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Ramen Noodles Reinvented: Healthy and Budget Friendly

It seems the economy is in the news every day.  Who isn’t feeling the pinch of making our paychecks stretch further each week.  We are finding there are many things we can do without, but food isn’t one of them.


Many of us, after getting our first “grown-up money” job, stopped eating ramen noodles.  We could afford what we considered better.  Yet, in today’s economy, the college-budget meal may be an attractive option again. 


Instant ramen noodles were born of similar need in 1958.  Momofuki Ando invented them.  They were an answer to the food shortage Japan experienced following World War II. Fast forward to now, ramen noodles are a $1.6 billion market in the U.S. 


A recent poll by The Latest View gives some insights into why ramen noodles may be so popular. It was no surprise that people like ramen noodle dishes because they’re affordable.  It turns out that many find them to be a comforting meal as well.    


Everyone in the poll stated that they use the included flavor packets when making them at home.  Lauren, age 26, shared that she drains the water from her ramen noodles.  She serves them up with only the seasoning.  Her family has dubbed the dish “Oodles”.


A few people noted that the flavor packets weren’t quite enough.  They improved on the flavors with extra spices like curry powder.


The most popular brands of prepackaged ramen noodles are Maruchan and Top Ramen.  Though Josh, age 19, prefers Mike’s Mighty Good Craft Ramen Soup.  The Vegetarian Vegetable is his favorite flavor.


70% of the home cooks use add-ins.  The most popular item is eggs, particularly soft-boiled.  Other items mentioned are green onions, chicken, shrimp, and vegetables. 


Joe, age 26, likes to serve his with Katsu chicken.  It is a Japanese-style fried chicken coated with Panko breadcrumbs.


Most of the people in the poll had friends introduce them to ramen noodles.  Though a few, like Alyssa, age 18, said it was a meal her parents prepared. 


We learned that 80% of the people polled eat ramen noodles out.  Ramen noodle restaurants have become popular.  They provide a place to get together with friends while not breaking the bank to eat out.


If you’re looking for ramen noodle restaurants, there are a few to try in New Jersey.  Some of our pollsters recommended Rai Rai Ramen, Rayaki Ramen and Yummy Sushi.  Brandon, age 25, thinks Usagi is the best restaurant for Ramen.


So, ramen noodles are affordable.  They’re easy to make, being just a block of dried noodles that you rehydrate with boiling water.  The question is, can they be healthy?


By themselves, ramen noodles don’t offer much beyond calories.  That said, there are more healthy ramen noodle brands now than ever before.  Eat This, Not That! has a list of the 10 best ramens.  A dietician chose them.


Three things were taken into consideration for the list.  They have to be whole grain or whole wheat flour. They come with dehydrated vegetables.  They’ve got to be low in sodium and calories.  Their list of companies includes:  Immi, WhatIF Foods, Kinjabang, Lotus Foods, and Public Goods.


There is a difference between college dorm soup and a savory, health-conscious meal.  It is what you cook with the ramen noodles.  


To start with, nix the flavor packets in most prepackaged ramen noodles.  They tend to be high in salt.  Use fresh or dried herbs and spices.   They are less likely to send your blood pressure skyrocketing.


If you have time, make your own broth.  Short for time?  That’s not a problem.  There are plenty of healthy, premade broths available.


Your add-ins can increase how healthy your ramen noodles are too.  You can add lots of vegetables.  They’ll give you high nutrition while not being so calorically dense.  If you want to go with a particular type of dish, choose vegetables that compliment those flavors. 


Maybe you want a little Asian flare with your noodles.  You could use options like green onions, shitake mushrooms, and bok choy.  With so many vegetables and seasonings to choose from, you’ll find it difficult to run out of ideas.


Need to beef up your ramen noodles, (pun intended).  There are healthy protein choices as well.  Eggs, chicken, beef, and fish are popular.  If you prefer vegetarian use edamame or tofu.


With all the healthy options you can now enjoy ramen noodles guilt-free. You can make them at home or enjoy them as a low-cost meal out.  There are plenty of options, so your meals won’t get boring.  Someday we’ll all be back in a better financial state.  Until then, take comfort in a healthy, warm meal that makes your dollar stretch a little further.




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