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The way to Select Wholesome Packaged Meals

Longstanding vitamin recommendation tells us that we must always persist with the perimeter of grocery shops (the place the contemporary meals is) and keep away from the whole lot within the middle aisles. Typically talking, that is stable recommendation – however there are a selection of wholesome packaged meals all through the grocery aisles we will use to complement our house cooking.

Our culinary vitamin graduates all over the world give attention to instructing their communities how you can prepare dinner easy meals, condiments and staples from scratch, together with suggestions and methods like batch cooking or kitchen hacks to enable you to put together meals faster.

Typically, although, it may be further difficult to make meals and work or college lunches with no little further assist, which is the place rigorously curating wholesome packaged meals comes into play.

There are a selection of the explanation why somebody would possibly select meals in packages, together with:

Let’s discuss wholesome packaged meals, what to search for and what to keep away from within the grocery store aisles.

Wholesome Packaged Meals: Label Sleuthing Suggestions

Extremely processed meals that don’t help our wellbeing far outweigh the choices for wholesome packaged meals. To make sure you’re deciding on a product that’s health-supportive and meets your vitamin targets, step one is to start out studying meals labels.

Whereas standard nutritionists have a tendency to emphasise energy or grams of fats, culinary vitamin knowledge is about wanting on the ingredient lists on merchandise to find out what is definitely within the meals we’re consuming and if these elements are helpful to our well being and wellness. Skip the vitamin info panel and have a look at the elements as a substitute.

Some issues to keep away from when shopping for pre-packaged meals embody:

When buying wholesome packaged meals, search for:

  • Easy ingredient lists. A brief ingredient checklist doesn’t all the time imply a product is wholesome, however usually restricted elements implies that you’ll be consuming fewer of the elements talked about above.
  • Entire elements. Search for complete, unprocessed elements. For instance, search for complete, crushed, dried or chopped fruit and veggies in packaged meals versus their powders, which have undergone much more processing and stripping of their vitamins.
  • BPA-Free. Search for this label on canned or plastic items. Glass jars are additionally a superb choice to keep away from BPA.
  • Non-GMO. Buy packaged meals that aren’t made with genetically modified elements.
  • Natural. This ensures there shall be no artificial pesticides, GMOs and fewer heavy metals, plus natural farming is best for animals and the setting. Word: natural doesn’t all the time equal wholesome – natural cookies are nonetheless cookies!
  • Wild. If buying canned fish, intention for wild choices somewhat than farmed.
  • Grass-fed. If buying animal merchandise, we search for natural and grass-fed choices.
  • Low to reasonable sodium. Salt is a really efficient preservative, but many packaged meals comprise a great deal of white desk salt, which is detrimental to our well being. Search for wholesome packaged meals which can be low in sodium – you’ll be able to all the time add higher varieties of salt whenever you prepare dinner and serve your meals.

Labels can undoubtedly be complicated – extra recommendation on how you can keep away from being fooled by the label right here. Yow will discover particular suggestions on what to search for in wholesome packaged meals under!

Finest Wholesome Packaged Meals

Canned Fish

Sardines, salmon, anchovies and herring are a few of our favorite anti-inflammatory, omega 3-rich fish. Should you’re maintaining a healthy diet on a price range, sardines are cheap and are incredible in salads, on gluten-free toast or with roasted veggies. Discover extra canned fish recipes right here.

What to Look For: Fish packed in water or olive oil and sea salt.

What to Keep away from: Resulting from mercury issues, we solely have canned tuna as a really occasional deal with.

Frozen Berries

Best Healthy Packaged Foods

Berries are flash frozen on the peak of freshness when they’re picked and are wealthy in fibre, antioxidants, and immune-supportive Vitamin C.

What to Keep away from: Most frozen berries or berry mixes ought to solely comprise berries – there actually shouldn’t be any preservatives.

Plain Frozen Greens

Just like fruits, frozen greens are frozen when they’re contemporary and are great tossed into soups, dinner bowls and even smoothies.

What to Look For: Non-GMO greens with single elements – eg. carrots, or carrots, peas and broccoli in case you are shopping for a vegetable medley. If you’re being selective about organics, reference the soiled dozen checklist to know which natural greens to buy. You can too discover pre-shredded frozen cauliflower rice or spiralized veggie noodles lately; there isn’t something flawed with these choices however they are going to be way more costly.

What to Keep away from: Veggies which were pre-roasted after which frozen (they don’t style nice).

Nuts and Seeds

Whether or not shopping for in bulk or in small packages, nuts and seeds are great plant-based sources of protein and are wealthy in nutritious fat, nutritional vitamins and fibre.

