Ready meals may not be the best for you, or the Earth

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In a study from the University of Aberdeen, scientists found that ready meals are not only not as nutritious as home-cooked meals, but also have a higher carbon footprint.

There are many reasons why people might opt for a ready meal over a home-cooked one. Ready meals are very popular, due to the lack of time for cooking and varying mealtimes.

In the current study, researchers aimed to examine whether ready meals and equivalent home-cooked meals differ in nutritional quality indicators, greenhouse gas emissions, and cost.

They performed an analysis of meal data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) nutrient databank (2018/19).

They also analyzed the nutrient composition, cost, and cooking-related GHGE and compared 54 ready meals and equivalent home-cooked meals.

The researchers found ready meals, overall and those that were animal-based, had much higher levels of sugar compared with equivalent home-cooked meals

Animal-based ready meals had much higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions, whereas the cost of ready meals, overall, was much higher compared with equivalent home-cooked meals.

Animal-based meals, whether ready meals or equivalent homemade meals, had much higher levels of protein, contained much more calories, had much higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and were much more expensive, compared with plant-based meals.

The team found overall, plant-based meals home-cooked on a gas or electric stove had the lowest greenhouse gas emissions and cost, whereas animal-based oven-cooked ready meals had the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions and were most expensive.

Based on the findings, the team concludes that ready meals have lower nutritional quality and higher greenhouse gas emissions and are more expensive than equivalent home-cooked meals, especially those meals that are animal-based and prepared in an oven.

The study was conducted by Magaly Aceves Martins et al and published in Public Health Nutrition.

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