10 Packaged Foods I Recommend for Their Health Benefits
Packaged foods get a lot of flack in the health and wellness world—and oftentimes, that criticism is totally valid. Many major food companies add questionable ingredients to their products to make them taste better or be more addictive; and most of the time, those ingredients aren’t good for us (think inflammatory oils, chemicals, and tons of sugar!).
That said, a lot has changed in the realm of packaged foods over the last few years. Today, there are plenty of companies making healthier alternatives to the foods and snacks we love, with ingredients that nourish our bodies and taste delicious. I always recommend eating fresh, real foods whenever possible. But if you’re traveling, having a particularly busy week at work, or in a bind try one of these 10 packaged foods and let me know what you think!
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1. Store-bought bone broth
Whether you’re trying to reduce inflammation, get into intermittent fasting, or even live a keto-based lifestyle, bone broth is a great choice for a snack. And while you can certainly make bone broth at home, there’s no denying that the store-bought options are more convenient. I love Kettle & Fire’s Chicken and Beef bone broths, and Brodo, one of my favorite broth shops in NYC, recently started shipping their broth nationwide. I could go on and on about the power bone broth has to boost your health and well-being from the inside out, but instead, I recommend you read my Definitive Guide To Bone Broth!
2. Eden Foods Organic canned beans
Eden Foods makes everything from tahini and sesame butter to dried mushrooms and cherries, but my personal favorite is their organic canned beans and legumes. Beans and legumes are packed with nutrients and fiber that feed your gut, but they also contain proteins called lectins, which can be difficult for some people to digest. What I love about Eden Foods’ beans is that they are soaked and pressure-cooked before they’re canned—two processes that make them much easier on the digestive system, while still maintaining their taste, texture, and nutritional value. Not to mention, canned foods are often loaded with sodium, but Eden Foods leaves their beans unsalted, so you can control the salt content and add as much or little as you like.
3. Spindrift sparkling water
In September 2020, Consumer Reports found that many of the sparkling water companies we know and love contained measurable amounts of PFAs—perfluoroalkyl substances, which are man-made chemicals that never break down, and can build up in our blood and organs. Thankfully, my go-to sparkling water brand Spindrift ranked extremely low on that scale, with 0.19 parts per trillion. (Consumer Reports considered PFAS levels above 1 ppt a cause for concern.) All Spindrift flavors are free from added sugar, gluten-free, non-GMO, and use real squeezed fruit juice. I love the Strawberry, Blackberry, and Lemon flavors the most, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them!
4. Simple Mills crackers
If you’re looking for a snack that has overly processed ingredients galore, look no further than a big-name-brand box of crackers. You would be shocked to see how many crackers contain high levels of sugar, corn syrup, salt, and hydrogenated oils. That’s why whenever I am craving something salty or want a cracker alongside my hummus or guacamole, I turn to Simple Mills. Their crackers are made with nut and seed blend flours, as well as cassava (a resistant starch that benefits blood sugar) and organic spices.
5. Beyond Good Madagascar Dark Chocolate
Have a sweet tooth? Trust me, I get it. I spend every day helping my clients clean up their diets, but even I know that nutrition is about balance, and that chocolate is good for the soul. Unlike your typical grocery store chocolate brand, Beyond Good’s chocolate bars contain minimal, organic ingredients that you can pronounce and has minimal added sugar and no dairy. If you’re a dark chocolate lover, I recommend the 92% Single Origin Madagascar Pure Dark Chocolate. It’s vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, non-GMO, and Certified Direct Trade.
6. Paleovalley Grass-Fed Beef Sticks
If you’re looking for a snack that will keep you full between meals without loading up on carbs and sugar, meat snacks are the way to go. Unfortunately, most meat snacks are made with conventionally raised beef that is pumped with hormones and antibiotics, then processed with harmful GMO-based citric acid encapsulated in hydrogenated oils - these are not things you want to put in your body. That’s why I love Paleovalley 100% grass fed and finished beef sticks. They’re made with grass fed and finished beef, all organic certified spices, and naturally fermented for a long shelf life without harmful preservatives. They contain naturally occurring probiotics for a healthy gut, and 5 different flavors for happy taste buds!
7. Vegan Rob’s Dragon Puffs
No snack drawer or pantry is complete without some kind of puff. Most of the puffs on the market have no nutritional value or they taste mediocre, but Vegan Rob’s puffs are so good that they’ve become a staple in my household. As we know, our gut health impacts the rest of our body, so it’s imperative that we get adequate doses of probiotics every day, whether that’s through food or a supplement.
8. AshaPops Popped Water Lily Seeds
One of my new favorite plant-based snacks to have on hand is AshaPops. Made from Popped Water Lily Seeds, these little pops are a good source of plant-based protein and magnesium. They’re also gluten-free and grain-free, so they’re a wonderful snack option to keep around if you have kids with food sensitivities, or you just want a snack everyone can enjoy. Water lily seeds are also much-loved in the ancient Indian healing system Ayurveda, which praises them as the ultimate superfood. Spoiler: The Turmeric Garlic and Vegan Cheese varieties are fantastic.
9. Banza Chickpea Pasta
I’ve spent years working in functional medicine and nutrition, but to this day I’m still shocked by how many people aren’t getting enough protein. One easy way to up your protein intake is to swap your simple carbs for higher protein, higher fiber alternatives—namely bean and legume pasta. To me, Banza has this down to a science — it's hard to tell the difference between their chickpea pasta and a box of white flour pasta. Besides being more filling and satisfying, Banza has a short ingredient list and has a lower glycemic index than white pasta, meaning it won’t cause your blood sugar to rapidly rise and fall.
10. Real Coconut Tortilla Chips
Lastly, we have the Grain-Free Tortilla Chips from Real Coconut. As a tortilla chip lover but also a health food devotee, I can say with confidence that these are some of the best grain-free tortilla chips I’ve had. They’re gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, vegan, paleo-friendly, sustainably sourced—you name it. They also have a decent amount of fiber in them per serving (five grams), to help you feel fuller for longer and keep your digestive system moving. If you’re not a coconut fan, these may not be for you, but if you are, they’re a great choice.
I’ll always be a proponent of fresh, simple foods that go straight from the garden to your kitchen and your plate. But let’s be honest, we’re all human! Sometimes we’re going to eat something in a wrapper. And if you do, make it one of the 10 items above!
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.