Few things are as vilified in the food and wellness world as processed foods. Odds are, you’ve encountered someone who is obsessed with clean eating or who has been practically reborn after following the Whole 30 food plan. However, at the risk of becoming very unpopular, I’m here to say that convenience foods aren’t so bad.
Certainly, there are varying degrees of convenience and packaged foods. I’m not advocating a diet of potato chips and hot dogs, but canned soups, frozen entrees and easy-meal makers, like jarred marinara sauce, have a place in my home and on my menu. As a busy working parent, packaged foods can be lifesavers when I’m too time-pressed to assemble my bagged lunch or get dinner on the table before prime time TV begins.
The key to convenience is to choose wisely. Look for nutrition-positive ingredients, like whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits and veggies, and compare labels to find foods with the lowest amounts of sodium and sugar.
Though packaged foods can be fine on their own, I also love adding freshness and flavor — along with an extra dose of nutrition — with some staples I have at home. For instance, I always have pre-washed baby spinach in the fridge, and it instantly adds color and disease-fighting compounds to canned lentil soup.
For more quick and easy inspiration, I turned to national nutrition experts to get their tips for making a “meh” meal instantly more enjoyable and nutritious.