The human race is always searching for an easier, more convenient solution to life's daily tasks. This quest has led to a number of modern marvels in all areas, but the kitchen may be the greatest beneficiary. Now, any give home might be equipped with appliances ranging from the standards, like the refrigerator and microwave oven, to the chic, like the home rotisserie and ice cream maker. Food products have followed suit – since the 1950's, the prepackaged TV dinner has become a favorite among busy parents and college students alike.

But where the microwave dinner has excelled in convenience, it has perhaps lacked for quality. Often, these meals are heavily salted and include unhealthy additives in order to preserve the food. However, recent information suggests that Americans are consuming fewer prepackaged food items. Meanwhile, some innovators are pushing for more wholesome TV dinners using local ingredients.

Packaged sweets consumption is falling
The U.S. has the dubious reputation as one of fattest nations on the planet. But a new study indicates that trend may be on the decline. According to a report published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, U.S. consumers are buying 24 percent fewer packaged cakes, cookies and other desserts than they did in 2005, Fox News reported.

These food items contain high levels of sugar and saturated fats, which are unhealthy additives, without any nutritional benefits. Despite the increased availability of healthy ingredients and focus on nutrition, packaged sweets have remained largely unchanged during the period.

"The results of this study indicated that larger wide-scale efforts are needed among public health officials and all manufacturers of [ready-to-eat grain-based desserts] to shift consumer purchases towards products with lower energy, sugar, and saturated fat content," explained Dr. Kevin Mathias, who led the study.

Without regulations from the Food and Drug Administration restricting the level of sugars and fats, these desserts are unlikely to become any healthier. But the declining consumption is a good sign and may force the industry to reconsider their products' unhealthy aspects.

Former food executive hopes to reinvent the TV dinner
Rob Povolny abandoned his career as sales director for a food ingredients company in order to pursue an idea he had been nurturing for months, according to Tampa Bay Business Journal. The idea is called Eat Fresco – a prepackaged meal company with healthy, local ingredients at its heart.

"There's this disconnect between what food manufacturers and retailers provide and what consumers want," Povolny told the Business Journal. "There's a lot of skepticism about food out there. A lot of prepackaged meals just aren't very good."

In order to provide wholesome ingredients, Povolny had to work with trusted vendors. He uses a variety of farms and suppliers across the country for proteins, produce and grains. True to TV dinner fashion, the entrees microwave in two minutes or less.

Eat Fresco is undergoing review from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Povolny hopes for a January release. The microwave dinners could prove that healthy food doesn't have to be expensive, and tasty dinners don't have to be a challenge to prepare. It remains to be seen how the product will fare – but with consumers focused more on health and ingredients, it stands to reason that the venture will be successful.

Hospitality and restaurant industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, leaders in food service equipment financing. Marlin is a nationwide provider of equipment financing solutions supporting equipment suppliers and manufacturers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.