We always hear about the processed foods we should avoid (which is most of them), but we rarely highlight the processed foods that can make healthy eating a lot more convenient.
Below are 20 convenience foods I frequently have on-hand for use in healthy homemade meals.
25 Good-For-You Convenience Foods
In the pantry…
1. Jarred tomatoes – just like canned, but in a jar so you can avoid BPA (a toxic component found in the lining of cans).
2. Jarred pasta sauce – look for an organic sauce that’s low in sugar and fairly low in sodium.
3. Tomato paste – look for it in a tube, so you can more easily save extra in the fridge.
4. Chicken or veggie broth – look for organic, boxed broths, preferably low-sodium.
6. Canned beans – I actually recommend beans in a Tetra Pak, in order to avoid the BPA often found in cans.
7. Dried fruit – Raisins, prunes, pineapple rings, peaches, apricots and dates are my favorites.
8. Quick oats – just as nutritious as old-fashioned oats but cook much faster.
9. Quick-cooking whole grains – par-cooked brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, whole wheat couscous.
10. Nut butter packets – Use in dressings, oatmeal, smoothies, baked goods, or spread onto fresh fruit.
11. Seaweed snacks – check ingredients lists & avoid brands that include MSG (monosodium glutamate).
12. Whole grain cereal – here are 35 good choices & tips on how to pick out a healthy cereal.
13. Whole wheat bread or pita – look for the shortest ingredients lists: flour, yeast and salt is all it takes to make bread.
In the fridge…
14. Pre-washed salad greens – Too many uses to list, and all you have to do is open the container!
15. Plain yogurt – add your own sweetness with fruit, honey or maple syrup if needed; use in recipes or on top of savory foods.
16. String cheese – easy source of on-the-go protein and calcium
17. Hummus – Sabra even sells individual hummus cups if you want hummus-on-the-go.
18. Miso paste – Just like broth/bouillon, miso boosts the flavor of soups, sauces, dressings and cooked grains.
19. Tofu – Turn the firm kind into a scramble or roast it with veggies; blend the soft kind into smoothies & dressings.
20. Jarred olives – For snacking or use in recipes – or blend into a dressing or sauce for a flavorful bite.
21. Fresh herb tubes – Gourmet Garden’s fresh blended herbs are packed into tubes that last up to 3 months – and they’re organic.
In the freezer…
22. Frozen veggies – From kale to pepper strips to corn on the cob – everything now comes frozen!
23. Frozen fruit – Great for smoothies, sauces, blending into plain yogurt, and baked goods.
24. Frozen pureed squash – Stir into mac & cheese, pasta sauce, tacos, or bake in muffins/quick breads.
25. Edamame – In the shell are great for snacking; already-shelled can be tossed into salads, pastas, or blended into dips.
If you’re feeling confused about whether a processed food is healthy or not, think about which of these categories the food falls into:
- Food you could make at home (with ingredients from a normal store): hummus, bread, peanut butter, cheese, yogurt, frozen fruit, beans, canned tomatoes, etc.
- Food you could not make at home (because the ingredients are not used in home kitchens or not available to the public): Cocoa Puffs, Cheetos, Cool Whip, Skittles, etc.
It’s the food you could make at home, with time and effort, that is generally much healthier.