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Nutrition Articles  ›  Quick and Easy

10 Surprisingly Healthy Packaged Foods

Convenient Can Also Be Healthy!

-- By Sarah Haan, Registered Dietitian
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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

  • 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
  • Most canned soups and snack foods contain a ton of MSG. I read labels carefully. - 2/18/2014 12:41:01 PM
  • DADKAJ
    can i ask something: the article starts that people should also look into the central areas of the supermarket for healthy treats. i dont know where, but all supermarkets i know tend to have frozen vegetables and fruits along the outside isles, not the central part. even Lidl only keeps such chilled meat in the central areas but the frozen food such as meat and vegetables are again towards the side isles.
    i also like shopping for tinned goods and i think that this rule of shopping along the outer isles is misleading. one can get unehalthy stuff there as well as inside. perhaps more useful rule would be not to buy the stuff that is displayed at the eye level, or at the child eye level as these are occupied by advertised products, usually not too healthy for us and the children. the supermarket own brands are also often healthier and of course cheaper than those advertised ones. dont forget that it is the customer who pays for the million pounds/dollars expenses for the adverts. - 2/18/2014 6:32:55 AM
  • Canned vegetable items could be OK if additional care is taken, such as rinsing vegetables to remove excess sodium in the liquids. As for canned soups, including those listed as organic or natural, there is almost always going to be a lot of sodium, sugar or fat for flavoring or as a preservative. - 2/14/2014 11:08:09 PM
  • EMORYCC
    I beg to differ with the soup suggestion. Most of the commercial soups like Campbell's (even their Chunky soups) and store brand soups have MSG in them. - 1/18/2014 8:38:26 AM
  • I love beans and lentils; they are a great way to upgrade a not-so-healthy can of ravioli into a nearly healthy meal. Throw in one or two sliced carrots and it's a downright respectable meal!

    And frozen berries are a staple - no peeling, washing, cleaning, just mix into oats or yogurt.

    My quickest soup goes "vegetable broth + creamed tomatoes". I like the ideas of having a variety of soups at home, but I don't like what I usually see in the shops - to many additives, too much sodium for my taste. - 11/6/2013 8:19:13 PM
  • I look for beans without added sugar also. - 11/6/2013 3:53:45 PM
  • Thanks for sharing - 11/3/2013 6:25:55 AM
  • LAUREENMT
    Kashi granola bars are high in protein and fiber! They are staples in my home. - 10/31/2013 9:25:13 AM
  • Great article - thank you! I think many of us have gone through feeling guilty because time and money don't always allow us to buy 100% fresh ingredients. That doesn't mean that we don't need to watch what we're buying and still incorporate as many fresh fruits and veggies as possible, but you can integrate these into your diet as well. - 10/30/2013 5:55:39 AM
  • Quinoa should be on this list. Amazing protein packed grain that tastes fantastic when properly prepared. - 10/11/2013 4:28:34 PM
  • I don't think too much of granola bars, canned soups and cereals but include the rest in my diet plan. - 10/10/2013 1:01:53 PM
  • JIMSPAL
    I agree with CakeMakerMom...th
    e picture of the bag of cookies was rather mean to someone like me who is a notorious cookie addict. - 10/8/2013 11:54:17 AM
  • I also buy low sodium canned tomatoes and chicken broth. I am careful to read the labels on these, too. I would think that these would be on the list. - 10/8/2013 9:02:29 AM