Convenience and Processed Foods

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Convenience foods that required little or no preparation are practically a necessity in our busy lifestyles. Unfortunately many are much less healthy than home-cooked versions because of extra sugar salt and fat all of which can have adverse health effects. They also tend to be loaded with artificial flavorings emulsifiers fillers preservatives and Trans fats that can increase your risk for heart disease. And processing often strips vitamins and minerals from foods. But nutritious picks that help busy cooks put meals together quickly do exist; you just have to be a savvy shopper.

Keep it healthy

Go for fresh options. Precut veggies and fruit and rotisserie chicken are quick healthy options. Just don’t eat the skin on the chicken.

Boost nutrition. Add a fresh side salad to a meal consisting of processed food like frozen lasagna to provide a wide assortment of valuable nutrients.

Watch out for sauces. Vegetables and many fruits harvested and quick-frozen at their peak often have more vitamins than those picked maturity shipped long distances and then placed on shelves. But you can undo those benefits if you choose varieties in high calorie high fat sauces and syrups. Stick to plain varieties for the healthiest option.

Limit salt. Scan the nutrition panel carefully and keep your daily intake under 2300mg of sodium.

Watch out red flag ingredients. Be wary of ingredients list with the words “ corn sweetener” “corn syrup” “corn syrup solids” “high-fructose corn syrup” hydrogenated fats” or “vegetable shortening.”

Choose whole grains. Look for packaged rice or noodle products made with brown rice or whole wheat pasta whenever possible. If you can’t find prepackaged foods with whole wheat pasta or brown rice cook some up separately and then add it to the dish. Along with more fiber it will increase the amount of food you have so the sodium sugar and fat per serving will be less.