Sometimes it gets really hard to decide what you can buy that won’t ruin your healthy diet. Here’s all you need to know about the food that’s best for you.
Packaged foods have become an everyday commodity. People buy them to fill their cabinets and fridges. And, much like when eating fast food, people are consuming thousands of calories worth of unhealthy chemicals and additives.
To make production cheaper and shelf life last longer, companies are finding more and more ways to decrease the nutritional and health value of their foods. Ingredient lists longer than your arm, names of items you certainly don’t recognize and probably can’t even pronounce, and additional potentially harming circumstances not even made aware to you are coming along with many of the packaged foods you purchase.
Why do people feel the need to buy packaged foods if they’re putting themselves and their children at risk? They live busy lives that demand time and energy. Society has progressed so that every citizen can work full-time and have it all. But sometimes just like companies, they look to cut corners to make it all happen in their budget.
The truth is, organic foods are more expensive. Cooking a homemade meal can take longer and does take more energy. But, all of this doesn’t mean you have to give something up to lead a healthy life.
Not every company is seeking out corners they can cut. Research on their ingredients, nutritional value and company practices has provided a list of packaged foods you can enjoy guilt-free. With packaged foods, our lives can become that much easier.
Here’s A List Of 10 Safe Packaged Foods You Can Trust
- Whole Grain Barilla Pasta
Whole grain pasta provides unbleached pasta that gives you the nutrients from grains your body seeks. High in fiber and very filling, this pasta has incredibly low fat content, zero cholesterol, no sodium and eight grams of protein. It’s high in iron, phosphorus and magnesium. It’s a cheap option that you can easily add vegetables to have even more nutritional value.
Barilla is really just one example of healthy packaged pasta as there are many organic whole grain pasta makers out there. However, Barilla is one of the big companies sold in many stores, so you don’t have to take a special trip to find an obscure organic brand.
- Red’s All-Natural Steak and Cheese Burrito
Want a healthy, packaged, ready-to-eat burrito? Tough to believe, but it’s out there. The ingredients list only contains items you can actually read and understand and the nutritional facts boil down to healthy.
Red’s meat has zero antibiotics and hormones, as well as low fat, sodium and sugar content. The beef provides you with plenty of protein and iron; so really, this burrito is quite an amazing accomplishment for all packaged food-makers to admire.
- Cascadian Farm Organic Hash Browns
Remember when you were told to look at the ingredients to help you determine how healthy an item at the grocery store is? Here’s a perfect example, as there’s only one ingredient – organic potatoes.
No fat, no cholesterol and no sugars. Add a healthy starch to your breakfast and enjoy some delicious southern-style hash without feeling guilt or damaging your body.
- Justin’s Peanut Butter and Snacks
The two ingredients of dry roasted peanuts and organic palm fruit oil in this jar of nuttery buttery goodness can add a perfect spread to your PB and J, apples or celery. Of course, you can eat it right off the spoon, if that’s how you like your peanut butter!
And, you won’t believe it, but Justin’s makes delicious peanut butter cups. Avoid all the chemicals and additives and enjoy an organic snack sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Applegate Meats
Attention all meat lovers: There’s an organic meat brand you can trust and its name is Applegate! They offer packaged deli meat, hot dogs (yes, hot dogs), corn dogs, turkey burgers, bacon, sausages and chicken for all of your carnivorous cravings.
All of Applegate’s packaged meats are organic with a low number of ingredients and a guilt-free conscious for you. Also, Applegate is conveniently sold at many markets from mainstream grocery stores to farmer‘s market style grocery stores like Sprouts to Target and Walmart. You won’t have to hunt around for this healthy option!
- Van’s Organic Flax Frozen Waffles
When you’re looking for a quick breakfast, it’s easy to turn to packaged foods filled with unhealthy ingredients you can’t even pronounce. Fortunately, Van’s has a solution!
These frozen waffles only contain three grams of sugar per two waffles and are high in fiber to help keep up your digestion. You can keep your busy schedule when you have healthy frozen waffles ready for you in the morning!
- Wild Planet Wild Albacore Tuna, No Salt Added
First, this canned tuna is 100% pole and troll caught, so you don’t have to worry about eating fish that’s been procured by sketchy means. Second, tuna has an incredibly high omega-3 content, which has proven to be an invaluable nutrient for your body. And third, it’s a BPA-free can.
BPA is short for bisphenol A, which is an industrial chemical that poses potentially damaging effects on the brain. Also, tuna can be made into a great variety of dishes. And, canned products are quick and easy to use, so it’s really a win-win-win with this one!
- Bold Organics Veggie Lovers Pizza
For those poor souls who are allergic to practically everything, this frozen pizza was made for you. It’s vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, organic and high in fiber.
Also, if you love pizza and vegetables, this pizza was made for you too! All-natural and easily understandable ingredients, low fat and low sugar makes for a delightful and savory easy-to-make dinner. Just pop it in the oven and wait!
- Luvo Whole Grain Penne Pasta with Turkey Meatballs
Making the pasta and sauce and meatballs can be a time-consuming challenge for those days when you just don’t have the time or the energy to put together a homemade dinner. But, don’t turn to TV dinners! Luvos has you covered.
