The nice thing about processed convenience foods is, well, they’re convenient! But healthy? Not so much. Now, that doesn’t mean that eating healthy needs to be a chore. Many convenience foods can be replicated at home using fresh, whole ingredients and a little bit of advance preparation. And if you can’t figure out a way to recreate a food (I’m looking at you cheetos!), then you probably shouldn’t be eating it in the first place…
Most flavored yogurts are what I would call pseudo-health food. They often masquerade under the guise of “sugar-free,” “fat-free,” or “low carbohydrate.” Yogurt itself is a fabulous choice, but added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, thickeners, stabilizers and artificial sweeteners are not. Plain, unsweetened yogurt has a tart flavor, closer to sour cream than apple pie a la mode. Have you ever wondered how much sweetener has been added to make your yogurt taste like a boston crème pie? A heck of a lot. Most flavored yogurt has about 4 teaspoons. FYI, the American Heart Association recommends women limit sugar to less than 6 teaspoons a day and 9 for men, so that’s a pretty big chunk. Frankly, I’d rather have a cookie. Flavors like red velvet cake and lemon pie belong in a bakery, not in yogurt.
Pass over the little containers and instead, purchase a 32 ounce carton of plain yogurt. At home, separate it into 4-8 ounce Tupperware containers. Unless you like eating sour cream, you’ll then want to flavor and (lightly) sweeten it. My favorite mix ins:
– 1 tablespoon of all-fruit jam, made with fruit and fruit juce
– 1-2 teaspoons of honey or agave nectar and a dash of vanilla extract.
– 2-4 tbsp of 100% fruit juice. My personal favorite is pomegranate juice, which turns the yogurt a wonderful pink color and plays off it’s natural tartness. If you’re a Crackberry lover, definitely try this one.
Many people are surprised to learn popcorn is a healthy whole grain. Clearly, movie theater popcorn drenched in fake butter doesn’t fall in the healthy category. But even many seemingly healthy microwave popcorns have some hidden horrors – partially hydrogenated oils, tons of sodium, and that weird stuff that causes “popcorn worker’s lung.” Even if you are a prudent label and ingredient reader, the bag itself could be harming you! Most popcorn bags are coated with perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), a chemical that has been shown to affect immunity.
Popcorn lovers, I am about to become your new best friend, because you can make perfect microwave popcorn at home using the most simple and inexpensive piece of equipment – a brown paper bag. Purchase paper bags, like the ones you used to pack your lunch in school, or save the brown paper bags they wrap your wine bottles in (which hopefully you did not use to pack lunch in school). Put about ¼ cup of popcorn kernels in the bag and fold the top over twice. Pop in the microwave a little less than three minutes and there you have it! Try the following toppings to spice it up:
– Olive oil, cracked black pepper and parmesan cheese (my personal fave)
– Play around with various spice blends – Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper and Italian seasoning are especially nice
– Kettle corn lovers, try a drizzle of pure maple syrup. Mind. Blown.
– Another sweet one – honey and chopped toasted nuts
Oats are a superfood, but instant oats are pretty far removed from plain old-fashioned oats. Most instant packets have more than a tablespoon of added sugar or sweetener. Although the oats in instant oatmeal are technically a whole grain, they are processed in a way that allows them to cook faster, but also has a greater effect on your blood sugar.
Try making your own instant oatmeal for those days you hit the snooze button one too many times. Place ½ cup rolled oats in a zip-top bag and add your favorite mix-ins. My favorites:
– 1 tsp natural cane sugar and cinnamon
– Chopped nuts and dried fruit
– PB2 and cocoa powder
– 1 tsp sugar, coconut flakes and golden raisins
– mix in wheat germ or flax seeds for an extra boost of nutrition
Cook it just like you would instant oatmeal. It will have a bit more texture than if you cooked it on the stove, but still delish!