40 Of The Healthiest Packaged Foods You Can Buy At The Supermarket
To that end, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) publishes newsletters naming the healthiest brand-name foods you can find at the supermarket. To make their selections, CSPI, which is an independent organization that doesn’t take money from the government or the food industry, crunched data on calories, saturated fat, sodium, and other nutritional information, depending on the category. CSPI says the selections below, handpicked by its nutritionists just for BuzzFeed, taste good, too.
These recommendations are based on daily nutritional limits for a 2,000-calorie diet. CSPI advises eating no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of saturated fat, 25 grams (or 6 teaspoons) of added sugar for women, and 36 grams (or 9 teaspoons) of added sugar for men each day. Keep in mind that nutritional information listed on products can vary from store to store and from what is published online, so always check the label of the product you are purchasing. If you’d like to get the full newsletters, subscribe here. In the meantime, here are some helpful highlights to keep in mind next time you shop:
“Bread is the number one source of sodium in the average American’s diet,” says Jayne Hurley, a Registered Dietitian at CSPI. So if you love sandwiches — and who doesn’t? — pay attention.
THE CRITERIA: CSPI’s picks for bread have no more than 120mg or less of sodium per slice, are made from all (or almost all) whole grain, and do not include breads made with the artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium, whose safety tests CSPI says “were conducted in the 1970s and were of mediocre quality.” (More information about this sweetener and others is available here.)
“Cheese is two-thirds saturated fat,” says Hurley. “And saturated fat is the kind of fat that clogs arteries, so it’s the harmful kind of fat.” So, if you’re going to eat a lot of cheese, she advises choosing the lower-fat kind. “I agree the fat-free cheeses suffer from a rubbery texture,” says Hurley. “But for the light cheeses, I think many pass for being as good as the full fat ones.”
THE CRITERIA: CSPI’s picks have no more than 3 grams of saturated fat and 170 milligrams per ounce.
Note: “Because of rounding inconsistencies, [CSPI] included some cheeses whose labels list up to 3.5 grams of saturated fat.”
CSPI recommends sticking with plain, unsweetened yogurt and adding your own fruit at home. “The problem with the fruit-on-the-bottom ones, or let’s call it ‘fruit glop on the bottom,’ is it’s mostly sugar,” says Hurley. “The most ‘fruited’ yogurts have 3-4 teaspoons of added sugar.”
THE CRITERIA: Because yogurts come in so many different sizes, CSPI’s precise requirements vary from size to size. All of the picks below are plain and unsweetened, have low calorie counts, and provide a decent amount of calcium and protein. Any sugar in these yogurts are naturally occurring from the milk — they are not added. While there are some variations in nutritional content, these are all good choices and Hurley says to “follow your taste.”
Yes, sometimes it seems like pulling up to a drive-thru is the easiest way to get a hot and delicious breakfast. But plenty of healthy, hot cereals can be made in less time than it takes to get to the local drive-thru window. These are all unsweetened — add fruit for a healthy way to sweeten your breakfast.
THE CRITERIA: CSPI only chose cereals that are made with 100% whole grains, have no added sugar, and no more than than 100mg of sodium per serving.
There are few places in this world as confusing as the cereal aisle. So many labels! So many health claims! How’s a person to know what’s actually good for them?
THE CRITERIA: CSPI’s choices have no more than 2.5g of saturated fat per serving and no acesulfame-potassium, sucralose, or monk fruit extract. They also have at least 3g of fiber per 100 calories (and if a cereal lists processed fiber as an ingredient, it has to list bran first), and the cereals have to either list whole grains as the first two ingredients OR contain little or no refined grains (bran counts as a whole grain).
The beauty of a frozen novelty dessert is that the serving size is built-in. You don’t have to worry about your scoops being too big and accidentally eating more than you intended. But they can be tricky, too, because they usually have a lot of sugar, fat, and artificial sweeteners.
THE CRITERIA: CSPI’s choices have no more than 120 calories, 2 grams of saturated fat, and “are free of unsafe or questionable artificial sweeteners.”
Note: “Added sugar numbers are all estimates. [CSPI} cannot estimate added sugar on the fruit bars because we do not know how much naturally occurring sugar is coming from the fruit.”
Choosy eaters should choose the nut butters without added salts and sugars but with plenty of protein. While these butters can still have small amounts of sugar, they are naturally occurring in the nuts.
CRITERIA: CSPI recommends nut butters that contain no added salt or sugar. Each 2 tablespoon serving should have at least 6 grams of protein and no more than 3 grams of saturated fat.
Making salad dressing at home can be very simple. “If you were making your own dressing,” Hurley says, “make it low in sodium or just leave the sodium out entirely.” But if you’re buying you’re dressings, keep an eye out! Many dressings are high in calories, sugar, and sodium.
THE CRITERIA: In each 2-tablespoon serving, there are no more than 110 calories and 100mg of sodium. Plus, none of these list sugar (or any sweetener) as the first ingredient.
Holy cow there are a lot of options when it comes to coffee creamers. But many are full of sugars, artificial sweeteners and fat, so choosing the right one can be tough.
THE CRITERIA: Each 1 tablespoon serving has no trans fats, no more than 0.2g of saturated fat, no more than 15 calories (which limits sugar) and no artificial sweeteners.
Note: CSPI “estimated saturated fat content for these because per labeling rules, if the product contains less than 0.5g fat, the product may list 0g fat on the label (even though it may contain up to just under 0.5g).”