Enjoy this delicious pasta with meatballs, ready-to-eat meal fresh from the freezer aisle. The meatballs have oatmeal mixed in to increase your healthy-eating needs and relatively low fat and sugar content to make a great meal. Plus, those 18 grams of protein will keep you full and happy.
- Sunshine Burger Organic Black Bean South West Burger (no soy or tofu!)
Typically, frozen vegetarian (and vegan) burgers are pumped with soy. That’s not to say these products are bad. For example, Morning Star burgers are a perfectly healthy option, but not with too great frequency. Too much soy is certainly something to worry about.
Sunshine Burger provides an option that keeps soy out of the equation so you don’t have to keep track of your intake. Made from organic, ground raw sunflower seeds and other organic ingredients, these tasty burgers pack high fiber and protein content. Red meat takes the longest to digest, so avoid the difficulty and potential health hazards by opting for a Sunshine Burger!
How To Determine If Packaged Foods Are Safe
Now that you have the list, perhaps you want to venture out and try to find even more safe packaged foods. One of the best places to start when determining if a packaged food is healthy enough for you is to examine the nutrition label.
First, look at the very top for the serving size and imagine how much you would actually eat for one serving. If it’s a package of multiple items, like pretzels, the serving size may be half a cup. However, you may pack a whole cup in your lunch sack. Therefore, you’ll need to double all of the amounts on that list.
Sometimes companies trick you by listing a smaller serving size than people would realistically use. That way, when you read the label, you’re under the impression that it has low counts on everything and you’ve scored. Unfortunately, they’ve just taken a fraction of a realistic serving size to make it appear to have low numbers in calories, fat and sodium.
After you’ve determined your serving size and adjusted the numbers on the label according to how much you would actually consume, take a look at each individual section. You’ll probably notice the calorie count first.
What Role Do Calories Play?
If you aren’t used to counting your calories, you may want to do a quick search and get familiar with average calorie counts for different meals. If you are used to it, knowing whether or not it’s a high or low number should be a breeze.
When determining the weight of the number, consider how much you’re getting. For example, if the serving size is one whole frozen burrito, the calorie count is bound to be on the higher side as it’s accounting for an entire meal. Generally, calorie-counting diets attempt to keep each meal around 400 to 500 calories, including all the nutrients you need for that meal. If you eat three meals a day plus snacks in between, that keeps you around 2,000 calories or less per day.
Depending on your size, you’ll need to figure out what amount of calories is right for you and you should consult your doctor if you’ve never tried a diet before. All in all, you want to look at the calorie count on the nutrition label so that you can add up a total count for the meal or snack you intend to use it for. Calorie-counting diets are super easy if you just keep track of your numbers.
Watch Your Fat Intake
If you’ve decided the calorie count is acceptable, move down to the fats section. Trans fat is considered one of the worst fats for your body as it raises LDL, which is the bad type of cholesterol, and lowers HDL, the good type of cholesterol. It can also decrease your metabolic rate. Your best bet is to avoid trans fat.
Don’t forget that every item you eat adds up, so you have to consider all the nutrition labels together for one day’s worth of intake. But as a safe rule, stick to one gram or less of trans fat and you won’t need to worry too much. You should also avoid saturated fat with the same rule of thumb.
Check The Sugar And Sodium Stats
Next you want to examine the sodium and sugar contents. This can vary with the type of item you buy. Of course, freeze-dried fruit will contain a higher count of sugar, but that’s okay because of what it is. In general, avoid any added sugars and high fructose corn syrup.
When it comes to sodium, you’ll notice it’s often listed in milligrams (mg) and that makes it sounds tiny because it’s so much less than a gram. But, if you take a look at several nutrition labels together, you’ll notice how many packaged foods contain sodium. That really adds up and you don’t need all that much sodium. Try to not to purchase foods with too much sodium – especially if you tend to add your own salt to your protein and garnishes in a meal.
It’s All In The Ingredients
Lastly, check the ingredient list. In fact, you may want to do this first. Typically, if the list is exceptionally long – put it down and move on. Sometimes, though, it may have a long list if it’s a whole meal.
For example, the Luvo Whole Grain Penne Pasta with Turkey Meatballs is going to have a long list as it does have several components. In every case, read that list. You don’t want your food to be filled with chemicals and things you can’t even read or pronounce.
Also, when it comes to grains, avoid anything that says bleached or enriched. This means they actually bleached the flour and degraded all the nutrients. A good rule of thumb is that you want to be able to picture exactly what it says. If the packaged item passes all these nutrition labels tests, then it’s probably healthy enough for you to eat!
Packaged foods are convenient and increasingly more common. You just have to be very cautious and choose the right ones. Check the labels! Be sure to look for fat, calories, sodium and sugar content. Of course, the 10 meals listed in this article are all good choices. General categories that can contain safe and healthy packaged foods you may frequently want to purchase are: Breads, cheeses, yogurts, cereals, oatmeals, soups and organic/natural jams and peanut butters. Happy hunting!