Have you heard of the “jelly bean rule?” It’s basically an FDA guideline that’s meant to prevent food companies from adding vitamins to junk food, just so that they can call it healthy.
For most folks, a jelly bean fortified with vitamin C is pretty clearly still junk food, but what about the other fortified snack foods we see on store shelves? I’m thinking here of sugary granola bars touted as breakfast food, fortified juice drinks like VitaminWater, and energy bars. These processed foods are certainly convenient, but they are not healthy. Calling them food almost feels like a stretch in some cases.
Not only are these processed convenience foods loaded with sugar, unhealthy fats, and GMO ingredients, but the excessive packaging is as bad for the planet as that snack is for your body. One granola bar wrapper might not seem like a lot, but imagine all of the granola bar wrappers from all of the people that eat one for breakfast every morning. That adds up to mountains of discarded single use plastic in our landfills and in our oceans.
The trouble is that you’re busy, right? Sometimes grabbing a granola bar on the way out the door is all you have time to do! So, how can you kick the processed food habit when you’re short on time?
If you want to ditch the processed convenience food but don’t want to give up convenience, don’t fret! There are lots of foods that are both convenient and healthy. Check out a list of truly healthy convenience foods on the next page.
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by smoorenburg
Truly Healthy Convenience Foods
Convenience alone doesn’t make food unhealthy. With a little bit of planning, you can stock your pantry with grab and go snacks without any of the mystery ingredients or excessive packaging. The best part? When you eat whole foods like these, you don’t need to fortify them. They’re already packed with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber!
- fresh fruit – What could be more convenient than grabbing an apple or banana to snack on?
- nuts – A handful of cashews, almonds, or pistachios make a filling snack that’s loaded with protein and fiber.
- veggies – To make fresh veggies even more convenient, process them in advance. Cut carrots and celery into sticks, chop broccoli into florets, etc. That way, when you’re ready to snack, you can just grab a container of prepared veggies from the fridge.
- bean dips – Bean dips, like hummus, take only a few minutes to make. Just drain and rinse a can of your bean of choice and toss that into the blender with a few spoonfuls of tahini, a splash of olive oil and lemon juice, and a clove or two of garlic. You can use those veggies you prepped for dipping when snack time rolls around!
- homemade granola bars – It’s easy as pie to make granola bars at home, and Mommy Footprint has a great recipe. To make this a vegan recipe, substitute maple syrup for the honey and use 1 tablespoon flax meal beaten in 1/4 cup water in place of the egg. If you are trying to watch your refined sugars, you could probably cut the amount of brown sugar in half, too!
- green smoothies – If you feel like you’re always short on time in the mornings, assemble your green smoothie in advance! Toss the greens and fruit that you want to use into a Mason jar the night before, so in the morning you just have to dump it into the blender with a few ice cubes and some almond milk or juice. You can even use the Mason jar as your to go cup and save yourself a dish.
Do you guys have any favorite homemade convenience foods? I’d love to hear more healthy snack and on-the-go meal ideas in the comments!