8 Processed Foods That Are Nice, Not Naughty

Adriana Velez | Sep 6, 2012 Food & Party
8 Processed Foods That Are Nice, Not Naughty

hummusWhen it comes to dinner, I have an evil twin. The "good" me believes in cooking whole foods from scratch, every damn night. Then we sit around the table and eat like civilized people with cloth napkins and conversation and everything.

But a few nights a week my evil twin comes home from work with something different in mind. She's tired. She's hungry. She's late. No time for "real" cooking -- I've got to whip up something fast. But I hate craptastic "processed" food because it tastes like genetically-modified iguana tears and will give me cancer/diabetes/gas/a bad disposition.

Except for my arsenal of super-duper, surprisingly-nutritious, not-craptastic secret weapons! Here are some evil-twin ready-made meals that even the "good" me approves of.

  • Ravioli



    You can get it fresh or frozen, and in Italy it's considered more of an appetizer, but at my place ravioli is dinner. I'll drizzle with olive oil or melted butter, grate some Parmesan, and maybe, if I have time, snip some herbs over it. I especially like ravioli made with spinach or pumpkin.

  • Asian Potstickers


    Andrea Nguyen/Flickr

    Kind of in the same family as ravioli: Potstickers. There are dozens of varieties at Trader Joe's, but my son has a favorite brand that we eat probably at least once a week. I've learned how to make my own with fresh dough ... but on a Tuesday night, the frozen kind will do nicely, thank you.

  • Smoked Fish


    I am seriously addicted to these little tins of smoked fish. I'll have some with a salad and some whole-grain crackers. They come in all sorts of varieties -- trout, mackerel, salmon. Sometimes it's just some tuna in olive oil. But the seasoned fish is my favorite.

  • Soup Starters


    Okay, for the most part I hate canned soups. They're often loaded with sodium, but even when they aren't, they still taste like aluminum and overcooked gluten. But some of the organic brands (in cartons) are actually pretty good. And I just came across these tasty "soup starters" in amazing flavors -- tortilla, chicken pho. Love these.

  • Frozen Vegetables


    I mean ... yeah, this is a no-brainer. Of course fresh is better, but what I like about frozen veggies is that they've already been washed and chopped up for you. Sometimes I really am that tired and late. In New York City there's a group of small, local farms that get together and flash-freeze their produce. I subscribe and get a batch of frozen veggies every month through the winter.

  • Beans


    Whether you eat canned or soak overnight, beans are a super-easy source of protein. I'll heat some beans and add them to cheese for quick quesadillas. Sometimes I'll have fresh salsa I made over the weekend.

  • Hummus


    Hummus! Yes, it's super-easy to whip up in your food processor. But there's no shame in buying it pre-made, either, IMHO. Enjoy with chopped veggies, pita bread, and a sigh of relief.

  • Ice Cream



    Ice cre-- whoops! How'd that get in this slideshow? How embarrassing. Heh, might as well confess here that I rarely ever make dessert. I'd rather just buy a pint.

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