Family health

The best packaged foods

Nutrition educator Karla Heintz takes us down the aisles in search of packaged foods that score high in nutrients and fibre, and low in fat, salt and sugar

By Karla Heintz
The best packaged foods

Breakfast cereals
Kellogg’s Mini-Wheats
Packed with iron, B vitamins, phosphorus and zinc. Another plus: almost zero salt (a hidden baddie in many cereals).

Nature’s Path Organic Flax Plus
High in healthy omega-3 fats with an impressive 6 g of fibre per serving.

Weil by Nature’s Path Organic Chocolada Almond
A serving of this whole-grain hot oatmeal provides 15 percent of your daily iron needs and a tease of chocolate wihout the expected sugar.

General Mills Multi-Grain Cheerios
This variation of the original toddler staple is lightly sweetened, but is much lower in sugar than other children’s cereals. Five whole grains add a surprising g of fibre per serving.

Dairy aisle
So Nice Vanilla Soy Milk

A great alternative to cow’s milk that’s organic, low in fat and provides 30 percent of your daily calcium needs in a 1 cup (250 mL) serving.

Kraft Part Skim Mozzarella Cheese
This family favourite has only 18 percent fat, is low in cholesterol and is also a great source of calcium. Many hard cheeses contain added colouring, but this one is au naturel.

Woolwich Dairy Gourmet Goat Fine Herb Goat Cheese
This is a healthy, lower-fat cheese with a creamy taste and herb seasoning. (Some may also like that it contains no rennet, the animal product conventionally used to turn milk into cheese.) Great in salads too.

Astro French Vanilla Yogurt
Low in fat and chol­esterol, without the added sweeteners found in many lower-calorie yogurts.

Dairyland 1% MF Light Plain Cottage Cheese
An excellent source of protein that can conquer any snack attack and is low in fat too. Available in single-serving cups, which are easy to throw into a lunch box.

Pantry staples
Primo Lentil Soup

A low-salt, heart-healthy addition to any meal, with 5 g fibre and 10 g protein in a 1 cup (250 mL) serving.

Tribe Classic Hummus
Made with only natural ingredients, this puréed chickpea spread is a great source of protein that provides some fibre too. Kids will like the mild taste.

Eden Organic Refried Beans
Move over, campfire classics! These better-for-you beans contain no chemical additives, and are packed in BPA-free cans. Lots of varieties to choose from too.

Heinz No Salt Added Tomato Sauce
A great base for your favourite recipes, with natural tomato fibre, as well as vitamins A and C.

GoldSeal Pacific Pink Salmon No Salt Added
Naturally chock full of omega-3s, with no added salt or fat (it’s packed in water, not oil).

PC 7-Vegetable Primavera Pasta Sauce
A wonderful stand-in for homemade pasta sauce, with just 80 calories and 2.5 g fat per ½ cup (125 mL) serving.

Fruits and vegetables
Mott’s Fruitsations Harvest Apple + Calcium

Tastes like dessert, but counts as a serving of fruit with vitamin C and an added 125 mg of calcium for healthy bones and teeth.

Europe’s Best Whole Select Raspberries
Raspberries are higher in fibre than most other fruits, and this product lets you enjoy them at the peak of nutrition year-round.

Sweetpea Baby Food Organic Vegetables
Packed in convenient ice cube trays, these puréed organic vegetables are quick-frozen at their freshest. Thaw and serve.

Arctic Gardens Steammm!
Short on time? These herb-seasoned frozen vegetable packs, with added sunflower oil (providing more vitamin E than other vegetable oils), are perfect side dishes.

Bread and grains
Nature’s Path Flax Plus Waffles

Pop two of these babies in the toaster for a whopping 5 g of fibre, 5 g protein and 1 mg of healthy omega-3 fat.

Dempster’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread
This is a better choice for those who prefer softer bread; it’s packed with 10 essential nutrients and some fibre too. Beware other varieties from this manufacturer, which contain sulphites (one of the top 10 food triggers of allergic reactions).

Stonemill Sprouted Grains
Made with sprouted grains, this easier-to-digest bread is low in fat and sugar, plus it’s a source of fibre and beneficial omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Available in 12-grain rye (pictured) and three-grain varieties.

Catelli Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Spaghetti
Protein- and fibre-rich whole wheat pasta is better at filling hungry tummies, but can take a long time to cook. This variety is ready in just eight minutes.

