Why do some parents choose pre-packaged meals?

May be linked to poor cooking skills
  • Deborah Condon

Saving time is not the only reason why parents opt to buy pre-packaged, processed meals, a new study has found.

Processed foods are known to be higher in calories, saturated fat, salt and sugar compared to natural foods, yet they remain a popular option for many. US researchers set out to examine the reasons why parents choose to buy these products.

They found that while saving time was the most popular reason, there were a number of other reasons also.

Altogether, 57% of parents said that they chose these products because of the time saved, however, 49% said that they bought them because their families really liked the meals.

Around 33% said that they chose the products because their children could help prepare them, while 27% said they cost less.

"Because of the convenience and marketing of pre-packaged, processed meals, it is not entirely surprising that most parents buy frozen dinners to save time on preparation," the researchers acknowledged.

However, they believe that the other reasons given show that this area is complex. For example, parents who opt to buy these products because ‘they are easy for my child to prepare', probably have poor cooking skills themselves.

The researchers expressed concern that people who regularly choose these products tend to consume less nutritious foods overall, such as fruit and vegetables. They also tend to have poorer cooking skills and poor meal-planning abilities.

"If parents are not confident in their ability to cook, prepackaged, processed meals are an appealing but less nutritious option. However, parental attributes of self-efficacy for cooking healthy meals and meal-planning ability are modifiable, and new research should confirm our findings and explore interventions to enhance parents' skills and abilities," the researchers said.

Details of these findings are published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.



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