What to Look For: Uncooked, natural or unsalted.

What to Keep away from: Roasted nuts, because the fat in nuts and seeds can go rancid when uncovered to warmth, gentle and air. It’s higher to toast or roast them your self. Additionally keep away from any unhealthy cooking oils, which could be added to roasted nuts.

Gluten-Free Grains

How to cook grains

Plain gluten-free grains comparable to rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet, sorghum, teff and amaranth are good for aspect dishes, burritos, in stir-fries or different one-pot meals, or to bulk up veggie burgers. Discover ways to optimally prepare dinner them (no extra mushy grains!).

What to Look For: Single ingredient grains.

What to Keep away from: Packaged rice with seasoning packets, as these usually comprise pure flavours, extra sodium, unhealthy oils, and MSG.


A morning staple, oats can be utilized to make each candy and savory oatmeal, baked oatmeal, granola and gluten-free baked goodies. Plus you’ll be able to use them to make oat milk.

What to Look For: Entire oats, both metal reduce, fast cooking or rolled.

What to Keep away from: Most instantaneous oatmeal packets, although some are higher than others. Be careful for pure flavours, colors and preservatives. If you’re gluten-intolerant or are celiac, buy licensed gluten-free oats.

Gluten-Free Pasta

Gluten-free pasta is a superb pantry staple – when cooking with it, we like to make use of much less pasta and cargo it up with nutrient-dense veggies.

What to Look For: There are numerous varieties and shapes of gluten-free pasta, together with these made with rice, quinoa, corn, chickpeas, black beans, lentils and extra. Any of those are good choices relying in your choice. Most pastas needs to be created from a grain/bean and water.

What to Keep away from: Mono and diglycerides, which comprise trans fat.

Dried Fruit

Wealthy in fibre and nice for digestion, dried fruits add oomph and flavour to baked items, smoothie bowls, or could be used as a pure sweetener.

What to Look For: Single ingredient dried fruit, or dried fruit sweetened with applesauce.

What to Keep away from: Sulphites, flour, canola and/or sunflower oil (the previous prevents discolouration, the latter prevents the fruit from sticking collectively), and added sugars.

Beans – Canned and Dried

Healthy Packaged Foods

Beans and legumes are a beautiful approach so as to add extra fibre, nutritional vitamins and protein to your food regimen and they are often added to a variety of dishes.

What to Look For: If buying cooked beans, select BPA-free containers and examine labels for sodium ranges. If shopping for dried, the one factor listed needs to be the particular bean or legume within the package deal.

What to Keep away from: Refried or baked beans that comprise added unhealthy cooking oils, preservatives and refined sugars.

Tomatoes and Tomato Paste

Tomatoes are a superb supply of cancer-preventative lycopene and are a flexible kitchen ingredient, nice in pasta sauce, on pizza, in salsa and different condiments, soups, or stews. Tomato paste provides a wealthy flavour and thickens up the feel of your dishes.

Should you all the time find yourself losing tomato paste, do that culinary hack to put it aside!

What to Look For: Tomatoes or tomato paste in BPA-free cans or glass jars.

What to Keep away from: Canned tomatoes with further seasonings comparable to yeast extract (MSG) or pure flavours.

Darkish Chocolate

When made with high quality elements, chocolate generally is a nutritious addition to your food regimen. It’s one among our favorite wholesome pre-packaged meals!

What to Look For: Optimally, natural and fair-trade chocolate. If that isn’t accessible, intention for the darkest chocolate yow will discover – the darker it’s, the much less sugar it would have.

What to Keep away from: Milk chocolate, darkish chocolate with milk elements, synthetic flavours, soy lecithin, synthetic colors/meals dyes.

Path Combine

Usually a mix of nuts, seeds, dried fruit and chocolate, path mixes make an incredible snack whenever you’re on the go.

What to Look For: Plain path mixes with fruit and nuts/seeds – uncooked nuts/seeds in case you can, natural, unsalted.

What to Keep away from: Canola oil, soybean oil, sulphites, hydrogenated oils, milk elements or modified elements, sugar, icing sugar, corn syrup, or different refined sugars, pure flavours, synthetic colors, shellac. You probably have a peanut allergy, look ahead to peanuts.

Nut/Seed Butters

How to Make Nut and Seed Butter

Other than being supremely tasty, nut and seed butters are excessive in protein, important fat, antioxidants and fibre. Should you’d prefer to study extra about them and dip your toes into making your personal, seize our information to creating and flavouring nut and seed butters at house.

What to Look For: Plain nut and seed butters with solely the nut/seed, salted or unsalted.

What to Keep away from: Hydrogenated oils, canola oil, palm oil, added sugars.

