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How to Select Healthy Packaged Foods

Do you have to toss ALL packaged foods on the Clean Cuisine Challenge? Absolutely not! In fact, certain healthy packaged foods are staples in our house. For example, we absolutely love Rao’s prepared marinara sauce, Larabars, and many others. But we also know what to look for and how to select healthy packaged foods, which requires us to do two things:

  1. Ignore the Marketing Claims
  2. Ignore the Nutrition Facts

Most people realize that the marketing claims on many packaged foods are completely misleading. But when we tell people they also should completely ignore the Nutrition Facts too we can see their eyebrows rise.

Nutrition facts


Did you know that the most nutrient-dense foods usually do not have nutrition facts labels?

If you read our Clean Cuisine book you know we are not at all fans of “counting your food” in the form of calories, carbs, fat grams, etc. We also are not big fans of the Nutrition Facts label, especially since the vast majority of foods that have the label are not whole foods and not healthful. Whole foods like apples and oranges don’t have Nutrition Facts labels. Neither do carrots, kale, beets, radishes, corn on the cob, raspberries, blueberries, watermelon, tomatoes, spinach, onions, bananas, and red peppers. All fresh fruit and vegetables are among the most nutrient-dense foods in the world, and unless you buy them frozen or packaged—still healthful by the way—these nutritional all-star superfoods will not have the Nutrition Facts label.

The Ingredient List Does Not Lie

Once you know how to distinguish between nutrient-dense whole foods and nutrient-poor refined foods, you will soon realize an astounding number of packaged foods advertised as healthful are not in the slightest healthful. But then again, some are. If you do buy packaged foods, the ingredients list is, without a doubt, the most important bit of information on the entire package. You should only buy packaged foods that have healthful “whole food” ingredients listed on their label. It goes without saying if you don’t recognize the ingredients as being food you should steer clear of that particular packaged food. And as far as The Nutrition Facts go, they are pretty much meaningless because they tell you absolutely nothing about the intrinsic health and nutrition properties of the food. This means the ingredients list is far more important than the total calories, total carbs, fat grams, fiber, sodium content, and cholesterol listed on the Nutrition Facts.

All Calories Are NOT Created Equal

These are words you never thought you’d hear from the president of a $2.7 billion weight-loss empire. “Calorie counting has become unhelpful,” David Kirchhoff stated on the Weight Watchers International website. “When we have a 100-calorie apple in one hand and a 100-calorie pack of cookies in the other, and we view them as being ‘the same’ because the calories are the same, it says everything that needs to be said about the limitations of just using calories in guiding food choices.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. However, we know our recommendations for you to ignore the Nutrition Facts will be especially difficult for those of you who have been programmed to believe counting calories, fat grams, etc. is the way to go. We urge you to read more about the science behind why all calories are not created equal and the case for micronutrients in chapter 2 (starting on page 16) of our Clean Cuisine book.

Clean Cuisine’s Guidelines to Choosing Healthy Packaged Foods

clean eating packaged foodguidelines

Ivy Larson

In 2010, Clean Cuisine was launched because Ivy Larson wanted to share her anti-inflammatory lifestyle and delicious recipes using ingredients in their most natural and nutrient-rich state. In 2020, Ivy passed the website to Aimee and Madison. Since then, they have been adding new recipes and nutrition posts while updating old recipes and articles. Thanks for visiting Clean Cuisine!

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