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    In A Pinch? These Products Make Healthy Dining A Cinch!

    amys-tradbeansI hear it often.

    • “By the time I get home from work and the gym, the last thing I want to do is cook a meal, even if it’s just twenty minutes.”
    • “I love cooking healthy meals when I have company, but when it’s just me on a Tuesday night, I’m not as motivated.”
    • “Is it at all possible to eat healthy without getting extra pots and pans dirty?”

    These statements make complete sense.  I, too, often come home some evenings feeling more lazy than chef-like.  I love to cook, and there are nights when all I want to do is press a button and have dinner served to me; I can only imagine what a kitchen-phobe must experience!

    Alas, the products listed below have often come to my rescue by allowing me to have a healthy meal with simple ingredients in minutes on days where an avocado, hummus, and sprout sandwich just won’t cut it.

    Please note this is simply a personal list of my favorite items.  While extensive, it is not a definitive “end all, be all” compilation.  There are plenty of other products that would fit the bill but are not listed simply because I have not tried them.

    All of these products get high marks from me for flavor, nutrient composition, and agreeable ingredient lists (no test-tube Frankengredients in sight!).

    For easier navigation, I have divided them by category.

    WHOLE GRAINS

    • Seeds of Change Tigris or Uyuni microwaveable rice pouches: these whole grains are already seasoned, but unlike other brands, the sodium content is absolutely reasonable (220 milligrams per cup).  Bonus: they are certified organic!
    • Tasty Bite microwaveable brown rice: a great way to get whole grains that allows you to flavor to your liking.  Super quick and easy flavoring ideas:
      • Soy sauce, ground ginger, toasted sesame oil
      • Raisins and cashews
      • Curry powder and olive oil

    BEANS AND LEGUMES (best used as side dishes):

    SAUCES:

    • Seeds of Change Indian simmer sauces: transform a simple stir-fry into a palate-popping dish — without sketchy ingredients or ridiculous amounts of calories and sodium.
    • Dave’s Gourmet pasta sauce: with so many commercial pasta sauces laden with sodium and added sugars (but very little flavor), these are an absolute delight.  The butternut squash pasta sauce turns pasta night into a culinary treat.
    • Alessi pasta sauce: imported from Sicily, so they don’t get “green points”, but I justify my purchases by thinking of all the local produce I purchase!
    • Rao’s pasta sauce: I occasionally have a craving for whole wheat penne a la vodka.  When I do, this is the sauce I turn to.  The price tag is hefty, but one jar lasts me three or four months.

    MUST-HAVES FOR A 3-MINUTE ENTREE OR SIDE SALAD (mix and match):

    • Pre-washed greens (if the bag or container says “triple washed”, I don’t bother with additional rinsing or washing  Straight into my plate or bowl it goes).  My tastebuds become putty in arugula’s hands, so that’s generally what I use, but use whatever you prefer.
    • Grape or cherry tomatoes.  Love these.  All they need is a quick rinse.  No chopping or slicing needed, unless you want to.
    • Canned whole kernel sweet corn: Just needs a quick rinse.
    • Pre-shredded carrots: Ready-to-go betacarotene.
    • Jarred roasted red peppers
    • Pitted olives
    • Seeds.  Pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, chia.  Whatever.  Sprinkle two or three tablespoons to add protein, fiber, phytonutrients — and crunch!
    • Raisins.  Easy way to add sweetness to a salad straight out of a container.  Dried cranberries also work, though all varieties contain added sugar.
    • Shredded organic cheese (dairy or alternative): Again, open the bag and sprinkle over your salad.  Takes all of, what, 20 seconds?

    YOU COULD ALSO USE THE SALAD VEGETABLES AS A BED FOR THESE QUICK PROTEINS:

    I don’t have much experience in the realm of frozen meals (and most of what I have tried classifies as “pretty decent” at best, and therefore not fitting for this “best of” post).  However, here are a few items (entrees and side dishes) I like to have handy and enjoy eating.  FYI: I prefer cooking them in the oven, which does require a good amount of time:

    • Evol Burritos: I wish they were slightly lower in sodium, but as long as they are an occasional “I’m in no mood to cook” SOS item (think no more than twice a month), it’s fine.  Top with a few tablespoons of salsa if you want to feel more accomplished.
    • Dr. Praeger’s sweet potato pancakes: When you don’t have a sweet potato to bake, this is a good alternative.
    • Trader Joe’s Thai vegetable dumplings: I sometimes enjoy these as a snack or an appetizer.

    And, please, help inform fellow Small Bites readers by leaving your favorite “in a pinch” products that deserves two thumbs up for great flavors and lovely nutrition labels.

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    2 Comments

    1. Quinn said on August 16th, 2010

      Great suggestions. Don’t forget that cooking your brown rice in something other than water can give it a kick. I like to microwave brown rice in low sodium V8 then throw in cilantro and green onions, or for a sweet version cook it in orange juice and throw in raisins.

    2. Andy Bellatti said on August 16th, 2010

      Excellent FYI, Quinn! Thank you.

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