healthy packaged foods

Best Brands: Picking Healthy Packaged Foods

by Kelley Herring on August 21, 2013

Looking to learn about healthy packaged foods? You’ve come to the right place.

If you’re already eating a whole foods diet – in Mother Nature’s Perfect Packaging – then you’re doing a lot to protect your health. But the truth is, most of us are fueling our bodies with a long list of additives and ingredients that either do not appear in nature… or they have been processed and refined to the point of being completely unnatural.

In fact, 90% of the money Americans spend on food is used to buy processed foods!

And what comes in these convenient little containers may be more than just refined, bleached and devitalized… it could be deadly.

Take a look:

  • A seven-year study of close to 200,000 people by the University of Hawaii found that people who ate the most processed meats (hot dogs, sausage) had a 67% higher risk of pancreatic cancer than those who ate little or none.
  • A Canadian study found that men who frequently consumed (processed meats, refined grains, vegetable oils and soft drinks) also had a significantly higher risk of prostate cancer. Those who ate the most processed foods had 2.5 times greater risk.
  • A study published in Cancer Epidemiology of more than 1,800 women in Mexico found that those who got 57% or more of their total calories from refined carbohydrates had a 220% higher risk of breast cancer than women who ate less. (FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Getting 57% of your calories from carbs is what the USDA encourages with its message to eat “7-11 servings of grains per day”)
  • A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who ate the most processed meat were 50% more likely to develop colon cancer.
  • A European study of more than 20,000 women found that trans fat (hydrogenated oils) increase the risk of breast cancer by as much as 75%, while a Harvard study showed that these man-made fats can increase prostate tumor risk by as much as 100%.

And we haven’t even touched on sugar yet…

Sugar: The #1 Disease-Promoter in Packaged Foods

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes 156 pounds of sugar each year!

Our bodies are simply not designed to process this much sugar. In fact, our Paleolithic ancestors, with whom we share more than 99% of our genetic blueprint, consumed only small amounts of sugar, in the form of whole fruit and occasionally honey. (Learn about the dangers of fructose here)

The high-carbohydrate, high-sugar standard American diet is a recipe for diabetes, cancer, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and a host of other conditions, including cognitive decline.

In fact, a study conducted at the University of Alabama found that mice given a 10% sugar solution for 25 weeks had DOUBLE the number of amyloid plaques as the mice not given the sugar solution.These plaques are key markers of Alzheimer’s disease.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Researchers have also linked processed foods to the epidemic of allergies and food intolerances, thyroid issues, birth defects, hormonal imbalances and more.

The single biggest environmental influence you can control is what you eat. Remember, food is not calories; it is information. It tells your genes what to do. The highly processed, nutrient-poor foods that are sold to us do exactly the opposite of enriching us. They turn off the right genes, turn on the wrong ones, and send your system into chaos. They are literally a trigger for the loaded gun. – Dr. Mark Hyman, MD

Healthy Packaged Foods… or Chemical Cuisine?

While refined flour, sugar, trans fats and sodium stand out as the main culprits in processed food, it’s time to take a deeper look. What you will find is that most food labels read more like a can of paint solvent than a food fit for consumption.

There are more than 6,000 FDA-approved chemicals used in processed foods. And according to the World Health Organization (WHO), processed foods are largely to blame for the sharp rise in obesity (and chronic disease) seen around the world.

But at Healing Gourmet we help free you from man-made foods and protect you from hundreds of additives, preservatives and chemicals including:

  • Acesulfame K
  • Aluminum Salts
  • Ammonium Salts
  • Artificial flavors 
  • Artificial colors
  • Aspartame
  • Autolyzed yeast 
  • Benzoic acid 
  • Benzoates
  • BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole)
  • BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
  • Calcium caseinate
  • Disodium guanylate
  • Disodium inosinate
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
  • HVP (hydrolyzed vegetable protein)
  • Hydrolyzed protein
  • Maltodextrin
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • Monopotassium glutatmate
  • Nitrites
  • Olestra
  • Sodium Benzoate
  • Sucralose
  • Sulfites
  • Trans Fats
  • Yeast extract (MSG)
  • … AND 150 MORE!

You can learn more about additives and preservatives and how they affect your health at our Additives & Preservatives section.

But it’s not just additives and preservatives you should be concerned about in packaged foods. It’s also the quality of the ingredients and finding brands you can trust.

The Wholesome Unsubsidized Truth

Our primary goal at Healing Gourmet is to provide you with the un-sponsored, un-subsidized, pure and wholesome TRUTH about what is really in our food and how it can affect your health.

In addition to the thousands of healthy recipes and helpful articles you’ll find on our website, you’ll also notice specific brand names popping up in recipes and menus.

healthy food

The healthiest foods don’t contain ingredients… they are ingredients. Choose foods primarily in Mother Nature’s packaging for your best health.

But these aren’t the USDA standard brands you’ll find at other food and calorie websites like CalorieKing, FitDay, NutritionData, Livestrong and others.

Healing Gourmet has created an unparalleled Best Brands database – an unsponsored compilation of nearly a thousand best-of-the-best packaged foods available, with all the ingredient information, nutrition and allergen alerts you need to know about.

So why did we go to all of this trouble?

