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3 Quick Ways to Make Packaged Food Healthier

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In an ideal world, we’d all cook Instagram-worthy fresh and healthy meals every day. But we’re all busy—which is why we rely on packaged food from time to time. The problem: skimpy portions that leave something to be desired in the produce department. That’s why you should do a little doctoring, says nutritionist Ashley Koff, R.D. How? Start with the healthiest versions of those packaged foods you can find, she suggests (look for recognizable, natural ingredients and less than 500 milligrams of sodium for an entree), and follow these tips to give them a taste and nutrition boost. 

Instant Oatmeal Packets
Stashing a box of these in your desk (grab the plain variety without added sugars) can be a morning and afternoon diet-saver. On days you run late, you'll have an easy meal waiting for you. Even more: A pre-portioned mug of oatmeal makes a great snack to get you from lunch to dinner. Koff suggests adding a little healthy fat for flavor and satiety—try nut butters or seeds—and some protein, like a scoop of protein powder. (If you’re at home, try going savory and topping a bowl with an organic egg.) If it’s a sweet snack you’re craving, add some dark chocolate chips for a fiber-filled treat. (Better yet, find inspiration with one of these 16 Savory Oatmeal Recipes.)

Canned or Boxed Soup
With a few add-ins, you can take some plain tomato or butternut squash soup or even chicken broth and turn it into a full meal, in under five minutes. Throw some organic frozen vegetables into the soup while it heats up, suggests Koff. Pick a low sodium version like the light in sodium options from Amy's Kitchen and amp up the flavor (without adding salt) by raiding your spice rack. Hemp or other seeds will give you some crunch and healthy fat, and leftover meat (like cooked sausage or taco meat) can boost the protein

Frozen Dinners
Koff says she finds that many frozen foods have poor quality animal proteins, so she suggests choosing a vegetarian entrée and adding in your own protein. Keep some canned sustainable fish, like salmon, in the house for weeks when you have no time for grocery shopping. (We've rounded up The Best Frozen Meals Under 400 Calories.)

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