Nutrition Articles

10 Surprisingly Healthy Packaged Foods

Convenient Can Also Be Healthy!

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You've probably heard this advice before: For a healthy grocery trip, shop the perimeter of the store. Avoiding the middle aisles is a good tactic to help you make great choices and pick the most nutritious foods, but if you stick to this advice completely you'll be missing out on some of the nutritious items that do come in packages. These packaged foods—not to be confused with "processed" foods—can give you some great nutrients and make meal planning easier, saving you precious time.

You can feel good about buying some boxed, canned and jarred items when you're equipped with the right information. Understanding what you're looking for is the first step to healthy choices within the supermarket aisles.

Here's a list of the healthiest convenience foods you can buy from the center of the grocery store.

Canned Beans
Though dried beans are cheaper than canned, they can take a lot of time to cook. Canned beans pack an impressive amount of fiber and protein and can be a quick addition to many meals. Pinto, kidney, cannellini (white kidney), black, Great Northern—name any bean, they're all great sources of nutrition for your body. When you're choosing your beans, look for ones without added salt or seasoning. Before using your beans, drain and rinse them in a colander when you're ready to cook. This will help wash added sodium down the drain--40% of the sodium to be exact.

Oats and Flaxseed
Prepare to have a heart-healthy breakfast by combining old-fashioned oats and ground flaxseed, both found packaged in either cartons or bags. One cup of cooked oatmeal with 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed will give you 8 grams of much needed fiber, as well as a dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which each protect the heart. Choose old-fashioned oats over quick oats or instant oatmeal to ensure you're getting the maximum amount of fiber without added salt and sugar.

Frozen Vegetables
These can be nearly as nutritious as fresh and are conveniently prewashed and chopped. To ensure you're getting the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals available, use the vegetables within a few weeks as some nutrients may begin to degrade over time. Also, steam or microwave your veggies rather than boiling them to make sure you're not losing water-soluble vitamins. Grab some edamame for a nutrient-packed snack, heat up some chopped broccoli as a side dish or combine a stir-fry mix with shrimp in a shallow pan and heat with a bit of olive or canola oil.
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About The Author

Sarah Haan Sarah Haan
Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor's degree in dietetics. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food. See all of Sarah's articles.

Member Comments

  • A lot of times I prefer to cook/steam my own veggies and rehydrate dry beans - keeps sodium content a lot lower. Love granola. but no longer really just buy it - I need to try recipes out that I've seen on SPARK. After a conversation with my 31 y.o. son on Mother's day I am very aware that his generation and ours are much more aware of processed foods issues - a lot of us want to get back to basics and I applaud that. Every now and then, though, knowing what is the best of the least preferred choices is good to know. - 5/10/2016 3:09:41 PM
  • I would not usually make a negative comment but nobody else had a problem! I think this is a very informative article. Many of us know what the best choices are however, sometime life gets in the way. How many times have I gone for fresh veggies and their choices were horrible! Just go to another store? You go right ahead. I have one other local store and they carry the same stuff. And it's winter. So I will buy frozen. Know what the ingredient is? THE VEGETABLE! I buy Dannon Oikos non-fat plain yogurt. The ingredient is "Cultured grade A non fat milk". Unless I buy a Greek (Sarcasm) cow and make my own, which is actually pretty easy, what is the difference - but why?
    She also said "read the labels"! It doesn't make us stupid to support this article, it does show we may be better informed. Because we READ the article. It doesn't mean everyone will take all of these suggestions. Put we will pick and choose what will work for us. Whether it's for an extra busy day, week or life. I remember when this was a friendlier site and people were eager to help and support others, not make them feel inferior. So unless you work an organic farm, grow and can all your fruits, veggies and grains, as well as raise your animals if you are not vegan - shame on you. - 4/5/2016 1:34:50 AM
  • Great ideas! - 1/31/2016 11:22:11 AM
  • Great suggestions! I have become "addicted" to plain yogurt with frozen berries (from Schwans). Makes such a good evening snack.
    - 11/16/2015 12:04:59 PM
  • Great suggestions...jus
    t be mindful of the granola and all other bars. Many are loaded with saturated fats and can be sugar bombs.
    - 11/10/2015 6:08:21 AM
    Thank you for the nice reminder that I can still get healthy choices for stocking up on when I don't have a lot of time to prepare a healthy meal. - 11/3/2015 7:02:08 AM
  • ShopRite also has steamed veggies. You can put them in the microwave for 5-minutes and have a tasty side dish to a lean protein and you don't cook all of the nutrients out of them. - 9/21/2015 7:35:28 PM
  • DPF1206
    I simply thaw frozen veggies (cauliflower & broccoli.). It has the tender-crisp texture and goes very well with low-fat ranch dip. - 9/21/2015 6:06:21 AM
  • Disappointed in contents of article. Nothing new. Also failed to mention that frozen veggies can be a great choice since they were packed when fresh and not trucked across the country and sat in a warehouse for days. Case on point, Walmart has the worst fresh produce.
    Yes, I also was looking for the cookies or crackers in the picture - 9/21/2015 4:34:50 AM
    It doesn't take long to make a soup. Just chop everything up and cook. Don't have to stand there and watch it. Also baked beans are simple. prep and let it cook in the oven!
    - 9/14/2015 7:00:22 PM
  • If someone wants to purchase fresh, organic vegetables, meats, and dairy products for me, then by all means, please do so! Some of us do the best we can. I took this article as a lesser of two evils type of things for those of us who cannot afford otherwise. - 9/14/2015 6:47:12 PM
  • I really questioned the "Healthy Foods". I would never consider the following as health foods because they all contained too much sodium, sugar, and preservatives: canned beans, frozen vegetable, frozen foods, granola bar, canned soup, yogurt, and even tuna which packed contaminated water or broth, and people usually eat it without cooking or washing. At least the articles didn't mention all the unhealthy diary products. - 9/11/2015 7:09:33 PM
  • Wow, a lot of negativity here. I understand where people are coming from with regard to packaged foods, but people need to FULLY read the article. SP makes it clear that not ALL boxed cereals, canned soups, granola bars, etc. are good. SP makes it very clear that labels need to be read. Yes, there really are some healthy low sodium soups. Not everyone has the time to make everything from scratch. This article simply informs the reader of the healthy options out there. Again, this article makes it abundantly clear that labels need to be read. - 9/7/2015 12:39:58 PM
  • Spark people needs to catch up on nutrition, from the recipes I see, and the touting low fat... This article is ridiculous- the only better foods I see there aren't exactly 'convenience' foods- oats, brown rice. Canned foods contain BPA, canned soup contains 'flavors' and msg. Cereal is sugar and flavorings. Even yogurt, unless you can find a plain one without flavors and thickeners, isn't that great. Eating well isn't about getting to eat the most per calorie, it's about getting the nutrition to keep your body working as well as it can. It's not about starving your body of good fats and good carbs while feeding it mainly white flour and sugar. It's not about feeding us crap and trying to make it taste better by adding 'flavorings' (natural, artificial, doesn't matter, do the research)... Even 'organic' flavorings are concentrated and have an addictive, msg, tasty-like effect on our taste buds and brains. - 6/7/2015 8:13:40 PM
  • I'm wondering why the picture seems to be showing packaged vanilla sandwich cookies, yet they are not mentioned in the article at all. I confess I read the entire article just to see if there was/is a packaged cookie that's good for me........ Nope! - 6/6/2015 1:16:58 PM

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