Packaged foods are often demonised. But there are some great foods out there that come in a packet that are economical, nutritious and time savers. These are five packaged foods that I believe all families with kids should be buying, using and enjoying.
1. Frozen peas
Frozen peas are often thought of as the poor mans vege. But I can assure you all though low cost, there is nothing else substandard when it comes to frozen peas.
I always have them in my freezer because:
- They are always cheap and readily available
- Its very easy to find NZ grown peas in the freezer section
- Frozen peas have similar nutrient status to freshly purchased peas, but maintain a higher nutritional value than fresh peas stored in the fridge for several days.
- Peas are green, and we all know green is good. Green vegetables have a wealth of health benefits.
- Kids love them, and they are perfect for toddlers to practice their pincer grip
- Frozen peas are low in fat and salt, and relatively high in fibre and protein.
- They are a quick, easy, vegetable addition to any meal
- Pea puree is divine. Puree is not just for babies. Pea and mint puree is a beautiful accompaniment to roasted meats, fish, or even with crispy bacon.
- You don't even need to cook them. Kids love them frozen and they are a great 'pre-dinner I'm starving' snack.
2. Peanut butter (Or other nut butter)
Such a simple food, but with so many health benefits. Yes, peanut allergy is on the rise, but if your kids don't have a peanut or nut allergy then nut butters are your friend, and should be used regularly.
Reasons I love nut butters!
- Kids love peanut butter (as long as they have no allergies)
- Nuts and seeds provide a great source of protein and heart healthy fats. Peanut butter (or other nut/seed butter) provide the same
- Peanut butter is economical. (Other nut butters although delicious can be on the pricey side)
- A thick spread of peanut butter on a slice of wholegrain bread, and all of a sudden you have a high protein, heart healthy, sustained energy snack, which was super quick to prepare.
Nut butter tips
- Check the ingredients. Nut butters only need two ingredients:
- Check the salt and sugar content. I look for nut butters with:
- 0g of Sugar per 100g
- <250mg sodium per 100g
Nut butter recipes
- Try a Simple Satay as a great family friendly meal
- Whizz Custard made simply with banana and peanut butter is a massive dessert hit in my house
- Make your own No Bake Peanut Oat Bars as a lower sugar alternative to commercial muesli bars
3. Frozen blueberries
Blueberries are an established super food. Full of fibre, antioxidants and vitamin C. But in NZ the season is short, and these highly nutritious berries don't come cheap. Buying frozen, means we can enjoy this beautiful purple/blue food all year round, and I can afford for my kids to eat them by the handful, rather than being on strict rations!
I always have blueberries in my freezer because:
- They are economical
- They are so much fun for kids to eat. Mine love them frozen straight from the freezer
- They are a brilliant cool snack for a teething munchkin
- They are a great way to finish off a meal
- Smoothies, smoothies, smoothies
- My local Pak n Save stock locally Tauranga grown frozen blueberries (and buying local makes me happy)
4. Passata or tinned tomatoes
Kids love tomato sauce. It is a shame however that most commercial tomato and pasta sauces contain quite high levels of sugar and salt. Passata (essentially tomato puree) or plain tinned tomatoes, generally contain no additional salt or sugar. They offer a quick economical and easy way to make tomato based sauces all year round. Whether you say Toe-May-toe or Toe-Mah-toe is does not matter. Either way they provide antioxidants, vitamin C and Lycopene all of which have been linked to heart health and cancer protection.
Making a basic tomato sauce is as easy as 1, 2, 3
- Heat your preferred oil and sauté onions and garlic until softened and fragrant
- Pour in a jar of Passata or tinned crushed tomatoes, add some herbs if desired
- Simmer until reduces and thickens to the desired consistency
Uses for basic tomato sauce
- Stir through pasta to make home made spaghetti
- Add drained and rinsed tinned cannellini beans to make home made baked beans
- Use like you would a commercial tomato sauce with meats, sausages and vegetables
- Freeze small portions so you always have it on hand to create an easy tomato sauce based meal
5. Canned chickpeas, lentils and beans
Tinned chickpeas, beans and lentils offer a quick fuss free vegetarian protein option straight from the cupboard. Although typically canned in brine, it is easy to remove most of the salt content by draining and then rinsing the beans. Tinned beans, lentils and chickpeas provide fibre, protein and iron in the diet.
Using canned chickpeas, lentils and beans
- Create homemade hummus. You will only need: Chickpeas, Garlic, Oil, Lemon, Tahini and a Food processor (Google will provide a plethora of recipes)
- Create homemade falafel patties: You will only need: Chickpeas or Cannellini beans, Fresh Herbs, Dried Spices, Garlic and a Food processor.
- Add a can of beans or lentils to a casserole or slow cooked dish like Lamb Shanks
- Cannellni bean puree is delicious as an accompaniment to lean meat and fish dishes
- Use them as a base for a vegetarian curry
- You can even use chickpeas to make this unusual sweet treat
- Use them in a Bolognese style sauce to add fibre and make meat stretch a bit further, or maybe even make it without the meat entirely.
So there we are, 5 economical packaged foods that can add great things to our kids diets.