Sunday, May 20, 2012

Convenience Food Done Right

In general, I try to avoid eating "convenience" foods.  But I think it's possible to use convenience foods on occasion and still maintain a healthy diet.

The trick, I'm convinced, is to be very choosy about what convenience foods you will and will not eat.  In my case, I will eat something that comes out of a box or a bag, but it can't have any ingredients that I wouldn't cook with myself: It can't have natural or artificial favors, natural or artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, or chemical preservatives.  It also can't have outrageous amounts of sugar or salt.

That still leaves a wide range of minimally-processed convenience foods that I will, on occasion, eat.  These frozen gnocchi in tomato sauce from Trader Joe's are an example of such a food.

But I don't think it's healthy to stop there.  Even for "clean" convenience foods, there are rarely enough vegetables or fruits in them to make a healthy meal.  So you have to add your own.

The gnocchi pictured above cook in skillet on the stovetop in seven minutes.  That's exactly enough time to chop and rinse a bunch of swiss chard and spin it dry in the salad spinner, with a minute to spare so they can be added to the skillet with the gnocchi to wilt.

Ditto some fresh herbs: oregano, rosemary, and parsley.

In no more time than it took to make the gnocchi itself, this meal includes dark leafy greens and fresh herbs for a boost of both health and flavor.

That's convenience food done right!

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