10 Processed Foods You Can Feed Kids -- Guilt-Free

toddler eatingThe more I learn about how most of our food is made nowadays, the more cautious I've become about what I feed my son. The phrase "processed food" has taken on such a sinister tone in my mind I feel guilty whenever I pull that innocent box of mac'n cheese off the shelf. Only bad mommies feed their precious ones the evil processed food...

But I have my exceptions. Don't we all? I mean, the whole idea of processed food is that it's been kinda fixed-up for you already so you're prepared for those moments when your growing toddler is suddenly, randomly starving and has to be fed RIGHT NOW or there will be a melt-down. So what's on my "mom-approved" list?


Well, I'm going to rely on Debbie Koenig's list. Debbie is the author of the new cookbook, Parents Need to Eat Too -- the ultimate cookbook for new parents. It's loaded with all kinds of family-friendly (read: QUICK and simple) recipes and advice galore. And as I was flipping through the book I was surprised to see a section -- 10 Processed Foods It's actually OK to Eat. Really? Do tell! Here's her list:

  • Boil-in-bag, parboiled, or frozen brown rice
  • Chicken sausages (antibiotic- and nitrate-free)
  • Soup and broth (low-sodium in aseptic boxes or jars)
  • Jarred pasta and barbecue sauce
  • Vacuum-packed gnocchi
  • Polenta rolls
  • Hummus
  • Salsa
  • Frozen waffles

And, Debbie also has a list of frozen meal brands she thinks are mostly free of funky ingredients: Amy's, Kashi, Dr. Praeger's, and Morningstar Farms. Debbie says she still checks the ingredients labels for these brands.

I like this list! I never would have though of hummus or salsa as "processed food," but I guess that's actually what they are. It's not like I ground up those chickpeas myself. Rice is easy enough to cook from scratch, but I do kind of like that frozen rice heats up in just a couple minutes. We love sausages and gnocchi. And we totally rely on jarred pasta sauce.

I don't think every single toddler is going to love everything on this list, but I know my son ate a lot of these foods. If you haven't tried polenta rolls, they're really tasty. Polenta is an Italian cornmeal mush. When it cools it sort of hardens, and you can slice it up, grill it on the stove, and have it with that jarred pasta sauce or even just a little butter. Kids can pick up slices with their hands. It travels well, too.

So there you go -- guilt-free convenience foods that are pretty nutritious and definitely yummy. Nomnoms for your hungry little hellion -- and for you.

What are your favorite "healthy" processed foods?

Image via CarbonNYC/Flickr



Read More >