Canned soups, prepackaged yogurt and microwave popcorn are daily dietary staples for many of us. But these foods do not always promote good health.
Rather than giving up on such favorite fare, prepare it yourself. Doing so can boost the healthful content of these foods.
Following are seven snacks and dishes that are more healthful when you prepare them yourself.
Store-bought yogurt is not the worst thing you can eat. But yogurt tends to be loaded with added sugar. You can make a more healthful yogurt at home says Neva Cochran, a Dallas-based registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition communications consultant.
Start with fresh or frozen fruit and mix it with plain Greek yogurt and a dash of vanilla flavoring.
“If you like it a little sweeter, sprinkle in a dash of low-calorie sweetener,” she says.
Canned soup may taste delicious, but it is often loaded with sodium. By making your own homemade soup, you can dramatically lower sodium intake.
For example, a 10.75-ounce can of Campbell’s chicken soup contains 890 milligrams of sodium per serving.
By contrast, you can purchase 32 ounces of unsalted Swanson chicken broth at just 40 milligrams of sodium per serving. Add vegetables and noodles and you will have a healthy, hearty meal to warm you this winter.
Instead of a microwavable frozen sausage, egg, cheese and biscuit breakfast sandwich, create a more healthful version.
Layer a scrambled or poached egg on a toasted whole-grain English muffin. Then, add a slice of lean ham or Canadian bacon. “To boost calcium and protein, add a slice of low-fat cheese,” Cochran says.
The word “granola” just sounds like it’s healthful. But the granola bars you buy in stores typically are loaded with added sugars, fats and oils.
By making granola at home – an easy process that even a novice cook can complete -- you can reduce the amount of those bad ingredients and keep the good stuff, including fiber, protein, and various vitamins and minerals.
When you are pressed for time, it’s tempting to pick up one of those precooked whole chickens at your favorite supermarket. However, the sodium content can be relatively high in such birds.
For example, Cochran says a supermarket chain near her Texas home sells a rotisserie chicken that has 490 milligrams of sodium in just 3 ounces of chicken.
By contrast, an unsalted chicken cooked at home might have around 80 milligrams of sodium per 3 ounces of chicken, she says.
Chicken skin also is notoriously fattening and bad for your health. But leaving the skin on during cooking helps the meat retain moisture. So, Cochran suggests a compromise.
"You can easily remove the skin after cooking for either a store-prepared (chicken) or one you cook yourself and get the same result in reducing fat," she says.
Microwave popcorn is loaded with sodium. Two unpopped tablespoons of Orville Redenbacher's "Butter" microwave popcorn has about 320 milligrams of sodium.
So, pop your own popcorn in an air popper and you’ll end up with a sodium count of zero. Even if you lightly sprinkle that popcorn with salt, you still will get a more healthful treat than what you would pull out of the microwave.
Chips and guacamole
This snack favorite typically combines a healthful item with something less nutritious. Hold on to the good stuff – guacamole – and dump the chips for baby carrots, sliced zucchini and grape tomatoes.
Or, toast whole-wheat or corn tortillas and cut them into triangles for dipping.
You can even save cash by preparing your own guacamole instead of buying a premade tub.
“It’s almost as easy and less expensive to mash fresh, peeled avocados with a dash of salt and hot pepper sauce and stir in diced tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and lemon or lime juice,” Cochran says.