When you’re on a journey to improve your health, it can be intimidating and challenging to know what to eat and what not to eat. Healthy food can often be pricier than processed foods, so grabbing “processed” foods is more than often easier for a lot of people.
But all processed food isn’t necessarily bad for you. Not only are these items typically more affordable, but they’re also quick to prepare, and in the fast-paced world we live in, convenience is something many people seek.
When you’re trying to eat healthier but need quick food or more affordable things, here are 15 of the most healthy processed foods.
1. Frozen Vegetables
Frozen veggies get a bad reputation because they’re frozen and not fresh, but buying frozen veggies is still a healthy option for you. The biggest draw to frozen vegetables is that they’re quick and easy to prepare, and therefore easy to incorporate into your meals.
Of processed foods, frozen veggies are minimally processed. While fresh veggies will always be better, don’t feel bad for eating frozen veggies.
2. Canned Beans (Black, red, white, etc.)
Canned beans are a lifesaver when you’re rushing to make a delicious and healthy meal. Regardless of what type of bean you prefer, canned beans will save you so much more time than buying dehydrated beans and making them that way.
Beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein, and they help to keep you fuller for longer. Just be sure that whatever type of bean you buy, you rinse all the liquid out of the can and drain them before cooking or adding to a dish.
3. Frozen Pizza
Okay, before you come for me, I’m not saying frozen pizza is very healthy, but it’s not as bad as you may think. Pizza typically has cheese which is an excellent source of calcium, and if you choose a pie that has veggies, you’re getting all the nutrients from those too.
If you crave pizza but can’t be bothered to make one at home, a frozen pizza will do in a pinch. But, the healthiest options for frozen pizzas are veggie or plain cheese since the meat options are all heavily processed.
4. String Cheese
As most of us probably know, cheese is a fantastic source of calcium. Calcium helps keep our bones healthy and strong. Unprocessed cheese snacks are better than processed cheese, but you shouldn’t feel guilty about eating string cheese.
If you are going to buy a bag of string cheese, opting for low-fat options is typically better, even if they are processed.
5. Granola (Bars and Loose)
Granola bars and loose granola get a lot of hate for being highly processed and high in sugars. Granola bars make a tasty and relatively healthy snack on the go or for breakfast. But loose granola is a great substitute for sugary cereals.
When you’re shopping for granola, the biggest thing is to find brands that have no added sugars, or if they have added sugars, they’re minimal.
6. Canned Salmon or Tuna
Seafood is a great way to keep your heart healthy when eaten in moderation. If you’re not a massive fan of fish filets, choosing canned salmon or tuna is an easy way to eat more seafood. Canned food also gets a bad reputation, but when you drain the meat from the water inside, you have a quick, easy, and protein-packed snack or meal.
7. Lentil Pasta
Processed pasta is popular for almost everyone, but if you’re looking for a healthier option in the pasta aisle, you may want to try lentil pasta. Lentil pasta is still considered pasta unless you buy it fresh, but overall, they’re healthier than boxed grain pasta. It’s higher in fiber and protein than traditional kinds of pasta, and it tastes just as good, if not better.
8. Jarred Pasta or Marinara Sauce
Going along with your lentil pasta, buying jarred pasta sauce isn’t as terrible as some people make it out to be. Unfortunately, not all of us know how to make a delicious, Italian-approved pasta sauce at home, nor have the time.
When you’re purchasing jarred pasta or marinara sauce, the biggest thing to look for is one with no added sugar or low in sugar.
9. Broth and Stock
Broth and stock are fabulous ingredients to make soup, spice up some rice, and plenty of other meals. But boxed and canned broths and stocks seem to put a lot of people off. If you don’t have time to make your own chicken or veggie stock, buying these items is not a bad option.
To keep them as healthy as possible, look for those with no salt added or lower in sodium.
10. Nut Butter
Your beloved peanut butter and other nut butter are processed. But these are packed with protein and add a needed sweetness to some breakfasts and smoothies. But just because they’re processed doesn’t mean they’re terrible for you. Many health professionals rave about nut butter.
11. Frozen Fish
Similar to canned seafood, frozen seafood is another healthy option amongst the processed foods. Frozen seafood gives you more options than canned, but you’ll still get all the benefits of this protein source. Plus, buying fresh seafood tends to be much more expensive than the frozen section.
Yogurt is the perfect breakfast or snack throughout the day. The variety of flavors helps keep things interesting. Just because it comes in a container doesn’t mean it’s terrible for you. When choosing a yogurt, as with most other items, look for one that has the lowest amount of added sugar.
13. Dehydrated Fruit
A quick and tasty snack that can curb your candy cravings is dehydrated fruit. Dehydrated fruit is sweet. If you suffer from an uncontrollable sweet tooth, these processed foods are still much better for you than a candy bar.
14. Pre-Made Hummus
As far as pre-made dips go, hummus is one of the best for you. Hummus is made with chickpeas and packs a lot of protein and vegetable protein into a meal. Whether you’re eating it as a snack or spreading it on a sandwich, this processed food could be a lot worse for you.
Popcorn is actually a whole grain! This treat is great for snacking, and even though it’s processed, if you can find one that is light butter, or light salt, it’s not nearly as bad for you as some may believe.
Alicia is the senior content editor and writer here at Food FAQ. She has extensive experience with acid reflux, heartburn, GERD, and various supplements. When not eating food for “research”, she’s watching “Friends” for the 100th time.