You see, the USDA Food and Nutrition Database contains tens of thousands of packaged food records. These include Hormel Spam , Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Campbell’s Spaghettios and many, many more. But they don’t list any of the healthy, organic packaged foods like Muir Glen, Cascadian Farms, Bob’s Red Mill, SweetLeaf and many other truly healthy packaged foods.

We know you rely on these healthy foods in your kitchen as much as we do here at the Healing Gourmet test kitchen, and felt the site would be incomplete without them. That’s why we’ve taken great care in choosing these Best Brands by considering:

  • How was it grown? Is it organic? Is it sustainable? Is it the best of its “kind” available?
  • How was it processed? Is it in accord with Healing Gourmet’s list of prohibited additives and preservatives? Is the processing method one that is harmful?
  • Does it contain added sugars? If so, how many grams and from what source?
  • What kind of oils does it contain? Do they contribute to a healthy omega-3 to 6 ratio?
  • How was it packaged? Is it packaged in a plastic container or one that contains BPA? Does it require microwaving that will cause chemicals to leach into the food?

We also avoid foods that contain:

  • Gluten grains
  • Soy protein, processed soy or unfermented soy
  • High levels of sodium
  • Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

Some may call us picky. But we know that what is not in your food is just as important as what is.

Pizza & Burritos: Organic Healthy Packaged Foods?

Does this mean you can’t have a “cheat” meal now and then? Of course not.

What’s important is your pattern of eating – your overall dietary intake.

Unfortunately, many people are under the incorrect assumption that just because its organic means its healthy. Not so. In fact, your favorite health food store is rife with processed organic packaged foods that provide little nutritional value and can do more harm than good. You know the ones. The organic cheesy poofs… the organic burritos… the organic animal crackers.

At Healing Gourmet, you will find many grain-and-gluten-free recipe makeovers for “comfort foods” like:

  • Pizza
  • Burritos
  • Pasta
  • Tortillas
  • Rice
  • Taco Shells

And speaking of foods that are delectably healthy…

What About Agave Nectar?

Agave has become quite a “sticky” subject in the past years.

Despite its low glycemic index (35), agave nectar is primarily fructose. In excess, fructose can cause a wide range of health effects including cellular damage, high triglycerides, liver problems and increased A1C levels (a measure of blood sugar control over time).

At Healing Gourmet, we encourage you to reduce your sugar intake not only from added sugars, but also from natural sources like fruit juices and dried fruits.

We do NOT allow packaged foods containing agave nectar or create recipes containing agave nectar. A better option is foods sweetened with zero calorie, zero glycemic, sugar free stevia and erythritol, which you can learn more about in our Paleo & Gluten Free Baking section.

Submit Your Favorite Healthy Packaged Food!

And finally, if there’s a wholesome, healthy packaged food that you love, or a staple you just can’t live without – we want to know about it.
Please send your suggestions to: info (@) healinggourmet (dot) com

And remember, the more you rely on fresh, wholesome, unprocessed ingredients, the better you’ll feel and the healthier you’ll be. So pick Mother Nature’s packaging for your best health!

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About The Author

Kelley Herring, founder of Healing Gourmet, is a natural nutrition enthusiast with a background in biochemistry. Her passion is educating on how foods promote health and protect against disease and creating simple and delicious recipes for vibrant health and enjoyment.

Kelley Herring – who has written posts on Healing Gourmet.

1. American Association for Cancer Research: Meat intake increases the risk for pancreatic cancer: The Multiethnic Cohort. 2.Walker, M., Aronson, K. J., King, W.Dietary patterns and risk of prostate cancer in Ontario, Canada.International Journal of Cancer2005, vol. 116, no4, pp. 592-598 [7 page(s) (article)] (58 ref.) 3.Romieu I., Lazcano-Ponce, E.,Sanchez-Zamorano L, Willett, W.,Hernandez-Avila M. Carbohydrates and the Risk of Breast Cancer among Mexican Women. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention August 2004 13; 1283 4.More Details on Red Meat, Colon Cancer Link, CA Cancer J Clin 2005 55: 143-144 5.A V. Chajes, A.C.M. Thiebaut, M. Rotival, E. Gauthier, V. Maillard, M.-C. Boutron-Ruault, V. Joulin, G.M. Lenoir, F. Clavel-Chapelon. "Association between Serum trans-Monounsaturated Fatty Acids and Breast Cancer Risk in the E3N-EPIC Study" American Journal of Epidemiology. Published online ahead of print, Advance Access, 4 April 2008, doi:10.1093/aje/kwn069 6.J.E. Chavarro, M.J. Stampfer, H Campos, T. Kurth, W.C. Willett, J. Ma. A Prospective Study of Trans-Fatty Acid Levels in Blood and Risk of Prostate Cancer.Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention 1 January 2008, Volume 17, Pages 95-101, doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-07-0673 7.Ling et al. 2007. Intake of Sucrose-sweetened Water Induces Insulin Resistance and Exacerbates Memory Deficits and Amyloidosis in a Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer Disease. J. Biol. Chem., Vol. 282, Issue 50, 36275-36282, December 14, 2007 8.Processed Foods to Blame for Obesity and Chronic Disease,, 9.

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