Healthy, easy meals could win the day

05/18/2012 09:13:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

Vicky Boyd, Staff WriterThe message that fruits and vegetables are healthy and you should eat more of them seems to have fallen on deaf ears, if consumer actions are any indication.

During the past decade, per-capita vegetable consumption has remained relatively flat, according to a recent report from Rabobank’s Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory group.

That’s in spite of a 2010 survey by the Produce Marketing Association that found most consumers ranked eating healthier as the top reason for purchasing fruits and vegetables.

Where Rabobank sees potential growth for the vegetable industry is in the marriage of health and convenience in value-added products, such as salad kits and microwave-in-a-bag vegetables.

“We see both health and convenience as the main two drivers for the next five years of growth,” said Karen Halliburton Barber, Fresno, Calif.-based assistant vice president and senior agricultural analyst for the Rabobank advisory group.

“If grower-shippers haven’t entered into the value-added arena, they may want to consider doing so.”

The report also predicted opportunities if healthy convenience is melded with new flavors or cultural preferences.

Weight watching

Rabobank’s report is timely and coincided with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Weight of the Nation Conference, May 7-9, in Washington, D.C.

At that meeting, Duke University researchers predicted that 42% of the U.S. population will be obese by 2030, up from 36% in 2010.

Put into hard numbers, that could mean 32 million more obese people by 2030 on top of the current 78 million.

(The CDC considers a person obese if their body mass index — which factors in height and weight — is 30 or higher. A person is considered overweight with a BMI of 25-29.9.)

Following on the heels of the conference was the four-part HBO mini-series “The Weight of the Nation,” which aired May 14 and 15.

Among the many themes of the special were weight loss, eating better, moving more and an attack on much of the food system.

Rabobank’s report also comes at a time when more women than ever are working outside the household.

Although many of these women say they want to make healthy meals for their families, they’re pressed for time.

It may be easier to go through the drive-through and pick up a bag of burgers or a bucket of chicken than to come home empty handed to face, “I’m hungry. What’s for dinner?”


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Andrea Chavez    
Arroyo Grande  |  May, 21, 2012 at 05:37 PM

The extra time it takes to eat healthy comes in the planning stage not necessarily in preparation. If families have washed and stored leaves of romaine and/or other leaf lettuce in their refrigerators, ready to use, making a fresh salad each night for dinner would be a snap. Salad kits containing dressings are usually high in calories (even the “light” ones that have small serving sizes) and are not necessarily “healthy.” Having a pound of fresh snap peas or broccoli crowns on hand and microwaving them for 4-5 minutes is fast and easy. To have defrosted chicken or fish in the fridge ready to cook when you get home takes some thought in the morning. When I had a young family, I planned a 2 week menu and made sure I had all the ingredients in house ready to make (or made in advance) one of my 10-14 dinner recipes before baseball or soccer practices. Eating healthy and being healthy has to be important to people. It has to be a priority to the person in the family who cooks. I believe convenience comes from planning and being prepared, not from packaged produce items (at least not for me and my family).

Jennie Franceschi    
Manjimup Western Australia  |  May, 22, 2012 at 06:34 PM

You are right Andrea that you have to plan to eat healthy. I think the hardest thing for today's active woman is actually thinking about what to cook. Rather than just pretty convenient packaging I would think menu plans of quick, easy, tasty and healthy food that focuses on what's in season would probably work better. In season will make it cheaper and everyone is budget conscious these days and readily available. They need to be really simple as people don't like following complex recipes and they need to be meals that you can whip up really quickly. Faster than getting into your car and drive to a fast food restaurant. Education is the only way you will get a change, so it needs to be targeted to make people think it is worth the effort to plan.

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