I’ve often repeated the common advice that to eat healthy and manage weight it’s a good idea to avoid packaged foods. This is a point that Michael Pollan makes in his very good little book on nutrition (Food Rules). Pollan voices this in the rules “Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food” and “Don’t eat any packaged food with more than 5 ingredients on the label”. The real point here is to avoid all the chemicals and extracts that are added to make packaged foods more palatable and to extend their shelf life.
The downside to this would seem to be that we have to give up the convenience of packaged foods; not something to be minimized as busy as we all are!
However, if you shop carefully and read labels, you’ll find that we’re not completely on our own here.
I’ve found several items whose list of ingredients include nothing that you wouldn’t throw into the pot if you were making them yourself. They’re very good, and can form the basis of a simple quick meal without sacrificing good eating habits.
Really, really good creamy tomato soup, with a nice red pepper flavor added. Very low in calories – 110 per 1 cup serving, so you can have a very large 2-cup serving garnished with some soda crackers or with a nice chunk of bread and easily stay below 400 calories for the meal
Another very hearty soup – good flavor, not at all bland. Easily spiced up with your favorite hot sauce like Tabasco (if you’re in the mood for Creole) or your favorite Mexican-style sauce or a dusting of ground chipotle pepper . It’s also good served over rice with either a warm tortilla or some corn chips. Again, very low in calories @ 150 per 1 cup serving, so you can easily use this as the primary element of a delicious meal.
These are great when you’re in the mood for some Indian food – only 150 calories per serving, and they come in 2-serving pouches. I use the entire pouch for a single serving as I make this as part of the main dish by serving over a cup of steamed rice. Spice it up with some garam masala, curry powder, vindaloo seasoning or just some Sriracha sauce!
All three of these products are available in most neighborhood grocery stores, and are often available at Costco in 6-pack cartons – the tomato soup usually in 32-ounce cartons, the lentil soup in 16-oz cartons, and the Madras Lentils in 2-serving pouches.
I’m going to be trying more of the Pacific Natural Foods products, as they seem to do a good job of providing excellent flavor without sacrificing good nutrition!