Convenience Foods That Are Healthier Than You Think

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It’s no secret that most people are in a pinch for time these days. Coupled with rising food prices, eating well is becoming increasingly challenging. To help combat both of these barriers to getting good food on the table, here is a compilation of some affordable, convenient foods that are more nutritious than what may be assumed.

Instant Rice

Instant, or as some companies have branded, ‘minute’ rice, makes for an ultra convenient side dish. These products have been pre-cooked and then dried down to a shelf-stable moisture level so that they can be kept on hand for a time-efficient lunch or dinner add-on.

Apart from that, though, nutritionally, instant rice is not much different from regular rice that is cooked from scratch.

Most brands do not contain any additives or preservatives, especially if they are unflavoured. For optimal nutrition, look for plain brown or wild rice varieties, as these are better sources of fibre than standard white rice.

Convenience Food - Pasta Sauce
Photo: @theberrycat_ on Instagram.

Pasta Sauce

While nothing can quite compare to nonna’s secret recipe, conventional tomato sauce is a great stand-in on nights when a quick pasta dish is on the menu.

Tomato sauce can be a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as lycopene, which is an antioxidant that is best digested after it has been heat-treated, such as in tomato sauce.

Some varieties can be very high in sodium, however, so be sure to opt for those that contain about 360mg or less per ½ cup (125ml) serving. 

Convenience Food - Instant Oatmeal
Photo: @thebakersmama on Instagram.

Instant Oatmeal Packets

There is far more of an abundance of instant oatmeal products on grocery shelves now than there was before, and many are loaded with added sugars. However, plain instant oatmeal, or even better, newer varieties that incorporate nuts and seeds or ancient grains, such as quinoa, are still very nutritious breakfast options for those strapped for time in the morning.

By opting for unsweetened varieties, you can control the sweetness yourself and select for more nutrient dense alternatives such as fresh or dried fruit that help also to bulk up your meal.

Convenience Food - Frozen Peas and Carrots
Photo: @lorenaeyre on Instagram.

Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

The frozen food aisle often gets a bad rap for being laden with excessive additives and preservatives. However, frozen fruits and vegetables are very nutritious as they are typically harvested and processed at the time of their peak ripeness.

In some instances, frozen produce may even be more nutritious and taste better than their fresh counterparts.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are also cheaper and more economical to purchase in bulk because of their longer-lasting shelf life.

Convenience Food - Canned Fish
Photo: @thesweetenedpea on Instagram.

Canned Fish

Fish, particularly salmon, is known as being a rich source of essential healthy fats that are anti-inflammatory and important for brain development. This is why Health Canada recommends that the average person should aim to consume two servings of fish per week. Unfortunately, following this recommendation does not fit into everyone’s budget. Canned fish is a much more affordable option, plus it is already cooked, which helps to save time in meal preparation.

To avoid unnecessary, excess calories, look for canned fish that is packed in water as opposed to oil.

Also, be sure to opt for plain varieties. As with rice, flavoured ones can be packed with significantly high proportions of sodium.

Fitting in time to eat well while busy and on a budget is an inevitable struggle for most working and growing families. With ingredients such as these on hand, creating meals that satisfy can be much more affordable and nutritious.

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Written by Mirieta Selimovska

Mirieta is a Toronto born and raised foodie and aspiring Registered Dietitian. Her motto? All foods fit! It’s no secret that keeping fuelled with food that is both nutritious and delicious can be challenging at times. Lucky for you, Mirieta is here to help inspire your own (realistic!) journey towards improved health. You can find her on Instagram (@thesweetenedpea) or grabbing a coffee wherever the photo-worthy latte art is.


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