We all know that most processed food are loaded with salt, sugar, fats. That also makes them delicious, fun and easy to gorge on.
Many of us are working or attending school from home just steps away from well-stocked pantries, working different schedules or gobbling down snacks in search of a little comfort during COVID-19. That means processed foods are more enticing than ever.
Even before the pandemic, 60% of all calories consumed by Americans were from processed foods, which can “lead to certain medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases,” said Jennifer Anderson Anderson, registered dietitian at Novant Health Heart & Vascular Institute, a department of Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, in Charlotte.
As for artificial additives, we still don’t understand their long-term effect on our health. “Quite a bit of research is going on right now regarding cancer,” Anderson said, “to determine how some of these preservatives, chemicals and food colorings may impact us in the long run.”
Bottom line: “The more we focus on eating minimally processed foods that are as close as possible to their natural state, the better.”
To that end, Anderson offers the following list of guilt-free, healthy processed foods that actually taste great. Nearly all of these are available in supermarkets, though you may need to hunt a bit. Product names and links included for context and clarity. These are not endorsements. Other brands may offer similar features.
- Made with minimally processed, natural ingredients; no artificial additives, preservatives or colors.
- Contain pasteurized egg whites for protein; raw nuts (cashews, pecans, almonds) for texture; dates for their nutrients and sweetness.
- Chocolate in RXBARs contains no added ingredients like dairy, soy or sugar.
- Banana Chocolate Walnut bars are made with eight ingredients, and offer 3 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein.
- Each flavor has nine or fewer ingredients — some as few as two.
- Contain only unsweetened fruits, nuts and spices.
- Ingredients are minimally processed, as close to their natural state as possible.
- Cashew Cookies flavor contains only two ingredients: cashews and dates; Cherry Pie bars contain only three ingredients: dates, almonds and unsweetened cherries.
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- The “Original” and “Hint of Salt” flavors contain three simple ingredients: whole wheat, vegetable oil (soybean or canola) and sea salt.
- One serving delivers 3 grams of protein and is a good source of dietary fiber.
- Triscuit Minis can be used as soup crackers.
- Triscuit Thin Crisps have a lighter, thinner texture than the brand’s original crackers.
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- These seed and grain crackers are a great gluten-free option.
- Minimally processed, they have a rich, earthy flavor and a great crunch for those craving more texture.
- Made with whole, plant-based ingredients, including organic whole grain brown rice, quinoa, flax and sesame seeds; filtered water; sea salt; organic wheat-free tamari.
- The Super Seed variety offers 5 grams of plant-based protein per serving.
- Garlic, onions, poppyseeds — just like an “everything bagel.”
- Made with natural ingredients, including cooked chickpeas, canola oil, tahini, dried garlic, fire-roasted garlic, sea salt, sesame seeds, dried onion, spices and poppy seeds.
- Contains no artificial preservatives. Citric acid (found in citrus fruits like lemons) is used as a natural preservative and flavor enhancer.
- Tribe offers a variety of hummus flavors, so if you’re not an “everything” fan, you’ll find one that suits your tastes.
- Made from real green peas.
- Contains only six ingredients: green peas, canola oil, rice, salt, calcium carbonate, vitamin C (ascorbyl palmitate).
- Vitamin C (Ascorbyl palmitate) used as a natural preservative.
- Calcium carbonate is an added source of calcium and prevents caking.
- Each serving also offers potassium, iron and 5 grams of dietary fiber.
- Bee-yen-ahh! – derived from the word buen and bien, meaning “good” in Spanish and French.
- Crunchy, roasted chickpeas, naturally gluten free, and most flavors are vegan.
- Sea Salt flavor contains three ingredients: chickpeas, sunflower oil and sea salt.
- Comes in a large bag as well as 1.2 oz. snack-size portions.
- Almonds contain protein, healthy fats, magnesium and vitamin E.
- Roasted Salted Almonds contain: almonds, vegetable oil (canola, safflower and/or sunflower) and sea salt.
- Many flavors available, including Sriracha, Sweet Thai Chili, Honey Roasted, Wasabi and Soy Sauce.
- Available in many sizes, from large containers to single-serving pouches.
- Preservative-free, SkinnyPop contains no artificial ingredients or flavors.
- A gluten-free option that contains zero trans fat — and it’s a good source of fiber.
- Sea Salt and Pepper flavor contains only four ingredients: popcorn, sunflower oil, sea salt and black pepper.
- Large bag and snack-sized bags available.
- Made with two ingredients: organic whole grain brown rice, sea salt.
- Gluten-free, vegan and only 60 calories per serving.
- Top with peanut butter, hummus or tuna for added protein.
- 100% whole grain, with no saturated fat, cholesterol or added sugars.