The Problem with Convenience Foods & What to Do About It

The NUMBER ONE thing I get asked about from PFAPA families (and often adult clients as well) is convenience and packaged foods. Primarily this is what the child’s entire diet is generally made of when they come to me. Not only the child but most of the time the entire family (and adults). It is the HARDEST thing for families to let go of. However, those are THE THINGS that caused the imbalances with the children or adults to start with. 

This isn’t uncommon as you can tell by my description, and I often have to replay this information so I decided I might as well share it here to help YOU understand what is WRONG with convenience foods.

1- They are highly processed.

When families come in they are buying the cheapest bulk packs from their local store they can get in general. These are SUGAR FILLED (man-made sugars, or even natural “alternatives”), and they are filled with other additives for shelf life, high carbs of NO value (because it’s all sugar), and no other nutritional value (no healthy fats, very little if any protein, and no vitamins or minerals).

These are often not made from just nature and whole food. However, there is an occasional item that comes in a package that does have some macronutrient balance and has some vitamins and minerals. These would be something of a choice to do when traveling or occasional treats. Anything from a package, like chips, for example, should NEVER replace a whole food item of choice. Meaning you can just as easily grab a banana off your counter and eat that as a snack than dump a bunch of chips into a bowl. And amazingly enough bananas, apples, and most fruits travel just as easily as a bag of chips. The same thing for nuts, it’s very easy to transport nuts and some unsweetened dried fruit for a snack. Just as easy as a bag of cookies. BUT SO MUCH HEALTHIER FOR YOUR BODY.

2- Convenience foods have no nutritional value

What is nutritional value? That means it has vitamins, minerals, and a ratio of macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) that are beneficial for body function. 

The POINT OF EATING is to provide the proper nutrients for your body to stay healthy. That means have proper immunity, be able to move, and not have chronic disease, and having limited acute illness (colds, flu etc). There is NO other point to eating. Do we enjoy it? Yes, we do and we should, however, the point isn’t for us to feel treated at every turn by food. The point of eating is to properly fuel our bodies to keep us alive and healthy.

Therefore, there is no point in consuming something that has no nutritional value, and often then in return creates imbalance due to the lack of value and chemicals and additives.

Nutritional Therapy doesn’t focus on convenience foods and what you can eat out of a box or bag. 

One thing that still surprises me is that so many people continue to ask for my approval on packages of food. My answer will always be to make it from whole food. This is how our bodies get the most impactful nutrition. It is how we get rid of imbalances that were created by eating convenience empty calories (no value). 

It is entirely possible to live without convenience food while working multiple jobs, caring for children, and functioning in today’s society. I know this because I LIVE this. 

I work two jobs, my husband works a full-time job, I have a child with a high needs diet that is very specific for his condition (PFAPA). Yet I am still able to make this happen. It is about mindset and willingness. Learn about food prep hangups (the real reason that people say they CANNOT live without convenience foods) here.

What can we do about this instead?

I have written about making real food easier for kids here, I have written about how to start cooking with real food here, and food prep hang-ups.

1- Change your mindset about food.

You need to come to the conclusion that FOOD is the way your child feels better, stops episodes, develops better immunity, and grows properly. There is NO OTHER WAY to make those things happen. NONE. FOOD IS THE THING that does that. Anything that isn’t real food, does not help you fulfill these pieces of your child’s life. 

So the next time you go to grab a convenience food off the shelf and look at those ingredients to see think to yourself – is this nutritional relevant to helping my child’s body have proper immunity and growth? If the answer is geez I am not sure, and maybe there is something better (or you KNOW there is), then set it back down, adjust your mindset and grab the REAL FOOD item.

Real food isn’t inconvenient, it’s just different. You need to determine what real foods you can make convenient in your lifestyle. It’s possible. And it will change with time and as your child ages. I know this again because I live this. 

2- Food prep & meal planning

If you want to have combination foods like little snack bites etc. you need to food prep. You must plan your snacks out for the week and make the batch at once. You must plan out the real meats you want to eat for the week and prep them ahead for the days and times you know you cannot cook on site. You need to plan ahead to pack a lunch for work, bring enough water or water bottles with you to work or to school for your child. 

Know exactly what you are going to cook for dinner daily and what your child needs to stay healthy. Be sure that every day has a variety of THE ITEMS your child needs.

If you don’t know what your child needs – that is what I am here for. Please make a consult appointment and we can talk about what nutritional therapy can offer your family.

So the next time you are considering hitting up the grocery store to refill your pantry with bags and boxes, consider the real foods you need to make meals for the week. Tell yourself that this is ESSENTIAL for the LIFE of your child (or your own!). It is that CRITICAL.

Every time I am tired, every time I feel like just sitting around watching Netflix or something else of interest and it’s approaching meal time I remind myself we will have BIGGER problems if I don’t get up and spend 30 minutes cooking. I will have to take time off of work for a PFAPA episode, he will miss school for an episode, we will need another COVID test because he has a fever and cannot go to school without a negative, and the list goes on and on. Those things are FAR MORE TIME than the 30 minutes to cook a real food dinner that night.

So my message here is convenient foods are ANYTHING BUT convenient. They lead to body imbalances, poor immunity, chronic health issues, and missed live events. The only way to avoid them is to eat real food and MAKE IT your convenience food.