SUBSCRIBE

Breaking News on Food & Beverage Development - North AmericaEU edition | Asian edition

News > Markets

General Mills, ConAgra: Processed food is not the enemy

4 commentsBy Elaine WATSON , 10-Oct-2012
Last updated on 18-Oct-2012 at 17:38 GMT

General Mills, ConAgra: Processed food is not the enemy

Telling consumers - many of whom do not have the time, inclination or money to prepare meals from scratch - that they should steer clear of ‘processed’ foods and eat only ‘wholefoods’ instead, is unrealistic and unhelpful, according to dietitians at General Mills and ConAgra.

While the American diet would undoubtedly be improved if shoppers did buy more wholefoods, improving the nutritional profile of packaged products that large numbers of consumers actually eat may prove a more effective strategy, said Dr Susan Crockett, who leads General Mills’ Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition.

Speaking at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) in Philadelphia yesterday, Dr Crockett said this might mean replacing a percentage of refined white flour with wholegrain flour; reducing fat, sugar and sodium; and adding more fiber, vitamins or other healthful ingredients.

She added: “At General Mills, 65% of the foods we sell now contain fewer than 150 calories per serving.”

It feels like a mark of sophistication to castigate packaged foods  

Many frozen and canned prepared foods in particular are good value, convenient, portion-controlled, and a key source of nutrients from folate to potassium for many Americans, she added.

However, many health professionals still see processed foods as the enemy, she said.

“It feels like a mark of sophistication to castigate packaged foods, but we shouldn’t perpetuate the idea that all packaged foods are bad.”

Meanwhile, it is easy as a well-educated health professional to “view consumers through our own middle class and health centric lenses”, she cautioned, whereas research shows that only 30% of consumers are very motivated to improve their health and change their diet.

Getting real: It’s easy to view consumers through our own middle class and health centric lenses

Referring to consumer research revealing that what different shoppers define as ‘healthy’ varies widely, it is more important to “understand consumer attitudes, start with where consumers are and encourage incremental changes”, she said.

“Consumers are busy and many don’t prioritize nutrition and health.

“Consumer research we have done reveals that that 55% say they don’t have enough time, 26% say cooking is a chore, 57% don’t have enough money [to spend on food] and 46% are confused [about what is healthy].”

Rose-tinted glasses: It’s very tempting to be nostalgic about food habits of the past

While it is seductive to think that the days when we prepared everything from scratch were the ‘good old days’, turning back the clock is not the answer, she said.

“It’s very tempting to be nostalgic about food habits of the past, but we should remember that packaged foods have really liberated us and women in particular.

“A typical Mexican woman used to spend up to five hours a day just grinding grain and making tortillas. Packaged foods have allowed us unparalleled choice in not only our diets but the way we spend our time.”

It is also misleading to claim that the ‘processing’ that takes place in industrial food processing facilities is wildly different from what we might do at home to make comparable products, she said.

"What was once done by individuals is now done by food manufacturers but the processes are the same."

ConAgra: It’s a myth to say home cooked food is always more nutritious

ConAgra Foods made a similar case at a ‘myth-busting’ breakfast session on Sunday morning, in which nutrition manager Dr Kristin Reimers presented an analysis of the nutritional content of four of her firm’s frozen entrees with home-cooked equivalents.

This showed that sugar, fiber and protein levels were much the same, while saturated fat and sodium levels were lower in the ConAgra products.

Meanwhile, research shows that frozen ready meals could play a far bigger role in weight management programs, providing a more appealing and filling option at lunchtime than a bar or meal replacement shake and fewer calories, sodium and fat than many snacks and sandwiches, she said.

"They are rarely more than 450 calories, whereas NHANES data says the average for a meal is 660 calories."

They are also portion-controlled and generate no waste, she said.

“Yet so few RDs recommend frozen meals to clients.”

Subscribe to our FREE newsletter

Get FREE access to authoritative breaking news, videos, podcasts, webinars and white papers. SUBSCRIBE

4 comments (Comments are now closed)

Damaging Natural Food By adding artificially made ingredients

Keep The Natural Source SAFE. In early times we ate toffees,chocolate,drinks etc for enjoyment. But today our basic food i.e. wheat,grains,meat,poultry,fruits,vegetable etc which is essential for living is processed which result its natural composition, nutritional values,taste,flavor,aroma changes. Industry always assured you the quality until you dont eat it, believe me they dont maintain quality for your health it is just for their production and marketing they looking forward how they can earn! So your liver,stomach,heart,brain etc is not processed by the industry its a gift from the Nature. So its your responsibility to safe your system from artificially made things.

Report abuse

Posted by FOOD Lover
16 October 2012 | 23h29

GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD

OUR FOOD IN THE US IS HIDING BEHIND A DIRTY LITTLE SECRET WITHOUT CONSUMERS KNOWING THAT MOST OF WHAT IS ON THE SHELVES IN GROCERY STORES HAS BEEN GENETICALLY MODIFIED. IN EUROPE, GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS ARE LABELED AND SAY SO ON THE PRODUCT ITSELF. MANY OF THE PRODUCTS FROM THE USA ARE NOT WELCOMED FOR THIS REASON ALONE. CALIFORNIA WILL BE THE FIRST TO MANDATE GMO LABELING AND THE REST OF THE US WILL FOLLOW. IF THERE ISN'T ANYTHING WRONG WITH GMO'S WHY NOT LABEL THEM LIKE MOST OF THE REST OF THE WORLD DOES!I DON'T BUY OR EAT ANYTHING MADE IN THE USA UNLESS IT SAYS "NON GMO" OR "ORGANIC". I AM A HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL AND I EDUCATE CONSUMERS ON HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES. EVERYONE IS BEING EDUCATED ABOUT GMO'S AND ARE BEING TAUGHT TO BUY ONLY "ORGANIC" OR "NON GMO" PRODUCTS BECAUSE THESE ARE THE ONLY HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES ON OUR SHELVES.

Report abuse

Posted by Constance Linnet Lambeth-Dimitrijevic
13 October 2012 | 16h55

RE: DJ

per your comment...see www.allerenergy.com NO gluten, corn, sulfites, soy, additives.

Report abuse

Posted by tom a.
13 October 2012 | 15h38

Read all comments (4)

Key Industry Events

 

Access all events listing

Our events, Events from partners...