6 Packaged Foods that are Actually Healthy

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Sure, ideally everyone would be eating fresh, non-processed foods all of the time, but we get it. We know that it can be expensive to eat this way and that sometimes convenience and simple economics guide our decisions. So, here’s the question that begs answering: are there any healthy packaged foods? The answer is yes.

Fortunately, more and more companies are now offering wholesome packaged foods that are far less processed and much healthier. But here’s your warning: all packaged foods undergo some level of processing, and processing strips food of nutrients. There’s no way around that.

With that said, let’s take a look at some packaged foods that you can actually feel alright about eating.

Packaged Foods that are Actually Healthy

1. Frozen Fruit & Vegetables – Produce picked and frozen at peak ripeness has just as many nutrients and antioxidants as fresh produce. Make sure that the produce is certified organic and natural. Organic means that the produce is grown without pesticides or synthetic chemicals, and natural means that nothing is added during the packaging process. If it’s frozen, there’s no need to add anything.

2. Whole Grain Cereals – However, we suggest avoiding wheat if you can. The wheat we consume today has been genetically modified over the years. Some experts believe that wheat causes insulin sensitivity issues and contributes to “wheat belly.” Here’s a list of “safe” whole grains to look for:

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Maize
  • Spelt
  • Rye
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat (which isn’t really a grain)
Avoid flavored oatmeal, if possible. The flavoring is artificial and the sweetness comes from high-fructose corn syrup. As a rule, it’s better to eat organic, natural whole grains and add fruit juices or dried fruit to enhance the flavor.

3. Greek Yogurt – When made with organic and all-natural ingredients, Greek yogurt is a healthy snack any time of the day. The live bacterial cultures are essential for digestive and immune health. But, once again, don’t buy the flavored ones unless you check the label first. Unfortunately, many companies ruin their otherwise-healthy yogurts with artificial flavorings.

4. Chicken Broth – Broth that’s made from free-range chickens raised on organic, vegetarian diets is a great way to make your own soups. However, don’t buy the broth that’s sold in cans. Instead, look for broths in high-quality packaging.

By the way, making your own soup is smart and pretty easy. Processed food companies sell vegetable soups inexpensively because they load them with high-glycemic carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, pasta) that cost virtually nothing. They then add inexpensive ingredients like corn, sugar, and sometimes omega-6 fats (like cottonseed oil). By the way, we have a new soup that you should try. It’s low in sugar, salt, and fat but loaded with flavor.

5. Canned Salmon – Canned salmon is an easy, convenient, and affordable way to add omega-3s to your diet. And, believe it or not, most canned salmon is from wild sources and not farm raised. Just make sure to choose the kind that’s made from wild Alaskan salmon (it'll say so on the label).

6. Sprouted Grains – Breads made with sprouted grains have twice the fiber and less simple sugar than traditional breads. Sprouted bread and organic all-natural black cherry spreads can make a great snack.

Recipe: Alaskan Salmon & Chick Pea Mint Patties

This is a recipe that I tried a couple of months ago and loved! Of course, since I don’t cook, my friend cooked for both of us. I did enjoy eating it though:


  • 1 or 2 cans Alaskan packed-salmon.
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen chick peas or cannellini beans
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons medium curry powder
  • 1 medium red chile, seeded and minced
  • Mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1-2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • All-purpose whole grain flour (for dusting)
  • Olive oil

Place the Alaskan salmon in blender; add chick peas or cannellini beans, onion, garlic, curry powder, chili, mint, cumin seeds, hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Blend together for a few seconds, but do not over-blend. Shape mixture into 18 balls; flatten them into patties.

Dust lightly with flour. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan and gently fry patties for about 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown. (You may have to do this in batches.) Drain on paper towels. Makes 6 servings.

Give it a try and let us know what you think!


Carlos Corredor said...

I question some of your facts:

1-- Last I heard, GM wheat has not been approved in the US.
2-- You list maize as one of the "safe" whole grains to look for, but most of the corn grown in the US is GMO.

Do you have some source of information nobody else has?

Life Extension said...

Hi Carlos. The reference to "safe grains" was the impact on insulin sensitivity and not about GMO vs. Non-GMO. As far as the wheat in the US, we encourage you to read Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, MD.

Carlos Corredor said...

This article is about packaged foods that are actually healthy. You state "The wheat we consume today has been genetically modified over the years", not true - supposedly, we are not consuming GM wheat (at least not yet).

Nowadays, when you say safe and GM in the same paragraph, lots of people are going to make the connection in their mind. I did, and that's why I found this confusing and got the impression it was not very well researched. Now I know.

BTW, I just ordered my Kindle version of Dr. Davis's book. I am sure I will find it interesting and informative; thanks for the rec.

Life Extension said...

Carlos, sorry for the confusion. The book should clear this up for you. And thanks for your input. We really enjoy engaging with friends like you. Take care.

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