My Top 10 Healthy Convenience Foods

Healthy Convenience Foods

We are living at a time when food manufacturers make it so very easy to eat so very unhealthfully, from drive-thru buckets of chicken to pre-packaged Lunchables. Luckily, the options for convenience foods that are actually good for you appear to be on the rise. Some have been around for generations (hello frozen spinach), while others are newer to the supermarket scene (greetings “riced” cauliflower). Sure, in the ideal world we’d all have time to buy our goods from the farmers’ market and do the prep work in our spare time. But life doesn’t always make that an achievable goal, so I have no problem relying on what is healthful AND handy. Here are my top 10 healthy convenience foods that I keep stocked in my fridge, freezer and pantry. I’d love to hear your favorites, too, so please share in the comments section below.

Peach Mango Smoothie

FROZEN FRUIT

Frozen, prepared fruits, such as peaches, mangoes, strawberries, and pineapple are immensely handy for smoothies and shakes, since there’s no peeling, pitting, stemming, or chopping required. My kids even like to munch on the fruit straight from the freezer, especially on warm days.

Easy Cheesy Thermos BeansCANNED BEANS 

The nutrient quality, fiber, and flavor of canned beans and chickpeas hold up pretty darn well. They can easily transform into breakfast underneath a fried egg, lunch served warm in a thermos, or dinner as part of a pasta, salad, or Mexican side. If concern about BPAs is on your radar (a chemical sometimes used in the lining of cans) head on over to the Environmental Working Group for a list of BPA-free brands

Tuna Salad SnackCANNED TUNA AND SALMON

Canned fish is one of the most versatile, affordable, and tasty convenience foods I know. Whether made into a salad for snacks or sandwiches or stirred into a pasta, it’s a terrific source of protein and healthy Omega-3 fats.

Blackberry Yogurt Parfait / Mom's Kitchen Handbook

GREEK YOGURT

Plain Greek yogurt is a refrigerator stable that I am rarely without. High in protein with a dreamy texture, it’s terrific for any meal of the day. We eat it for breakfast with fruit and nuts, and just as often in savory preparations, such as these Roasted Carrots or this Afghan Spinach.


Spaghetti-and-Spiralized-Zucchini-with-Pesto-300x225-1PREPARED PESTO

Store-bought pesto is a quick and easy flavor game changer. Keep a container on hand for simple vegetable pastas, to stir into soups for a flavor boost, spread on pita for pizza, or smeared on a turkey sandwich in lieu of mayonnaise. I prefer the brands sold in the refrigerated section over those in shelf-stable jars. Store what you don’t use in the freezer.

Savory Spinach and Feta Pie

FROZEN CHOPPED SPINACH 

A handy bag of frozen spinach within reach is a quick way to up the health benefits of everything from smoothies to stews. The nutrient values stay largely intact when produce is put under the deep freeze (and no stemming or chopping required). This Greek Spinach and Feta Pie is one of my favorite ways to use frozen spinach. Look for organic spinach, since it’s a vegetable thought to be high in pesticide residues.

Carrot-Hummus-2-1PREPARED HUMMUS

The ingredients in store-bought hummus tend to be pretty straightforward and it’s an excellent staple for snacks and lunches. Key ingredients in hummus are chickpeas, tahini, and olive oil, which collectively are good sources of fiber, B vitamins, calcium, and healthful fats.  Whirl a cooked sweet potato and squeeze of lemon into your hummus and it gets even more flavorful and nourishing.

French Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese and MintCOOKED LENTILS 

Trader Joe’s stocks lentils that are cooked and sold in the produce section. I imagine other markets do so as well. I often serve them in simple lentils salads or in lieu of beans for tacos. Lentils are an enormously nourishing food and this is the time for them, since the United Nations named 2016 the International Year of the Pulses (who knew?).

Vietnamese pork lettuce wraps

SHREDDED CARROTS

I don’t know what it is about those darned shredded carrots, but I find myself tossing them into everything. I love the crunch in a Lettuce Wrap, the color in a salad, and the texture in a stir fry. Sold in bags in the produce section of many markets.

Strawberry Arugula Salad with FetaWASHED GREENS

I almost always have a couple varieties of greens stocked in the fridge. Often I’ll buy them in a bunch and do the stemming and washing myself, but pre-washed greens are awfully handy in a pinch, and most appreciated by my kids who like to make salads for their school lunches.

My Top Ten Healthy Convenience Foods ! What are yours? Click To Tweet

Healthy Convenience Foods

Comments

02.24.2016 at 4:35 PM #

Monica

My favorite convenience food is the Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Farro. I’m not a huge quinoa fan so since I’ve discovered that I sub it into recipes that call for quinoa or couscous. And I’m very stubborn, but I really want to buy the already peeled and cubed butternut squash.

02.24.2016 at 4:35 PM #

katiemorford

Thanks for the farro tip…hadn’t tried that one. As for squash…the work of cutting a butternut squash is kind of a deal breaker for me sometimes, so the pre-cut is a nice option.

02.24.2016 at 4:35 PM #

Iva M

My family loves butternut squash, during season Costco sales it precut, washed and just ready to cook. It is not organic but still a great option.

