6 Healthy (and Simple) Supermarket Food Finds
You may equate eating healthy with lots of preparation and fuss. But Janet Brill, PhD, RDN, CSSD, FAND, a Pennsylvania-based nutritionist and author, says the latest array of foods on your grocery store shelves and in the produce section make it easier than ever to get lots of great nutrients in single-portioned foods and snacks. There are also some great "superfoods" that can give you a hefty dose of nutrition packed in one simple ingredient. So next time you’re tempted to skip real food and grab a snack bar or meal replacement bar, Brill suggests looking at some of the fresher alternatives. "I would rather eat real foods that last longer," she explains. "You can’t go wrong with food as Mother Nature made it."
Here are a few of her top picks of healthy eats, and where you can find them in the store:
1. Chia Seeds
The seeds of the chia plant contain omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, and preliminary research proposes that including chia seeds in your diet can be good for your heart.
How to enjoy it: Brill and other heart health nutritionists suggest eating some every day: Try sprinkling chia seeds on salads, adding them to cereal, or mixing them in your favorite recipes. "I often toast Ezekiel [brand] sprouted bread (low sodium) and top it with almond butter, then adds chia seeds on top," Brill says.
Nutritional info: 1 ounce has 137 calories; 9 grams of fat; 12 grams of carbs; 4 grams of protein.
Find it in: The organic and health food aisle.
This is a type of ancient grain (although nutritionists say it’s really more of a pseudo cereal) that is a complete protein, unlike most other grains. It has fatty acids that promote heart health and contains a wide array of vitamins. It’s also very low allergy, gluten-free, easy-to-digest, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
How to enjoy it: "You can cook and serve it like rice, add it to soups, or combine it with nuts and fruit," Brill says. You can also grind it and add it to flour when you bake. To avoid quinoa’s slightly bitter taste, rinse it thoroughly before you cook.
Nutritional info: 1 cup has 222 calories; 4 grams of fat; 39 grams of carbs; 8 grams of protein.
Find it in: The organic and health food aisle.
"This (is a type of cabbage that) has a strong taste that can taken some getting used to… but it’s a great trend right now that is very nutritious," Brill points out. It contains lots of antioxidants, and is also high in vitamins A and C.
How to enjoy it: You can make a kale salad (use instead of lettuce or combine with lettuce), add it to soup, combine it with some beans, blend it in a smoothie, roast it in an oven to make kale chips, or sautee it.
Nutritional info: 1 cup has 33 calories; 0 grams of fat; 7 grams of carbs; 2 grams of protein.
Where to find it: Produce aisle.
4. Quick-Cooking Brown Rice
Brill likes Minute Ready to Serve Brown Rice. "This is a wonderful trend," Brill says. It makes it easy for people on the go to eat a hot side without lots of preparation, mess, or fuss.
How to enjoy it: When time is limited, it doesn’t get much easier than a ready-to-serve container of brown rice, Brill says. A healthy-size portion is measured out already for you and it only takes a minute to heat in the microwave.
Nutrition info: 1 cup has 230 calories; 4 grams of fat; 44 grams of carbs; 5 grams of protein.
Where to find it: Rice and grain aisle.
Brill gives air-popped popcorn high marks as a great snack food, and researchers from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania second this grade. In a study released in 2012, they found that popcorn, which is made from unprocessed whole grains, is richer in antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables.
How to enjoy it: Brill says your best bet is to pop your own—and steer clear of butter, oil, salt, and other fattening extras. For an easier option, you can always go with a 100-calorie microwavable popcorn bag.
Air popped nutrition info: 3 cups have 93 calories; 1.1 grams of fat; 18.7 grams of carbs; 3.1 grams of protein.
Where to find it: Snackfood aisle.
6. Dark Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
The decadent texture and great taste deliver a round of nutrients in a delicious and satisfying way. Brill likes Dole’s Dark Chocolate Strawberry Dippers, which contains four half-strawberries dipped in rich dark chocolate. Better yet, Brill points out that the individual servings make it easy to treat yourself without getting carried away.
How to enjoy: One serving size at a time! These are a much healthier alternative to the endless dessert options you can find at a supermarket, but don't use that as an excuse to overindulge.
Nutritional info: One serving/4 halves has 60 calories; 4 grams of fat; 6 grams of carbs; 1 gram of protein.
Where to find them: Frozen food aisle. .