Gluten-Free Flours

Good for gluten-free baking, bread, crackers, breakfast meals, thickening soups and stews, or dredging fish or different animal merchandise, we love having a wide range of gluten-free flours within the pantry. Get our Gluten-Free Flour Information and Substitution Reference right here.

What to Look For: Single ingredient, licensed gluten-free flours to make sure there hasn’t been any cross-contamination. We actually like Bob’s Crimson Mill, which is broadly accessible in North America.

What to Keep away from: Gluten-free flour mixes that comprise a ton of starches like corn starch, tapioca starch, potato starch and white rice flour. These flours are higher when utilized in small quantities, however are sometimes predominant in lots of flour mixes. You probably have digestive points, you could wish to keep away from mixes with xanthan gum.

Dried Herbs/Spices

Dried herbs and spices are great in a pinch when contemporary isn’t accessible, or if you end up shopping for contemporary herbs and never utilizing them earlier than they spoil.

What to Look For: Natural, non-irradiated spices, both floor or complete. We prefer to buy many spices complete and grind them ourselves to keep up their freshness and unstable oils.

What to Keep away from: We want shopping for spices in jars or small cardboard packing containers somewhat than plastic, and retailer them in a cool darkish place.


Nice as a snack or used as an egg substitute in baking, applesauce is a wholesome packaged meals that’s wealthy in a wide range of nutritional vitamins, minerals and fibre.

What to Look For: Natural applesauce, as apples are excessive up on the soiled dozen checklist, in jars if yow will discover them. You should buy plain applesauce or ones combined with different fruits.

What to Keep away from: Applesauce with added sugars, refined sugars, pure or synthetic flavours.

Coconut Milk and Shredded Coconut

Coconut is anti-microbial and anti-bacterial, plus it incorporates medium-chain fat that stability blood sugar, gasoline the nervous system and is simple for us to digest and use. Creamy coconut can swing each candy and savory!

What to Look For: Coconut milk in BPA-free cans or cartons, unsweetened shredded coconut.

What to Keep away from: Sulphites, preservatives, refined sugar or added sugars, guar gum or xanthan gum in case you are delicate to them (they’ll trigger digestive upset in some folks).


Whether or not you go for delicate, medium or tremendous spicy, salsa is a superb condiment for chips, veggies, or burrito bowls.

What to Look For: Salsa in jars somewhat than cans (the acidity of tomatoes eats away on the lining of cans or plastic), natural salsa.

What to Keep away from: Pure flavour, added sugars, synthetic colors/meals dyes.


Once you don’t have time to make a scorching pot of soup, a high-quality store-bought selection might help you create an straightforward one pot meal – particularly in case you bulk it up with gluten-free grains, further greens, or a supply of protein.

What to Look For: Natural varieties if they’re in your price range, BPA-free cans or cartons, low sodium. Many grocery shops may even have house-made soup within the scorching meals part or refrigerated part to take house with out preservatives, however examine labels for elements like added sugars or canola oil.

What to Keep away from: Colors and meals dyes (caramel color is usually in soups), excessive sodium, glutenous flour or pasta, butter, cream or milk, canola oil, hydrogenated oils, added sugars, soybean oil, yeast extract.

Sauerkraut and Pickled Greens

make pickles

There’s a distinction between sauerkraut and pickles which were fermented with a salt and water brine, and pickled meals that use a heated vinegar brine to create the bitter flavour. We a lot want the previous, for each the style and the well being advantages.

What to Look For: Look within the fridge case for true fermented greens that ought to solely comprise water, salt and spices.

What to Keep away from: Synthetic colors, sulphites, white vinegar, sugar, preservatives.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a flexible oil within the kitchen – it may be utilized in the whole lot from medium-temperature baking or roasting to stovetop cooking to condiments like salad dressings, dips and hummus.

What to Look For: Chilly-pressed, further virgin olive oil, natural, in a darkish bottle.

Pasta Sauce

No time for simmering? Seize a jar of store-bought pasta sauce for pasta dishes, pizza, soups or stews.

What to Look For: Pasta sauce in glass jars or BPA-free cans, natural, low sodium.

What to Keep away from: Pure flavours, hydrogenated oils, canola oil, added sugars, refined sugars, synthetic flavours, sauce in plastic containers or BPA cans.

Wholesome packaged meals aren’t all the time straightforward to navigate, however with these pointers, you’ll be able to start to find out which of them match into your life-style, in addition to when it’s price it to take a shortcut. As soon as you determine the wholesome pre-packaged meals you take pleasure in, they are often nice companions to your cooking.

Healthy Packaged Foods

Picture Credit score: iStock/Kwangmoozaa



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