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The 3 convenience foods I shamelessly – and loyally – buy

Last week I wrote a post for my Happiest Mom blog about an interaction my brother-in-law had with a no-candy-allowing dad on Halloween, and how it got me to thinking about the idea of “good” vs. “bad” foods.

Basically, my premise is that there are no bad foods. There are more and less healthy foods, and there are ingredients I try to avoid, like hydrogenated fats and high-fructose corn syrup, but I don’t like to attach a value judgment to food. After all, if you eat “bad” foods, does that make you a “bad” person?

I also think that all-or-nothing, black-or-white thinking often leads to burnout and can make your lifestyle so difficult to sustain that it’s only too easy to give up in frustration. Who can take the pressure of putting their own diets up on a pedestal?

So while I make as many of our dinners as possible from scratch, buy a lot of produce, and choose whole grains over processed 90% of the time, there are also certain brands I’ve been consuming since I was a child – and convenience products I have become fiercely loyal to as a busy grown-up – that definitely wouldn’t pass the “crunchy granola” test.

Can you relate? Do you ever feel the urge to hide those boxes and bags of processed or pre-packaged foods behind the canisters of bulk organic spelt and chickpeas when people come over so you don’t lose your healthy-eating cred? Knock it off! My philosophy: super-healthy foods balance out the not-so-healthy ones, so it’s not inconsistent at all to down the occasional bowl of sugary cereal with a big splash of organic milk.

Time to come out of the pantry! I’m going to share 3 not-homemade, not-100%-natural, conveniently processed foods I always keep in my kitchen, right alongside the “better for you” stuff:

1. Jif Peanut Butter.

I’ve been eating Jif since I was a little kid, and there’s no way I’ll give it up now…even if it does contain a fair amount of sugar and hydrogenated oils. While I think all-natural peanut butter can make an awesome sandwich when paired with some homemade strawberry jam on hearty bread, it just doesn’t have the same sweet, melty quality that makes Jif the perfect partner for peanut-butter toast. Jif does have a new “natural” version with no hydrogenated oils, and I’m considering making the switch, but I’ll admit it’s hard to give up the texture and flavor I’ve become used to over the last 30+ years.

2. Frozen pie crusts.

I admit there’s part of me that wants to learn to make a perfect pie crust…maybe just to see if I can do it. But while I love to bake, I also like to be able to make a pie or quiche on a whim and in a hurry. Most affordable pie crusts I’ve seen contain hydrogenated oils and a fairly lengthy ingredients list, but c’mon, they’re pie crusts…are they really expected to be good for you?

3. Breakfast cereal.

Perhaps because my mother never – and I mean NEVER – bought us Boo-Berry, Lucky Charms or any others that she deemed “sugar cereals,” I never had a chance to develop much of a taste for them. But mainstream cereals have gotten a bad rap among health-conscious parents for being overly sweet and processed. And it’s true that many of the “healthy-tasting” cereals I grew up eating – and many of the “all-natural” varieties available today – are heavily processed and contain a lot of sugar. I tried some of the extreme-fiber, barely-any-sugar-added varieties, but to me they tasted exactly like twigs and gravel.

My solution now? Buy the better cereals that we all like and mix it up at breakfast time for a more balanced approach. For example, Cheerios and Rice Chex contain just 1 and 2 grams of sugar per serving respectively, and while Frosted Mini Wheats are high in sugar, they’re also packed full of fiber and even have a decent amount of protein. I serve sparingly, and paired with fresh fruit or yogurt, they really can be “part of a healthy breakfast.”

Do you have any “guilty” pleasures lurking in your pantry? Are you loyal to any brands that would make your foodie friends cringe? Please share!

 

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