Nutrition Articles

10 Surprisingly Healthy Packaged Foods

Convenient Can Also Be Healthy!

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Frozen Berries
When it comes to meeting your daily fruit requirement, you can't beat frozen. Many frozen berries do not have added sugar, but some do. Double check that the ingredients list contains berries to make sure you're not getting extra calories from refined sugars. Then, add them to oatmeal, cereal, yogurt or make a smoothie.

Granola Bars
This one can be tricky, as not every granola bar is good for you. Shop carefully and read labels to pick out the healthiest option. Be cautious not to fall into an advertising trap! Flip the products over and check out the ingredients. Some of the healthiest bars will be found near the products made for athletes or in the "natural foods" section. Brands that use dates as their main sweetener can give you a good amount of fiber. Some of these higher quality bars do have more calories. Consider splitting one in half for a small snack or share it with a friend.

Soup that comes in a can or carton can be a healthy choice if you shop carefully. Many are packed with plenty of fat and added sodium, but some brands are lighter in both. A non-condensed, organic soup made with real vegetables is going to be the healthiest option. These are sometimes found in cans near the condensed soups but are also packaged in boxes in a separate section. Watch out for high sodium soups and read labels for serving size. Most people eat a whole can of soup as one serving, only to discover that what they thought was a healthy option actually contained 2.5 to 3 times the calories, fat and sodium!

Breakfast cereal can be a toss-up. Either you're eating an overdose of sugar or you're getting a good amount of fiber and vitamins. Pick the right cereal, and you'll be supporting your heart and intestinal health with each bite. Look for at least 5 grams of fiber per serving and keep in mind the amount of added sugar. There isn't an established limit to an amount of sugar to stay under, but if you aim for about 5 grams or less, you're usually grabbing a healthy cereal.You can add even more fiber by mixing in some plain bran cereal with your favorite lightly sweetened cereal.

Brown Rice
For a boxed fare that is both versatile and nutrient packed, pick up brown rice on your next grocery trip. This fiber-rich grain is a great side for nearly any meat, bean, and vegetable--or combination of all three! Try it with kidney beans, diced tomatoes and cilantro, or top it with shrimp, streamed carrots and broccoli with your favorite low-sodium sauce. Learn more about the benefits of whole grains and how to cook them.
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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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