Frozen entrees
Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine Spa Wild Salmon with Basil

Truly a full meal, with two full servings of vegetables, 80 percent of your daily vitamin A and protein, but no preservatives or artificial flavourings.

Zinetti Roasted Vegetable Multi-Grain Lasagna
Made with whole grains and drastically lower in fat versus other ready-made lasagna dishes.

Stouffer’s LeanCuisine Spa Thai Chicken
Two full servings of vegetables add nutritional substance to this kicked-up chicken dish.

Knorr Rosemary Chicken, Linguine & Cherry Tomatoes
This family-sized entree is lower in salt than other frozen pastas, with two servings of vegetables per portion.

Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine Spinach & Mushroom Pizza
Proof that pizza doesn’t have to be loaded with fat and sodium to taste great. Plus it has a 100 percent whole wheat crust — a rare find!

Oven fries, fish sticks and chicken strips
Ian’s Sweet Potato French Fries

Drastically lower in fat than many frozen fry varieties, these soybean-oil-seasoned spuds have just 30 mg of sodium and a whopping 260 percent of your recommended daily vitamin A in a serving.

Life Choices Chicken Strips
This grain-fed, antibiotic-free chicken is trans-fat-free and prepared without frying. The flax in the coating adds 800 mg of healthy omega-3 fats to each serving.

High Liner Healthy Bake Multigrain Breaded Fish Fillets
Low in saturated fat and trans-fat-free, with a multi-grain coating that adds 7 g of fibre per serving.

VitaMuffin Deep Chocolate Muffins

Tastes like dessert, nourishes like a meal with 50 percent of your daily needs for 10 different vitamins in just one muffin. Whole wheat flour adds fibre, and it’s low in fat.

Breyers Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream
Tastes so creamy, it’s hard to believe this ice cream is fat-free! Drastically lower in sugar than other brands’ chocolate flavours, but your family will never know.

Healthy Choice French Vanilla Pudding
It’s tough to find a prepared pudding that doesn’t contain a ton of sugar and is also free of artificial sweeteners. This one is a better choice that’s low in fat, with 10 percent of your daily calcium needs.

Snack foods
Wasa Hearty Rye Crispbread

When you want a crunchy treat, reach for this hearty whole-grain cracker, made with just four ingredients and zero fat.

Kashi All Natural Chewy Granola Bars, Cherry Dark Chocolate flavour
Made with seven whole grains and sesame, these bars provide protein and fibre, plus vitamins and minerals. Dark chocolate adds a decadent-tasting hit of antioxidants.

Orville Redenbacher’s SmartPop 100 Calorie Mini Bags
Trans-fat-free and a great source of fibre, each mini bag makes a satisfying, perfectly sized snack.

JK Gourmet Nuts and Raisins Original Granola
With no sodium, refined sugar or added fat, this lightly sweetened granola is great sprinkled on yogurt or added to trail mix. It’s also gluten-free.

Guiltless Gourmet Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips
Baked, not fried, these chips have much less fat and fewer calories than others in the snack aisle. Free of saturated and trans fats, they’re also 92 percent organic.

Nutrition tips
• The best breakfast cereals have at least 4 g fibre and 4 g protein per serving. Because these nutrients take longer to digest, they help fuel the brain and stave off mid-morning cravings.

• Choose cheeses that contain 22 percent milk fat (MF) or less. You’ll get fewer calories as well as less saturated fat, which is key to preventing heart disease.

• Canned goods often contain more sodium than our bodies need, so choose “no salt added” or “lower sodium” versions.

• Choose bread that provides at least 3 g of fibre per serving and no more than 350 mg sodium. Look for “100% whole grain” on the label — “whole wheat” and “multi-grain” could mean these ingredients have been added to white flour in the bread.

• Ready-prepared pasta and sauce dishes, such as the ones recommended here, often contain less salt than combining store-bought sauce and pasta that you’ve cooked in salted water.

• The World Health Organization recommends limiting your daily intake of “free sugars” (found in desserts, candy, juice, etc.) to no more than 10 to 12 teaspoons a day in a 2,000-calorie diet. You can calculate the number of teaspoons in a food item by taking the total grams of sugar in your serving size and dividing by four.

• Beware: Low-calorie, low-sugar products may contain artificial sweeteners. These are best avoided, especially for kids.

This article was originally published on Jan 05, 2009

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