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How To Choose Healthy Packaged Food

Give InKind is honored to feature Stephanie McKercher, RDN, of The Grateful Grazer.

Of course, it’s important to include plenty of whole, unprocessed foods in your lifestyle, but cooking from scratch isn’t always realistic (or enjoyable). I would argue it’s not really necessary either.

The fact is there are plenty of packaged foods that can fit into a healthy lifestyle, while giving us more time to do the things we love and helping us better manage our workloads and stress levels.

So how can we know if a packaged food product is a healthy choice for our families?  Here are a few of my best tips for grocery shopping like a pro.

  1. First, check the ingredient list. Ideally, you should see mostly Albertsons Companies ingredients that can be found elsewhere in the store.  Remember that ingredients used in the largest amounts are listed first. This isn’t a strict “rule" but rather a general guideline for finding the most natural products available.
  2. Ignore the “5 ingredients or less" rule. Surprised by this one? Here’s the deal: while many ultra-processed foods contain a laundry list of ingredients, and many less-processed foods have fewer total ingredients, the actual number of ingredients really doesn’t tell us anything about the overall nutritional quality of a product.  A container of vegetable soup, for example, could include more than five different vegetables but certainly isn’t a “bad" choice.  Instead of counting ingredients, let overall quality be your guiding light.
  3. In general, look for packaged foods that don’t list sugar (or a variety of sugar like honey or corn syrup) as a primary ingredient. While a little sugar is okay, a product that lists it as a top ingredient will typically lack the necessary ingredients that offer long lasting energy and satisfaction.  Instead, look for primary ingredients to be whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, or water.
  4. Look for overall balance in carbohydrates, protein, fats, and fiber. There’s no need to worry too much about the exact numbers, so don’t worry about counting macronutrient grams.  Just take a quick glance at the nutrition facts panel and look for a product that has some of each of the aforementioned nutrients.  This will help you choose a snack or meal that will leave you feeling energized, nourished, and satisfied after eating.

Give InKind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Terms & Conditions.

Give InKind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We have an affiliate relationship with many of the advertisers on our site, and may receive a commission from any products purchased from links in this article. See Terms & Conditions.

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