Ok, confession first, then the good stuff.
The Confession: Despite the current newsletter series, I’m not a 5-minute meal kinda gal.
I understand that for a lot of you, cooking is a burden that plagues your evening. But for me, I hear the first sizzle of food hitting the pan and stress from the day melts away. It’s the immediate gratification of building something satisfying and is a medium for unplugging and investing in relationships with the people I love. That’s what it’s about really, not the food itself or how it tastes.
And shout out to Mom and Dad for forced family dinners growing up, I guess it worked! ; )
So that being said, I’m new to the 5-minute meal world and it’s been incredibly fun and insightful.
My main takeaway so far is that by necessity I am eating more packaged foods and it is freaking expensive!
Holy cow. When I started cooking a lot back in college I actually cut my grocery bill quite a bit and have heard the same feedback from my clients so it was quite the shock.
But one thing still stands true: never compromise on quality.
That doesn’t mean it is bad, just understand that it’s all about tradeoffs, you pay with your time or your money. If you’re on a budget, be open to getting comfortable in the kitchen instead of sacrificing food quality. So strike a balance that works for you, which may ebb and flow depending on the season of life. I’ll also keep the easy 5-minute recipes flowing so sign up for my newsletter to not miss them!
Here were some favorites this week (mostly from Trader Joe’s):
Healthy Packaged Food Guidelines
Read the ingredients.
- Are the ingredients all real food that you can pronounce?
- What level of quality are the ingredients listed? (pay special attention to oils – look for olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil. Stay away from vegetable oil, canola oil, and soybean oil)
- What are the first three ingredients listed? These ingredients make up the largest amount of the product.
Look for key marketing words.
- Are you seeing phrases like Low Fat, Low Sodium, or Sugar-Free? Think chemical shit storm.
- Are you seeing seals like USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project, or Grass Fed?
- A word of caution: these words do not guarantee it is a healthy choice (organic sugar effects your blood sugar the same way as not organic sugar)
- They are an indicator of ingredient quality and company integrity which, when in line with the other guidelines, means it’s a good choice.
- Another word of caution: gluten-free is also not a guaranteed indicator of healthy or quality, but it can, so once again – use discretion.
Look at the serving size.
- Does it look reasonable or is that 1/4 of what you’re going to eat in one sitting? Because let’s be real.
Don’t forget to bookmark this page to reference my constantly updated list of favorite packaged foods! Leave your favorite products in the comments below!