02.24.2016 at 6:14 PM #

ELANA NATKER

These are all great! I would also add natural peanut butter. It’s a must in my daily routine!

02.24.2016 at 6:14 PM #

katiemorford

I agree. Always peanut butter and usually another type of nut butter or two as well.

02.25.2016 at 8:47 AM #

Jessica @ Nutritioulicious

I have every single one of these ingredients in my house at all times! Great list and resource for people!

02.25.2016 at 8:47 AM #

katiemorford

Thanks Jessica. It was hard to stop at just 10.

02.25.2016 at 12:03 PM #

Brittany

I love this post! Not all “convenience” foods are bad! I usually buy baby carrots, but I think shredded carrots are on my shopping list now!

02.25.2016 at 12:03 PM #

katiemorford

Indeed…convenience food is often thought to be code for junk food…but more and more that isn’t the case. I’m all for any food that makes it easy to cook healthfully. Thanks for the comment.

02.25.2016 at 1:40 PM #

Pam R

I love these lists! I still refer to your Trader Joe’s list whenever I go. Hummus and pesto are mainstays around here, though I also end up freezing homemade pesto whenever I make it – in ice cube trays so I don’t have to defrost too much at once. In fact, I think that might be what we have for dinner tonight.

02.25.2016 at 1:40 PM #

katiemorford

Great tip re: pesto in ice cube trays. Then you can just pop out whatever you need and leave the rest in the freezer.

02.25.2016 at 3:04 PM #

Emily @ Zen & Spice

I pretty much use all of those! Washed greens, pre-made pesto, shredded carrots, frozen spinach, and canned beans all make a weekly occurrence in my kitchen.

02.25.2016 at 5:30 PM #

Lauta

Great list! Do you have a favorite lentil salad recipe?

02.25.2016 at 5:30 PM #

katiemorford

Here’s one I use all the time. If using pre-cooked lentils, just skip ahead to the recipe where you make the dressing. Delicious! http://www.momskitchenhandbook.com/salads-sides/friendship-and-french-lentil-salad/

02.25.2016 at 10:25 PM #

Miranda

I have tried using frozen spinach, but it is so liquidy. How do you use it?

02.25.2016 at 10:25 PM #

katiemorford

I use it in loads of different dishes. For green smoothies, I add it still frozen to the blender. To add to dishes that get baked, such as quiche or lasagne, I defrost the spinach and then squeeze out most of the liquid. If I’m adding it to, say, a pasta sauce on the stove top, I let the liquid cook off in the pan. Hope that helps.

02.25.2016 at 10:25 PM #

Susan

Hi Lauta, another trick is to squeeze liquid out of thawed spinach with a potato ricer. It is an extra gadget to have a around, but we use it more than you’d think to squeeze liquid from spinach but also shredded zucchini, shredded potatoes, etc. Plus, my kids love using it. 🙂

http://www.target.com/p/weston-potato-ricer-stainless-steel/-/A-15176872?ref=tgt_adv_XS000000&AFID=google_pla_df&CPNG=PLA_Kitchen%2BShopping&adgroup=SC_Kitchen&LID=700000001170770pgs&network=g&device=c&location=9001930&gclid=CjwKEAiA9c-2BRC_vaaJ0Ybps30SJABlqxDeFtXCGqcdM_UZ2mY_FUbJ8Bh_S7RFGg-5czY6tgFLJxoCNRXw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

.

02.26.2016 at 10:51 PM #

Sarah

Would love to know your picks for healthy pre-packaged lunchbox-type items. I find it really hard when throwing together a box of snacks for my mildly picky preschoolers to stuff in my purse when rushing off to something. The kind of things that don’t need refrigeration and won’t go nasty if they get a bit warm for a few hours. I like boxes of raisins, single servings of nuts, wholemeal crackers and fruit pouches but would more protein and less sugar/carb would be good.

02.26.2016 at 10:51 PM #

katiemorford

Great question. Here are a few ideas that might come in handy: nut butter pouches with whole grain crackers, pre-packed hummus with carrots or whole grain pita chips, seedless tangerines, little apples, good quality granola bars/energy bars, yogurt pops that you freeze ahead of time, trail mix.

02.28.2016 at 9:53 AM #

McKenzie Hall Jones

Such a great list, Katie! I buy all of these items on a regular basis, too. Trader Joe’s pre-cooked lentils are my favorite. Have you ever tried them combined with Trader Joe’s pre-made bruschetta? On top of whole crackers, it makes a great appetizer!

02.28.2016 at 9:53 AM #

katiemorford

That sounds awesome. Will pick up that combo next time I’m there. Thanks McKenzie.

02.29.2016 at 11:07 AM #

Meal Makeover Mom Janice

Great list! I use all of these convenience items regularly. They make healthy eating easy. 🙂

03.01.2016 at 10:02 AM #

Kate

This is a great list, Katie! My favorite connivence food is tortillas. Lord help me if I had to make my own!! 🙂

03.01.2016 at 10:02 AM #

katiemorford

Always have a stack of corn tortillas myself, Kate. I imagine you go through quite a lot in your house.

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