06/03/2013 18:59 GMT | Updated 05/05/2013 06:12 BST

Horse-Gate: Why it's Time We Ate Less Processed Foods

The old adage says you are what you eat, but what if you don't actually know what you're eating? Since the grim discovery that selected beef products in the UK's leading supermarkets contained up to 100% horse meat, a number of other ready meals and fresh beef products have been taken off the shelves after being found likely to also contain traces of horse.

This is an alarming discovery that raises the question - how many of us really know what is in the food we're eating?

Over the last 30 years, our lifestyles and eating habits have changed dramatically. Our fast-paced lives and desire for instant gratification means the sales of processed foods and ready meals has soared.

It's estimated that 70% of the food we buy from the supermarket is processed compared to 30% of food 30 years ago. You only have to step into any supermarket to see the proliferation of ready meals, packet foods and processed foods in comparison to fresh, natural whole foods to realise that this is true.

In the 21st Century, convenience definitely seems to be king. But as the recent horse-gate scandal appears to show, the pressure on manufacturers to produce huge quantities of food at low cost means they sometimes cut corners. This means many foods may be manufactured in substandard conditions, with negligent regulation or safety checking.

While what goes into these foods is beyond our control, what goes into our bodies is.

It's time to take a step back from our 'fresh' beef sauces and £1 lasagnes, and take more control over what we're eating.

Obviously consumers are entirely blame-free in the recent horse contamination scandal, but it just goes to show that we may not always be able to trust what's on the ingredients list. That is if we even look at it.

We wouldn't need to worry about this if we prepared more meals from scratch. When you take the time to cook you have the satisfaction of knowing exactly what you're eating without the need for additives (or horse meat) to make it taste good.

While many argue that home cooking is more expensive and time-consuming; the cost to your health of eating a predominantly processed diet is even greater.

Take for example the Findus Beef Lasagne that was recently pulled from supermarket shelves. There are an alarming 34 ingredients listed on the packaging including colourants, sugar and only 25% minced beef. Yet if you were to make a similar meal at home, you would only need around nine ingredients. Yes it may cost a bit more than £1.29 and can't be nuked in the microwave in less than five minutes, but knowing exactly what you're feeding yourself and your family? Priceless.