Gotta Eat and Got No Time?

Take a look at some prepackaged foods that are healthy and convenient.
By Cara Lucas

Living an on-the-go lifestyle can often make it tough to maintain a wholesome madefrom- scratch diet. Of course, in an ideal world, we would know exactly how all of our food is prepared—from yard to table. But, unfortunately, both time and money don’t always allow for that. Using a combination of healthy prepackaged foods is a smart way to stretch your dollar.

Prepackaged foods can come in the form of complete meals and entrees (frozen TV dinners or canned beef stew, for example) or packaged mixes (like gravies, sauces, or batters). But whether it’s using canned soup or broth for a flavorful stock, seasoned noodles for a hearty pasta dish, or a prepackaged pie crust for dessert—as long as you check the ingredients before you buy, you can still adhere to a high nutritional standard when purchasing ready-to-eat items from the store.

When looking at organic prepackaged meals, hold them to the same strict standards as other organic products. This can include looking for the USDA seal that certifies 95 percent of ingredients are organic; verifying that the product says “contains organic ingredients,” which means that 70 percent of ingredients are organic; or studying the ingredients list to ensure that organic ingredients were used to make the product.

Breakfast
It could be argued that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it usually wins in the category of most rushed—if you even eat it at all. While it’s not super important to eat a big meal in the morning, you should always try to nibble on a little something to get your metabolism in gear and to prevent overeating at lunch. There are a variety of packaged foods that, with little to no preparation, provide a substantial and satisfying breakfast when you’re in a time crunch.

Cereals are a great way to incorporate whole grains into your diet. Oats and Honey Granola Cereal is one of the many varieties of organic cereal from Cascadian Farms. The filling combination of honey-coated oats and crisp rice makes for a quick and hearty breakfast. Hot cereals like oatmeal are just as convenient and generally keep you full throughout your morning. Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods has instant organic oatmeal packets that are free of sugar, delicious, and convenient. Try tossing in some fruit or nuts for added texture and taste. Kashi also has an organic line of cereals that are packed full of whole grains and fiber—and tasty to boot!

When you’re ready for a hot breakfast, fluffy waffles drizzled in syrup are sure to please. Healthy, ready-to-go waffles that are enriched with flax seed and chunks of fig from Nature’s Path are a satisfying option. There are several flavors to choose from and it pairs easily with fresh fruit for even more nutrients. Seriously, who doesn’t love waffles? If you have a gluten sensitivity, Udi’s has several gluten-free products, including bagels, breads, and buns, that frame the perfect breakfast sandwich.

Cascadian Farms has an entire line of healthy breakfast foods. Their organic granola comes in French vanilla, cinnamon raisin, dark chocolate, and oats and honey flavors for a sweet but wholesome way to start your day.

Lunch
If you’re working during the day, chances are that getting a good lunch means you either must spend money on going out to eat or plan ahead. Food prep can take away from time that could be used on more meaningful tasks, especially if you have a busy schedule. Every now and then, having prepackaged ingredients comes in handy. The following meals can either be enjoyed on their own or easily spiced up by adding some of your favorite ingredients or side dishes.

Imagine Natural Creations’ line of organic, creamy garden soups has vegetarian, kosher, low-sodium, and gluten-free options that you can use as a base for a wholesome soup. Just add your own touch with fresh veggies, divide into portions, and graze on it throughout the week. Kettle Cuisine has a great line of soups, as well. They are independent, artisan-soup makers that focus on using the highest-quality ingredients, minimizing their environmental footprint, and taking no shortcuts in producing their soups.

You can’t go wrong with Mexican, right? Beans, cheese, and rice can be combined in a million ways and still be simply delicious. Red’s all-natural burritos are a sure way to fill you up and sustain you throughout the day. They have bean and rice, turkey mole, chicken, and steak burritos to choose from. Only the best antibiotic- and hormone-free meat is used, as well as organic veggies and brown rice.

