With countless food products claiming to be "healthy" dominating grocery store shelves, it can be tough to separate fact from fiction. Luckily, SELF magazine has already done the work for you with their 2014 SELF Healthy Food Awards. Contenders were judged by registered dietitians on the basis of qualities like calories, sugar, saturated fat and fiber, and had to pass taste-tests by the magazine's readers. Here, dietitian Willow Jarosh shares insight into their top picks for keeping your waistline in check — while still keeping your taste buds satisfied.
Bagel: Toufayan Bakeries Smart Bagel Whole Wheat
This bagel is thin, so it offers built-in portion control, while also having the same amount of calories as just one slice of bread. And the first ingredient is whole wheat flour, which means it's packed with more fiber and B vitamins — perfect for staying full and keeping up your energy levels throughout the day.
Cream Cheese: Weight Watchers Whipped Reduced-Fat Cream Cheese Spread
This is the ultimate spread for your Smart Bagel. It contains no trans fats — making it heart-healthier than some spreads — as well as 40 percent fewer calories than regular cream cheese. At only 65 mg, It also has less sodium than other spreads, meaning you can add something salty like smoked salmon while still keeping your salt in check.
Cereal: Nature's Path Organic Sunrise Crunchy Vanilla
Though it can be tough to find fiber-rich, gluten-free products, this cereal packs 3 grams in every serving. And with just over a teaspoon of sugar, It's nicely sweetened without being unhealthy.
Soup: Amy's Organic Light in Sodium Minestrone
With less than 500 mg of sodium per serving and a thumbs-up from testers for its "good spicy kick," this canned soup is a smart and delicious option, not to mention an easy way to get your daily serving of veggies. Pair with 2 hard-boiled eggs and whole wheat pita triangles, or add beans right to the soup for a filling, protein-rich meal.
Macaroni and Cheese: Annie's Whole Wheat Shells & White Cheddar
Annie's version of this traditional comfort food gets a healthy makeover with real cheese and whole-grain pasta. Make it a complete meal by adding some broccoli, or some protein like beans, canned tuna or grilled chicken.
Frozen Burrito: Evol Veggie Fajita Burrito
This frozen, instant meal has the fiber to keep you satisfied for hours after lunchtime, while its low sodium content (320 mg, versus over 1500 mg for fast food) won't make you feel guilty scarfing it down. Add that to the fact that SELF approved it for having enough calories to make it a full meal without being overly calorie-laden, and you've got yourself a winner.
Chicken Sausage: Trader Joe's Spicy Jalapeño Chicken Sausage
Besides having a great flavor and no preservatives or fillers, this chicken sausage is pre-cooked — meaning you can make dinner in a snap with his yummy, nutritious protein.
Gluten-Free Pizza: Amy's Rice Crust Cheese
While this pizza is a great choice for those who are gluten-free, it's also a healthy option for those who aren't. With more fiber and less saturated fat, sodium and calories than delivery pizza, it's easy to see why this is a great pick for your pizza craving. Plus its basic cheese flavor is simple to doctor up: Throw on some veggies, grilled chicken or other healthy toppings for a tasty meal.
Sweet Potato Fries: Ore-Ida Sweet Potato Fries
Though fries may seem like an off-limits food to those watching what they eat, this variety is as good for you as it is delicious. These fries are baked, so they have the same amount of calories as a baked sweet potato —while still boasting 50 percent of your daily vitamin A.
Frozen Yogurt: Edy's Slow-Churned Yogurt Blends Chocolate Vanilla Swirl
Besides being only 100 calories a serving, this frozen treat doesn't have any artificial sweeteners. Because of this, it's not overly sweet and its chocolate and vanilla flavors taste very natural. Plus its low calorie content means you can add some fun toppings, or make it into an ice cream sandwich (like with TJ's Charmingly Chewy cookie, below!).
Cookies: Trader Joe's Charmingly Chewy
With this dessert, you get 2 cookies for fewer calories than a single cookie in most brands. This means you can use both to make an ice cream sandwich with 1/4 cup of the Edy's fro-yo for under 200 calories! And its ingredients are similar to what you'd use to make cookies at home: simple, without all the artificial sweeteners and chemically processed fats.
Fruit Pop: 365 Everyday Value Strawberry Frozen Fruit Bars
This icy pop is made with real strawberries (in fact, fruit comes before sugar on the ingredient list, which is rare for an ice pop). This makes for a more fiber-rich and natural, not to mention tasty, treat.