I love to make my meals from scratch as much as I can but let’s be real here. It is difficult not to enjoy the convenience of store-bought products especially when you are on a time crunch. Store-bought foods get a bad reputation in general (lots of preservatives, high fat, high sodium etc) but not everything from the store is necessarily unhealthy. Also, just because something is processed does not automatically make it bad because food such as milk, canned beans, whole wheat pasta, canned tuna etc go through processing at some point. These ‘processed foods” are actually nutritious, affordable, and easily accessible to make nutritious, balanced meals. I think a lot of it has to do with the perception and education on ‘processed/store-bought food” because everyone has their definition of ‘healthy’ and I completely understand/respect that. Unless you grow your own food or participate in the CSA, get farm-raised meat/poultry/dairy, and source everything from scratch – it is pretty impossible to avoid store-bought products. For me personally, it is not realistic in terms of my lifestyle or budget which is why I depend a lot on store-bought products. If you are on a same boat as me – busy, young professional on a mission to eat quick, healthy meals using store-bought products, this post is dedicated to you and your family. I am sharing my top 10 store-bought foods and recipe ideas for quick healthy meals.
**No one of these products I talk about are sponsored or paid for… I just happen to love these products and use them on a regular basis.
Naan, Pita, Flatbread: You will almost always find some sort of bread in my refrigerator in the form of naan/pita/flatbread. My personal favorite is frozen tandoori naan from Trader Joe’s. It’s perfect to scoop up chicken curry//vegetable korma, base for pizza, or for open sandwich such as hummus wrap. I like to get pita bread from Middle Eastern store when possible. Pita bread is great for chicken kebab pita sandwich or for vegetarian version – try the split green peas falafel. I sometimes buy Flatout Bread (I am not a huge fan of their long ingredient list) but makes a great vehicle for chicken tikka wrap or try the avocado chicken salad wrap! Tomato Sauce: Tomato sauce is a life saver. I make pizza, pasta, lasagna, and shakshuka very often so it’s always nice to have a bottle of tomato sauce/canned tomatoes. For pizza/pasta – I use plain marinara sauce; pick the brand with least amount of sugar and sodium when possible. I typically season it with basil, garlic, oregano myself . For shakshuka & curries – I like to use low-sodium crushed tomatoes.
Red Thai Curry Paste: I have tried several red Thai curry paste and hands down – Thai Kitchen has the best red curry paste! It is also vegan, gluten-free as some brands contain shrimp paste & wheat products (read the ingredient list). If you are looking for a quick homemade restaurant quality Red Thai Chicken Curry, use this curry paste and follow the quick recipe on the back of the bottle.
Canned Beans: Canned beans are probably the most inexpensive, versatile. and nutritious food but they so underrated. If you are worried about the sodium content, get the low sodium kind and rinse them before using as it takes care of 40% of the sodium. I am biased towards chickpeas (I even dedicated a post on chickpeas)…I like to make a big batch of salad with chickpeas or smash them with avocados. Check out these 11 delicious ways to enjoy black beans!
Rotisserie Chicken: Roasting chicken is not that hard (recipe for easy roasted chicken)but when you are hangry + no motivation to turn on the oven – rotisserie chicken comes handy to make multiple meals. You can use it to make shredded chicken salad, chicken and avocado salad, chicken and cheese quesadillas, over salad, or simply enjoy it with sides such as veggies and rice. The nutritional quality of rotisserie chicken can vary depending upon where you get it from because of the sodium (from brining and seasoning) and fat content from skin and dark meat. Just make sure to remove the skin and balance your plate with veggies and whole grains!
Soups: I love to stock up on hearty soups/stews so I can simply reheat them and call it a dinner with a side salad or a piece of bread. I don’t have a particular brand that I go to but I focus on sodium & saturated fat content. I prefer hearty, broth based ones preferably with lentils, veggies or whole grain… Amy’s, Progresso, Healthy Choice, Pacific, Campbells they all have low sodium version available – just read the labels!!! You can add frozen veggies or handful of greens to add more nutrients while reheating it. Prepared salads: If you are looking to eat more greens but don’t want to go through rinsing, chopping, and assembling a salad – you are going to need salad kits in your life. I have had both good and horrible pre-made salad experience, which is why I always check greens carefully before purchasing it. Trader Joe’s has variety of salad kits available for $5 or less for at least 2 large servings. I also enjoy salad bar at Whole Foods as well as the premade salad section. Frozen Veggies: You can never go wrong with frozen veggies. Already pre-cut and ready to be steamed/cooked as a side (with rotisserie chicken), stir fry them, or use them in fried rice. Steam-bag ones (sans the sauce) are so convenient, nutritious, and super easy to get your veggies in. Peanut Butter: I know a lot of people make their own nut butter but I am not one of them. I don’t have a good food processor nor the energy for all that when I can easily get natural peanut butter from the store. You don’t necessarily need the fanciest peanut butter out there costing an arm and a leg. Just make sure it doesn’t have anything else but peanut and maybe salt. When there is absolutely nothing to eat, I opt for peanut butter sandwich on a 100% whole wheat bread, fruit if I have it, and milk/coffee for a filling,nutritious meal. For savory peeps, you can use peanut butter as a base to make sauce for peanut butter sriracha noodles! Eggs: Eggs are my go-to for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner because you can do much with it. From frittata, curry, fried rice, huevos rancheros, to a sandwich – eggs fills you up, provides you with essential nutrients, and it cooks relatively fast which is why I always have them in my fridge.
What are some of your favorite things from the store? healthy meal hacks?
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