Amy’s Light-in-Sodium Shepherd’s Pie is a modern gluten-free, vegan version of the traditionally meat-laden meal. Just pop it in the microwave and it’s ready to serve. For vegetarians, Amy’s has a delicious ready-to-go tofu scramble with organic vegetables and hash-browned potatoes on the side. This would be great to bring into work to heat up at lunchtime or to even eat for dinner if you are too exhausted to prepare a comparable meal from scratch.

Kashi has an entire line of frozen meals that can be ready in minutes. Unique options like Lemongrass Coconut Chicken, Red Curry Chicken, Tuscan Veggie Bake, and Black Bean Mango, among others, satiate your appetite and add wholesome nutrition to your diet. They also offer a new veggie pizza with roasted veggies, mushrooms, rich sauces, and tasty cheeses piled on a whole grain thin crust.

Annie Chun’s Soy Ginger Ramen deliciously spices up the taste of generic Ramen with Japanese soy broth infused with ginger. Made with all-natural ingredients and restaurant quality ramen noodles, this makes a great meal when you need a quick lunch. Store them at your desk or cupboard, microwave for about two minutes, and enjoy!

Dinner
It can be an exhausting feat to reenergize for dinner, especially after a long day packed full of activities. You have to eat, but you have neither the time nor the oomph to prepare a made-from-scratch meal. The following ideas can provide quick but healthy options for a well-balanced evening meal.

Organic Bistro Savory Turkey is a no-hassle way to get a hot and healthy meal on the fly. The turkey breast is dressed in rosemary-shitake mushroom sauce and comes with green beans and French green lentil-quinoa pilaf with walnuts and herbs. Just like the brand states, all of the ingredients are organic. Another dinner favorite from Organic Bistro is the Sesame Ginger Wild Salmon bowl. It is just as tasty as it sounds and gluten- and dairy-free.

Rice Expressions has so many varieties of rice that with each pick, you can create flavors from anywhere in the world. From brown to long-grain rice, Thai jasmine rice to rice pilaf, there is an endless combination of recipes at your fingertips by creatively incorporating this single ingredient.

Cascadian Farms Organic Cut Spinach is a great substitute to strengthen your dinner dish. Whether you’re adding it into a recipe or serving it as a side dish, it’s sure to add a nutrient rich source of food to your meal. Cascadian Farms’ other gourmet boxed vegetables include asparagus cuts, broccoli florets, French-cut green beans with toasted almonds, peas and pearl onions, petite whole green beans, steamed broccoli and carrots, steamed garden vegetable medley, super sweet corn, and winter squash.

Lasagna seems to be a classic favorite for everyone. Annie’s Cheesy Lasagna contains organic pasta noodles and a cheesy tomato sauce. Simply add ground beef (or your favorite vegetarian substitute), top with parmesan cheese and basil, stir in sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions, and voila, you can have a hot meal in record time—and one that will totally satisfy your family.

Snack or Dessert
A quick snack during the day gives you a boost between meals and helps to keep your metabolism in gear. If you are looking for something sweet, these snacks (or desserts) can be a solution on the fly!

Full Circle produces organic fruits and vegetables that make a difference in your diet. This company is committed to integrity in planting, harvesting, and distributing their goods. Try their fig bars or chocolate sandwich cookies for a treat during the day.

Bella’s gluten-free cinnamon raisin bread mix is 100 percent natural and allergen free. You can make one large loaf or 12 sticky buns to serve as a delicious snack or breakfast treat. Mango fruit bars from Edy’s are also a good option. They are made with real fruit, and the refreshing mango taste satisfies any sweet craving.

Another great snack from Annie’s is USDA organic, gelatin-free, and gluten-free fruit bites. In each pouch, you consume one entire serving of fruit! They are great for kids and come in four fun shapes and a variety of flavors.

Neither your health nor the flavor of your food has to suffer by eating prepared food items. You don’t have to be scared of prepackaged foods; use them to your advantage. Shortcut cooking does not mean you have to compromise quality. The only thing you have to lose is prep time—and, when you have a busy schedule, that’s a good thing!