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25 Convenience Foods That Are Good For You

processed foods

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.

5. Canned salmon or tuna – Use in salads, sandwiches, burgers, pasta, or this easy ceviche.

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 cerealhere 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:

  1. Food you could make at home (with ingredients from a normal store): hummus, bread, peanut butter, cheese, yogurt, frozen fruit, beans, canned tomatoes, etc.
  2. 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.

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