13 processed foods that are actually good for you


Salad kits are also a popular option. When it comes to dressing, Zeratsky suggests using less than what comes in the package to reduce added sugars and salts. Also, choose a kit with heart-healthy toppings like nuts and seeds.

5. Cereals

Do you feel guilty joining your grandkids for a bowl of cereal in the morning? No.

“All breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals,” Rosenbloom points out, such as iron and zinc, vitamin A, assorted B and D. 

The key is to look for whole grains as your main ingredient and mix it into a high-fiber cereal, or top with chia seeds, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and fiber. Add milk and fruit to the bowl for a boost of benefits.

6. Frozen or canned fish

“Fish is part of the recommended guidelines for the Mediterranean diet, and in many parts of the country fresh fish is not readily available,” says Zeratsky.

In fact, the American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of seafood per week. Unless you pack your own trout, frozen fish (usually frozen on boats right after catch) can be as good as fresh.

Are you watching your sodium intake? Many brands of canned fish (including tuna and salmon) offer no-salt-added options.

7. Nuts, seeds and nut butters

“Protein helps maintain muscle for people entering their prime,” says DiMarino. “And nut butters are high in protein and heart-healthy fats.” But watch the portion size and check that there is no added sugar, salt or preservatives.

8. Tofu

These soft little blocks of soy curds can be a great alternative to vegetable protein and are versatile enough to add to a variety of dishes. “They can be a protein meal replacement, are low in sodium, and cholesterol-free,” observes Farrell.

9. Frozen fruits and vegetables

Brain-boosting frozen fruits like blueberries are great in the winter. “Most are field-picked and frozen immediately,” says Rosenbloom, retaining their nutrients and flavor.

The health benefits of fruit are numerous. They’re high in fiber and loaded with potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and K. As for frozen vegetables, Rosenbloom says, try to avoid those in sauces, which typically contain extra salt and fat. .

10. Pre-cooked lentils or whole-grain brown rice

Beware of dry lentils? Look for the cooked variety in stores and sprinkle it over a salad. “Lentils are [rich in] protein and high in fiber and sources of iron, zinc and magnesium,” says Zeratsky. Or try packets of brown rice that you zap in the microwave. “I prefer whole-grain farro, which provides a good source of protein and fiber,” says Farrell.

11. Chickpea pasta

Looking to swap your standard noodles for something a little healthier and heartier? “Chickpeas are a powerful carbohydrate that helps prevent chronic disease,” says Farrell. “Chickpeas are best eaten whole; yet this pasta offers a good source of fiber and vegetable protein to supplement meals. (Lentil pasta is another great option.)

12. Roast Chicken

Rather than fast food or frozen chicken nuggets, opt for pre-cooked roast chicken. Remove the skin (to reduce the fat and salt content) and eat as a starter or in a salad.

13. Hummus

“Chickpea dips provide plenty of good non-bovine vegetarian protein and contain fiber, vitamins and minerals,” says DiMarino. But look for a short list of ingredients: chickpeas, olive oil, tahini paste, seasonings, salt. Pair it with pre-cut raw veggies or, if you must have a cracker, opt for a low-sodium whole-grain version.

Honorable mentions

Protein-rich cottage cheese; olive oil (a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet); tomato sauce (make sure it is low in sugar and salt); calorie-free flavored waters; pickles (a low-calorie snack); sauerkraut rich in fiber and probiotics; dried fruits for snack.


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