7 best packaged foods on the market

LOS ANGELES With graying hair and expanding waistlines, many are looking for healthier choices. Each year food manufacturers put thousands of new products on the shelf hoping we'll bite, but it's tough for consumers to sift through all the information.

"Labels are hard to read for most customers, and most people don't have the time," said Albertsons dietician Heidi Diller.

So dietitians, chefs, and other experts scanned labels and tasted new products to find over 125 fabulous foods. Here are seven to get you started:

1) Tropicana Premium OJ with Calcium
With many lactose-intolerant, this juice offers a good way to get calcium and vitamin C in one shot.

2) Thomas's Hearty Grains 100 Percent Whole Wheat Muffin
With coffee house breakfast items falling into the 500 calorie range, Thomas's Hearty Grains 100 Percent Whole Wheat Muffin is a better breakfast choice with 3 grams of fiber at 120 calories.

"I'm looking for as few ingredients as possible that would be added to the product," said shopper Karl Petrinovich.

Smart shoppers know less means more, and are looking for minimal processing in whole grain foods.

3) Uncle Ben's or Minute Brand Instant Brown Rice
4) Near East's Tomato Lentil Couscous

From 90 seconds to 10 minutes cook time, Uncle Ben's or Minute Brand Instant Brown Rice beats traditional rice at 45 minutes. Or mix it up with Near East's Tomato Lentil Couscous for great flavor made in a flash.

"Whole grains are so important. You've got to make sure it's the first ingredient on the list," said Diller.

5) Amy's brand frozen dinners
Diller says desktop diners should familiarize themselves with the Amy's brand -- whole grain, organic, and meatless, its freezer food with marvelous flavor.

6) Sorrento Plus String Cheese with Omega 3 Fats
There's also something new in string cheese. Sorrento Plus String Cheese with Omega 3 Fats adds a heart healthy addition to this snacking staple.

7) Soy breakfast patties
And while America has gotten away from eating pork in the morning, these patties get the thumbs up. That's because they're made from soy and not swine. Just seconds in the microwave, and you've got an 80 calorie treat, with plenty of protein and just 3 grams of cholesterol free fat.

Nowadays, it's common for manufacturers to advertise good health -- but remember, they're trying to sell you something. So you might want to ask yourself if the product is one you typically use. And if a product offers vitamins and minerals, find out not only how much is in the product, but how much you need.


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