Often, we think "healthy" and "convenient" must be mutually exclusive, but they don't have to be (and if they were, lunchtime would be tough for many!). Well By Design Nutrition is all about making healthy the obvious and easy choice, and the great news is, with a variety of healthy products on the market, we can make choices that continue to move our health forward, even on our busiest days.
Traditionally, "convenience" foods meant highly processed, pre-packaged foods high in sodium and preservatives, that we would recommend only consuming on occasion, or as a treat. But in a crazy-busy society, companies are all-in on the "healthy convenience" bandwagon, providing nutrient-dense options that are quick and accessible in stores, gas stations, airports, etc. And we love it!
To note, "convenient" can mean a few things:
2. Foods that are quick and easy to prepare that you can (and should) have on hand; or
3. Ready-to-eat foods (like frozen meals)
The foods below are better-for-you-options that we recommend you have on hand for days when you "just can't."
When purchasing packaged foods, take a look at the food label and the ingredient list, especially the sodium, protein, fiber, and sugar, per serving:
*ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Look for sugar in its many forms: i.e.: glucose, brown sugar, honey, agave, etc.
* *Keep in mind, if an ingredient is tough to pronounce, it doesn't necessarily mean its unhealthy - see articles here and here. However, generally speaking, ingredient lists should primarily be words you recognize.
Single- cup of hummus: A good source of fiber and protein. Pair with celery, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, or 100% whole grain crackers.
RX bars - with 12 grams of protein, no added sugars (notice the sugar is a little higher on these, but you’ll see the sugars are naturally occurring from dates. The dates offer fiber and nutrients, in addition to the sugar, preventing sugar high/crash). Look for options with 200 mg or less of sodium.
We also love Lara Bars, KIND Bars, Amrita Bars, and Thunderbird
Tuna and salmon packs are great on the go, especially paired with an avocado and sliced almonds.
Zupa Noma soups are loaded with nutrient-dense ingredients (veggies and spices only!), low in sodium (soups can be a hidden source of sodium!) and delicious. Love the Yellow Pepper Turmeric and Cucumber Avocado. Stock the fridge to keep on hand at work or home. Pair with a turkey wrap for a wholesome lunch.
Ready-to-eat without preservatives, fillers, nitrates, or other unnecessary ingredients. Quick and easy for those nights when you don’t have time to start from scratch.
We love Siggis because it’s low in added sugar, rich in protein and probiotics! Enjoy anytime, really.
Food for Life English Muffins with Flax are perfect on the go. Top with PB, or avocado and Everything But the Bagel Seasoning, or any other protein-rich favorite for a quick breakfast you can take with you. These are also great with tuna or turkey and avocado for lunch at work.
We love all Purely Elizabeth products, but especially the convenient breakfast options like this Superfood Oats. A good source of fiber, protein, and whole grains, low in sodium and low in added sugar. Heat in the microwave in less than 5 minutes, grab a piece of whole fruit and head out the door with a balanced, energizing breakfast.
We often think of string cheese for the kiddos, but grab one for yourself too! Pair with nuts, yogurt or fruit for a nutrient-packed snack
Popcorn is one of our favorite snacks - morning, noon, and night. Whole grain, fiber-rich and filling.
Engine 2 precooked grains are a non-negotiable grocery list item if you need to save time in the kitchen. Ready to go in 10 minutes or less. Add protein (chicken, fish, chickpeas- you name it) and veggies and dinner is served. Sold at Whole Foods.
Foods to have on hand for a quick-and-easy prep
Pre-chopped veggies, like Eat Smart brand, are prepped and ready to go without any added ingredients. Dump in a pan with EVOO, sauté and you’re ready to go in 5 minutes. Eat Smart also has salad kits and “shake ups” that are great options,too. Leafy greens plus protein-rich toppings (nuts, edamame, pumpkin seeds, etc.). Be mindful of the amount of dressing you use, which can be high in sodium and calories. Try the old “fork dip” trick instead of using the entire dressing pack.
Hard boil a batch of eggs to grab on the way out the door, or add to breakfast lunch or dinner. Versatile and nutritious.
The go-to "on-the-run" snack, for good reason. Unsalted nuts are easy to grab, quick at your desk or in the car. Pre-portion your servings so you don't unintentionally eat the entire bag.
Post coming soon: All about Intuitive Eating
Steamed and ready-to-eat, edamame is a great protein- and nutrient-rich snack. Enjoy with a piece of fruit and you're set for a energizing snack wherever you are
Rotisserie chicken is an affordable purchase that will be well-worth your money. Ready to eat when you get home. Throw on a salad, in a wrap, by itself or as chicken salad. Versatile and quick.
Food safety tip: be sure to use it up within 5 days of it's prepped day (should be on the label).
Pre-cooked + ready-to-eat
Frozen meals are notoriously high in sodium and preservatives, but certain brands make the cut for a nutritious meal. Ready to eat, for your super busy days, or the nights you don't feel like/have time to cook.
Luvo and Amy's Organic meals are two of our favorites, as they are lower in sodium, no preservatives, and good sources of protein. When choosing entrees (vs. snacks or lunches) look for options with 15- 20 grams of protein, and and less than 700 mg sodium.
Check out this article on the top frozen meals recommended by fellow dietitians:
Weigh in: What's your favorite snack or meal "on-the-run"?
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