It is not unusual to see a mother, housewife or even a housekeeper eating leftovers the next day or sometimes for several days. During my stay in USA, I turned into one- a leftover hogger! I disguised this habit under being lazy, busy and not willing to cook everyday for myself! Apart from losing quality of freshness, leftovers are 50% less nutritious than fresh food despite of being refrigerated. Leftovers have been one of the major reasons for gaining weight among women than men. Besides poor nutritional quality, leftovers are at a higher risk of food poisoning chances than any other foods.
The quality of leftovers depend a lot on the geographic location, climatic situations, method of cooking, method of storage, time of cooking, time between cooking and storage and the quality of ingredients used. Natural food alters with heat treatment at every level. First of all, when the food is cooked, it looses some of its nutrients like the vit C and Vit B complex since they are highly susceptible and other vital micronutrients. Once the food is cooked, it undergoes many chemical reactions with other ingredients that are unnoticeable by human eye. We either relish all the food cooked at one go or we store the remains for future use. When we consume the leftovers next day, firstly we have to defrost the food if the food was frozen, and then reheat to desirable temperature. During this de freeze and re heat process, the food loses additional nutritional value due to heat treatment. Many of us do not know the requirements for proper refrigeration, that is food should be refrigerated within 2 – 3 hours of cooking and the temperature of the fridge should always be below 40 F or 00 C . No doubt the food may have the same taste as yesterday or may even get better, but in the bargain of taste and preventing wastage, we compromise on the nutritional value, the major reason why we should be eating food!
It is a very common practice to pre prepares sauces, curries, and gravies before hand and store in order to save time. What we fail to realize is bulk cooking requires more fat since it has to be stored and sometimes we add additional fat upon re heating to retain the texture. Mood plays an important role in the quality of digestion. Many a times leftovers not elite the mood of the consumer as the fresh food does. Many of us add junk like chips to add more flavors to the food. Also, if I know there is food in the fridge, I will land up eating irrespectively!
The least we can do is ensure, someone is not eating leftovers due to our food swings! There are many ways you can help your mother, wife from eating the leftovers, or even help you:
1) Always confirm whether you are having dinner at home or no.
2) If you are attending a party, confirm the number of people from your family in advance.
3) Try not to be moody during food time that can affect your food intake.
4) If you are the cook, take some time and effort to understand eating patters of your family members. It will help you judge their intake.
5) Do not cook in advance to save time or out of laziness. Yes, I agree time is an important factor these days. However, look for cooking tools and devices that can make cooking easy and fast for you.
6) If you live in a tropical region, or on an island where humidity is persistent, it is best in your favor never to eat the leftovers. Humidity magnifies spoilage.
7) Look for food spoilage signs in the food. Sometimes texture and flavor remain the same while the food is chemically spoilt. For example, if the food has started leaving water, it is unsafe for consumption.
8) Encourage your mother, wife to eat healthy and freshly cooked food. After all her health will determine the health of your family!