Choose Convenience Ingredients Wisely for Quick and Healthy Home-Cooked Meals

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While we may aspire to cook meals from scratch, time limitations often get in the way, especially during the busy holiday season. Wisely chosen convenience ingredients can fit into a healthy eating plan.

Some boxed, frozen and canned foods contain a lot of salt or sodium. When choosing a product, check the amount of sodium on the nutrition facts label to see if it fits into your salt budget. The dietary guidelines for Americans recommend less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Examples of convenience foods rich in nutrition and low in sodium are frozen fruits and vegetables without a sauce, freshly cut fruits and vegetables, hummus, unsalted nuts, minimally processed nut butters, and canned vegetables and beans that have been rinsed. However, canned soup may contain over 600 milligrams sodium and some types of boxed macaroni and cheese may have over 900 milligrams sodium per serving.

Eating a diet that’s low in sodium and high in potassium along with a physically active lifestyle can help prevent and control high blood pressure. Nearly half of adults live with high blood pressure, which if left uncontrolled leads to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease or other major health problems.

Adding fruits and vegetables to your diet increases potassium, fiber and other health promoting compounds. Try a pre-cut side salad with a lower-sodium frozen entrée or top a pre-made pizza crust with mushrooms, onions and bell peppers for a more complete and flavorful meal.

This delicious soup uses pre-cut frozen vegetables, low sodium chicken broth and rotisserie chicken for convenience.

Asian-inspired Chicken Noodle Soup

Serves 4 – 6

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped (or 1 cup chopped frozen)
  • 2 cups frozen sliced carrots
  • 6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup canned coconut milk
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons Asian chili-garlic sauce (or Siracha)
  • 3 – 4 cups rotisserie or leftover chicken, meat shredded
  • 3 – 4 ounces cooked Asian noodles (Soba works well)
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and carrots and cook until softened. Add the broth, pepper, coconut milk, and chili sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add chicken and noodles to heat through. Stir in basil leaves and serve with 1 or 2 wedges of lime.

This yummy burrito uses minced garlic, prewashed spinach, canned beans, enchilada sauce and pre-made guacamole for convenience.

Spinach and Bean Burritos

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon garlic, minced (may use jar found in produce section)
  • 8 oz. fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 16 oz. can refried beans
  • 1 10 oz. can red enchilada sauce
  • 1 package shredded cheddar cheese
  • 6 whole wheat flour tortillas
  • Pre-made guacamole, if desired

Place large skillet over medium-low heat. Heat olive oil and add chopped garlic. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes, until blonde. Add chopped spinach, oregano, cumin and salt. Stir occasionally until spinach is cooked, 3 to 5 minutes.
Place refried beans in microwaveable container with a lid. Add enchilada sauce and cook until thoroughly heated in microwave, two minutes or so.
Spread refried beans down the middle of a tortilla, then spinach mixture and top with cheese as desired. Place in microwave just long enough to heat cheese and tortilla, 30 seconds. Top with guacamole if desired. Fold burrito to serve.
Makes 6 burritos.


Margie Mansure is an extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. As a registered dietitian/nutritionist chef, she offers nutrition and cooking classes to community members.