Although most processed foods are quite unhealthy, the real truth is that not all of them are made equal. Some of them are actually quite good for you, both in terms of convenience and nutrition. Processed food isn’t just limited to soft drinks, instant ramen, and chips. Even meat and poultry go through several food and meat processing floor systems, so they can be packaged, preserved, or fortified with vitamins and minerals before they make it to your local grocery store freezer.
What processed food really refers to is food that goes through a process that may add more ingredients (such as sugar, vitamins, or sodium) to it that makes it more palatable, edible, or helps it last much longer. These foods vary greatly in nutritional value, so the trick is to be discerning about what you’re buying. Here are some healthy processed foods that you can definitely stock up on.
Yogurt is a terrific source of vitamins, fiber, protein, calcium, and probiotics. Skip the flavored varieties which contain a load of sugar, and instead opt for plain Greek yogurt which you can add fresh fruits, honey, and granola to for an easy, nutritious breakfast or snack.
Frozen and Canned Fruits and Vegetables: One of the biggest issues with buying fruits and vegetables is that they go bad quickly. Before you can even figure out what to do with that bag of lettuce you just got from a recent grocery trip, it’s already wilted. The solution to this is to stock up on frozen and canned veggies and fruits. They retain all the same nutrients as fresh produce, but they come in a more convenient and portable form that helps you lessen food waste.
Every broke college student knows the value of baked beans. Not only are baked beans tasty and cheap, they’re also fortified with protein, B vitamins, and iron. They go great paired with plain toast and a hearty breakfast scramble.
Jarred pesto. Pesto is an extremely versatile ingredient that you can use on a variety of dishes, from pasta to sandwiches. While pesto only requires a few ingredients, the process of making it can be quite time-consuming, so it’s easier to just buy pesto that comes in a jar. Most jarred pestos are just as healthy as homemade, organic ones and contain plenty of heart-healthy fats, antioxidants, and vitamins.
Granola is packed with micronutrients, protein, and fiber. However, certain brands of granola can surprise you with an excessive amount of sugar, carbs, and sodium. Always read the nutrition label and only go for ones that have a label that says “no sugar added.” The healthiest granola options should have less than 12 grams of sugar.
Unsweetened Almond Milk
People with lactose intolerance have long been tuned into the health benefits and delicious taste of dairy-free milk, and it’s only now that everyone else is catching up. The best of these alternative milk options is unsweetened almond milk. Just be sure to go for ones that don’t contain the thickening additive called carrageenan, which can cause digestive problems.
It’s impossible to demonize all processed foods, since most food these days go through some type of processing in one way or another. It’s all about taking things in moderation and shopping smart, as this list goes to show.