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Why processed foods are still a popular choice for consumers

Processed, prepackaged foods can bring about a poor diet, but they remain to be a popular choice among many consumers, according to researchers.

Duke University and University of Minnesota researchers conducted a study examining the reasons why parents still buy the processed, prepackaged meals than the natural food choices.

They found that such food choices were preferred simply because of the less time, energy, and cooking skills required preparing the meal.

“Because of the convenience and marketing of prepackaged, processed meals, it is not entirely surprising that most parents buy frozen dinners to save time on preparation,” said Melissa Horning, PhD, RN, PHN.

Results of the study were more complex, however, considering that 57% of the surveyed parents acknowledged time saving as their reason for such a purchase.

Through a psychosocial survey, the researchers assessed parents’ motivation in purchasing the unhealthy options.

Findings showed that almost 49% of the participating parents stated purchasing ready meals since their families liked these meals.

One third, meanwhile, opted for processed foods because their children can help in preparation.

“If parents are not confident in their ability to cook, prepackaged, processed meals are an appealing but less nutritious option,” said Horning, lead author of the study. “Parental attributes of self-efficacy for cooking healthful meals and meal-planning ability are modifiable, however, and new research should confirm our findings and explore interventions to enhance parents’ skills and abilities.”

Over a quarter, or 27%, pinpointed to cost savings of prepackaged or processed meals, the study also revealed.

The researchers likewise discovered a connection between parents spending more hours per week at work and opting to buy frozen foods.

According to the study, choosing processed, prepackaged foods was also associated with less availability of vegetable and fruit, more availability of the less nutritious ones, and lower skills in meal-planning and cooking self-efficacy.

(Photo Credit: Didriks on flickr)

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