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

  • 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
  • I disagree about canned soups...most of them are junk. I like to make my own in big batches then freeze in small single size containers for healthy lunches or a quick dinner when cooking is just not an option. - 2/9/2015 5:20:59 PM
  • Where do I begin...
    To all the wanna-be nutritionists out there, YES these are less healthy than picking vegetables yourself or 110% organic beans, but let's be honest. The people who buy these products (ME!) are doing the best they can. I'm a college student, so frozen vegetables are easier than fresh because I can eat them whenever without then going bad. Beans are better for me than eating Ramen for dinner, and GOD FORBID anything have MSG. If I want to buy a can of soup (I like vegetable, white bean, and chicken/orza), I will be consuming at least 1 serving of vegetables and lots of protein. Yeah, I get that it is processed and has high sodium/MSG, but nothing is perfect, and soup is a hell of a lot better than ordering pizza or eating Cheetos and panda express for dinner.

    This website is free, these daily things are for normal people. If you are a health nut that has the time and money to make everything from scratch, 100% organic, go for it. You also have the money and resources to get off of this site and let us normal people do our best.

    I won't even continue with parts 2 and 3...Good day everyone. - 2/5/2015 2:49:54 PM
  • It's hard to put brown rice and oats/flax seed in the same category with "packaged food". They really are just ...in a package, - 12/8/2014 5:30:17 PM
  • ETHELMERZ
    Theres a difference between living perfectly every minute of every day, and these kinds of food products are part of REALITY, not cutesy perfection and only a handful of people can and do follow, whether we like that fact or not. We love tuna, sardines are also good and on sale often, too. No point in spending money of fresh produce and foods, if most people don't really like them, so you toss them away. We try the best we can, some of those so called "experts" need to get real, and realize that many healthy foods don't taste good at all, point of fact...........if they did, there would be no need for the constant nagging about them, pushing them, over and over. Taste wins out, whether we like it or not. - 11/3/2014 1:27:39 PM
  • As an R.N. I don't agree that convenience foods are healthy. They are highly processed and contains all kinds of additives in addition to salt. I've seen commercials now where we are told that high fructose corn syrup is good for you. Fresh, unprocessed food is always the best choice. Many people are moving away from junk food, fast food, highly processed food, transfat, added sugar, chemicals, etc. Let's support that and not send conflicting messages. - 11/3/2014 8:31:24 AM
  • MENGLISH-
    Canned soup? Healthy? No way! - 11/3/2014 8:21:33 AM
  • I am a fan of fresh and frozen whichever I can get in abundance at the time. Also crackers and and low sodium chips are always ion my lists, Not too many canned item . Lots of yogurt and fruit fresh and frozen. Than you for sharing. - 11/3/2014 7:54:48 AM
  • Not a fan of frozen vegetables. I like my veggies tender-crisp and I've never had a frozen veggie be anything but mushy. - 9/16/2014 12:45:42 PM
  • Canned beans can have a pretty shocking quantity of calories so read carefully! That said, there is something about combining beans and rice that leaves me satiated and full unlike almost anything else... - 7/29/2014 11:57:27 PM
  • Our cholesterol readings are much better since we have been eating more beans. - 7/20/2014 6:33:54 AM
  • I'd like to point out that no packaged foods are good for you...although I seriously did not just read this article. I saw the title and was a little baffled...I should probably read it. But packaged foods are a no no!
    They have wheat and processed junk. We should all be staying away from those packaged goods and stick to the whole foods....I thought....hmm...

    Just thinkin' out loud... - 6/26/2014 11:00:23 AM
  • NUTMEGS7
    This article would have been much more helpful had it listed brands that fulfill those 'healthy' requirements. - 2/19/2014 1:08:43 AM
  • I hope you aren't including baked beans in this list as they are WICKED high in sodium. - 2/18/2014 9:46:43 PM

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