed Chicken over toast. Gotta love those spongy cube-shaped pieces of “chicken.” If you closed your eyes you could practically imagine you were eating space food. Once in a while, I even crave that creamy, chicken-flavored goop, but I think Stouffer’s stopped making it. Other standards included tuna casserole, oven-fried chicken, and pot pies. At least a few of those had veggies! But they were highly processed and loaded with salt and fat. Not the healthiest choices.

When Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice frozen dinners came along, we thought they were a bit of a luxury. Wow, not a zillion calories! See that orange sliver? That’s a carrot. Except I’m always left wondering why there aren’t more veggies. Frozen meals can be puny. They have a serving of protein, sauce, a starch or grain, and a small portion of veg. Doubling or even tripling the veg wouldn’t raise the caloric content by much and it would up both nutrition and satisfaction.

Even when my mom cooked a real meal, the veggies were usually from Green Giant and came in a plastic pouch that she’d “cook” in a pot of boiling water. It was all very ordinary. At least they were better than canned!

As a working mom today, I have a few more options. While there are even more frozen packaged meals, we hardly ever make these for dinner. They’re more often a work lunch than a family dinner. There’s just not that much food in them! We’re left wanting more. (See my sentence above about adding more veg.)

Plain, frozen veggies with no additives are often just as quick and easy as their sauce-covered, poly-bagged, microwavable counterparts, and I can make huge portions. We can eat real food instead of “food”!

For now I’m the one that’s left eating a lot of something that’s, maybe, not technically much like food. I love my meal-replacement protein shakes! I don’t mean I love the taste of them. And I sure don’t like how they look — thick green sludge anyone? But I love how easy they are to make and how packed with nutrition they can be. My favorite brand is Vega One as it’s one of the least yucky. I almost like how they taste. That’s a special kind of ringing endorsement there. But it’s packed with a good quality protein, veg, fiber, antioxidants, omega 3s, and a lot more. They’re super easy – as I use a shaker bottle with ice and water. I actually feel better during the day when I’ve had one for breakfast. When I “eat” them regularly my skin even feels better. It’s a kind of “food” not really food. It’s definitely ugly. But it’s good for me and works well with a busy schedule. Maybe I can even get the family to “eat” one occasionally.

So time-saving “food” can be good. Can be bad. And sometimes it’s what’s for dinner.

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