Prevention.com put packaged foods to the test once again this year, revealing 21 winners of the website’s Best Packaged Food Awards. Prevention.com asked registered dietitians and food bloggers to recommend their favorite new and healthy packaged foods. Each product was tested and tasted by Prevention editors and then narrowed down to the final list of the top 21 choices.
“Packaged foods have a bad reputation, but cooking from scratch all the time can be unrealistic,” said Deborah Wilburn, Executive Editor of Prevention.com. “We want to give our readers the healthiest, most delicious options for the meals they’re actually cooking on a daily basis. Each of our winners not only tastes terrific, but all are trans fat-free, lower in sodium and sugar than their competitors, and are chock-full of key nutrients.”
Here is the complete list of Prevention.com’s “Best Packaged Food Awards” winners for 2011. A feature on the award winners can be found at www.prevention.com/packaged-foods-2011
· Best Cereal: Ambrosial Venetian Vineyard Granola
This sweet and crunchy organic granola wowed editors’ taste buds with the combination of walnuts, dates, and raisins. It packs in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, 28 grams of whole grains, and has no added oil. Though it’s a little caloric, at 230 calories and 7 grams of fat per half-cup serving, it contains 5 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, and 10% of your daily dose of iron.
· Best Oatmeal: Country Choice Organic Instant Oatmeal With Flax
With just two ingredients—whole grain rolled oats and flaxseed—you know you’re starting the day with a healthy, fiber-filled breakfast.
· Best Yogurt: Chobani Lemon 0% Greek Yogurt
The new flavor of this uber-popular yogurt brand boasts a delicious, not-too-sweet citrus taste that still provides all the nutritional benefits of Greek yogurt. This nonfat yogurt contains 140 calories and provides you with nearly one-third of your daily intake of protein as well as 15% of your daily calcium.
· Best Cheese: Sargento Sliced Reduced Sodium Pepper Jack Cheese
It’s hard to cut down on salt without cutting down on flavor, but this reduced sodium cheese has a deliciously bold taste. With 70 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 90 mg of sodium, this cheese is diet-friendly.
· Best Wrap: Tumaro’s New York Deli-Style Wraps in Pumpernickel
Get the distinctive taste of your favorite bread in a low-cal wrap. With just 80 calories per serving, the pumpernickel variety is made from whole-wheat flour and has a delicious deli flavor you don’t find in many wraps.
· Best Pasta: Annie Chun’s Pad Thai Brown Rice Noodles
This 100% whole grain pasta is a delicious substitute for brown rice, with none of the grainy texture some whole-wheat pastas can have. It’s a gluten-free alternative that’s delicious in stir-fries, soups, or pasta salads, and each serving boasts 4g of fiber.
· Best Deli Meat: Applegate Farms Organic Roasted Turkey Breast
This organic meat has a wholesome and delicious flavor and is free of preservatives, antibiotics, and nitrates. Though a serving contains 360 mg of sodium, it is comparatively lower than other packaged sliced turkey breast.
· Best Meat: Coleman Natural’s Chicken Meatballs Spinach, Fontina Cheese, and Roasted Garlic
These 100% natural pre-cooked chicken meatballs are free of fillers and preservatives, but full of savory flavor. Even though they contain a good bit of sodium—470 mg—they got RD and ADA spokesperson Sari Greaves’ seal of approval. “Stick to one serving and balance them with a side of steamed vegetables or a salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar/fresh lemon juice,” she advises.
· Best Fish: Wild Planet Canned Wild Albacore Tuna
This canned fish is sustainably caught using environmentalist-approved fishing methods. It’s far lower in mercury and much higher in omega-3s than other canned tuna.
· Best Vegetarian Entrée: Amy’s Light and Lean Black Bean and Cheese Enchilada
The filling entrée contains only 240 calories, but our tasters said it kept them full for hours, and they loved the rich and bold Southwestern flavors. Added bonus: it’s 94% organic.
· Best Soup: Trader Joe’s Organic Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup Low-Sodium
Thick and savory, this boxed soup is so delicious, you’d never know it was low in sodium.
· Best Kid-Friendly Dish: Dr. Praeger’s Sweet Potato Littles
These adorable sweet potato bites will be devoured in seconds. Plus, with just a few ingredients, your family won’t be getting any unwanted extras.
· Best Chips: Laurel Hill Multigrain Chips
Brown rice, quinoa, flax seeds, and stone ground yellow corn combine to add fiber to this snack, and the light, crispy texture and perfect hint of salt will keep you coming back for more.
· Best Nuts: Planters Jalapeño Pistachios
Tasters loved the spicy taste of these nuts, and pistachios are rich in heart-healthy fats, a good source of protein, and studies show they may help lower cholesterol.
· Best Bar: KIND Bars Pomegranate Blueberry Pistachios
One look at this bar and you can actually see the almonds, cashews, blueberries, and raisins, packaged into an on-the-go bar. Testers liked the tart and tangy bar that wasn’t “too sweet.” With 50% of vitamins A, C, and E, you can be sure you’re getting health boost in each bite.
· Best Juice: Apple & Eve Fruitables Tropical Orange Juice
Although it’s always better to get your vitamins from whole fruit, these drinks are refreshingly light. Juices from fruits and veggies, including oranges, butternut squash, and carrots, are combined with water in a portion-controlled 6.75 ounce container, with one-third less sugar than other fruit drinks.
· Best Milk: Almond Breeze Original Unsweetened Almond Milk
This rich and creamy beverage is gaining popularity not only for its taste, but also its nutrition. With fewer calories than skim milk, you can get 20% of your calcium and 50% of your recommended intake of vitamin E in a to-go package.
· Best Tea: Numi Tea NUMI Monkey King Jasmine Green Tea (certified organic)
Green tea is full of antioxidants and has powerful disease-fighting capabilities. This jasmine-flavored caffeinated tea was a hit with our tasters.
· Best Nut Butter: Barney Butter Almond Butter Snack Packs
These 90-calorie portable packets offer easy portion control, which is crucial for this category since nut butters can be high in calories.
· Best Marinara: Lucini Rustic Tomato Basil Sauce
Each bite of this marinara sauce is bursting with authentic Italian-flavor. The ingredient list is full of whole foods—tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, onions—and it is sweetened with carrot puree, not processed sugar.
· Best Ice Cream: Talenti Argentine Dulce De Leche Gelato
This all-natural ice cream is made with milk that’s free of hormones and real Argentine dulce de leche, luxurious flavors that make it worth the splurge.
What do you think? Have you tried any of these foods? Do you have a new favorite that’s not on the list?