All-Natural Vegetarian Non-Refrigerated Convenience Foods
June 29, 2015 7 Comments
This is not a sponsored post. This is a recommendation of products I tried and liked.
Daniel and I try to make enough real, from-scratch, healthy food that I (working in an office) can take leftovers for my lunch every day and he (working at home) can get something ready to eat within a few minutes rather than spend time cooking at lunchtime. It works out better at some times than others. In the past year, with the additional distractions of getting our baby daughter ready to go each day, I’ve had more days when I didn’t have time to pack a lunch, couldn’t spare the attention to figure out what leftovers were available, or wasn’t able to carry a lunch because I was bringing something to work (like dish detergent) and there’s a limit to what I can carry along with Lydia and all her gear as we commute by bus! I was grabbing Trader Joe’s meals from our freezer sometimes and eating in restaurants much more often than normal. I like restaurants, but at $6-$9 per lunch, that gets expensive!
One day I was buying some milk for my coffee and mixed nuts for snacking at the CVS store half a block from work when I noticed a sale on foods in pouches and noticed that many of these were vegetarian foods. I took a closer look and saw surprisingly unobjectionable ingredients.
When I looked up further information on Jyoti Foods, I learned that their products are GMO-free! No worries about that soybean oil. They’re also gluten-free and peanut-free, which is not an issue for me but good news for my allergic friends. Furthermore, Jyoti Foods are made in Philadelphia; I live in Pittsburgh, so they’re not traveling very far to get to me, which reduces their environmental impact.
Tasty Bite products, on the other hand, are made in India. The factory uses 80% renewable energy, and the company is doing many socially responsible things. Still, I try to resist eating food that’s been shipped around the world.
More importantly, I didn’t like the Tasty Bite foods I tried–in addition to the Mushroom Lo Mein shown, I tried the Toasted Sesame Noodles and Madras Lentils. All of them were edible but disappointing.
Jyoti Foods are more to my taste. They’re not quite as good as freshly cooked Indian food, but they’re still something I can look forward to eating. In addition to the Masala Chhole and Channa Dal shown, I really like the Mung Dal: plenty of fresh-tasting ginger! My only complaint is that all of these meals have an intense onion/garlic aftertaste–so I chew gum or brush my teeth after lunch!
These pouches have Nutrition Facts written as if you were sharing the pouch with another person or two. As a nursing mom with a fast metabolism, I just eat the whole thing. That gives me an impressive serving of protein, but it also means a lot of sodium. I have low blood pressure, so I’m not too concerned! Notice, in the photo of the Masala Chhole package, the suggestion to spread out the salt with rice or bread–I’ve sometimes managed to bring leftover unsalted rice or plain yogurt to eat with one of these pouches, and that’s a good idea. If you are looking for a convenient workplace lunch, but you don’t want the calories or sodium of a full pouch, you could close it up (binder clips, found in most offices, are perfect for this) and refrigerate until the next day.
What about those plastic pouches? Not biodegradable, not recyclable, made from irreplaceable petroleum, and we’re not supposed to put hot or oily foods in contact with plastic because of the possibility of harmful chemicals leaching into food…. Well, here’s some semi-reassuring research on that, and I don’t microwave the food in the pouch (Jyoti warns not to do that, anyway, because their pouches contain an aluminum layer) but put it into a ceramic bowl. Still, eating one of these entrees leaves me with a hunk of plastic to throw away. It’s less trash than many fast-food places serve with many meals–when I eat in restaurants, I choose the ones with minimal packaging–but it’s something to consider.
Each pouch costs about $3, so they’re not super-cheap but cost less than a restaurant lunch.
I’m not about to start eating Jyoti Foods pouches every workday! But as an emergency back-up food, I think they’re pretty good. Because the packaging keeps the food fresh for two years, I can keep a few pouches on hand without needing to fake an emergency lunch just to prevent them from spoiling. 🙂
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