Packaged foods have a (mostly well deserved) bad rep in the health food blogosphere. Often, "packaged" means "processed" - and therefore lacking in fiber and nutrients and high in calories and sugar.
Like most people, though, this college celiac doesn't have time to forage or whip up every meal from scratch. In fact, thanks to my product reviews and my partnership with Love with Foods, my cabinets hide a decent amount of packaged foods.
But which do I add to my daily menu and which do I pass along to others? Today I'm breaking down six packaged foods that always fill my pantry! (And FYI, these truly are my personal favorites - no paid sponsorship or review here!)
These bags of crunchy seeds, chewy dried fruit and dairy free chocolate chips (in the Mountain Mambo flavor) always seem to land in my shopping cart...not to mention my stomach. As with all Enjoy Life foods, these are free of the top eight allergens - which means nearly everyone can enjoy!
My favorite ways to use them include: sprinkling them on smoothie bowls, on top of oatless oatmeal (cause melted chocolate + soft dried fruit = heaaaaven on the taste buds!), or as a night snack with So Delicious coconut yogurt.
2. Buckwheat and rice flakes
After learning that I can't tolerate (even gluten free) oats, these flakes have been my tummy's saving grace. They're not only allergen free, but also extremely versatile. I use them for my oatless zoats, which pops on my breakfast menu at least a couple times a week.
They also work perfectly in homemade granola recipes - no oats, no problem! Some other ideas? As a cozy night snack before bed, a coating for fish/meats/tofu, or even as a savory porridge topped with veggies and avocado.
3. Rice cakes
Rice cakes get a lot of flack for being tasteless "diet" food - but people who complain just don't know how to dress these cakes up! They make delicious snacks when topped with smashed avocado, carrots and seeds; or coconut yogurt, berries and cinnamon; or, my favorite, nut butter, berries, banana and cinnamon warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds!
I also tote a few in my bag for a crunchy side when I eat my smoothie bowl in class. (Thus earning the reputation of the girl "always eating the green thing" in the morning --> me in a nut shell for sure!) Not to mention I always crumble up a few rice cakes as a light, crispy base for my homemade granola.
I'll admit that I've never been a huge Italian or pasta fan. I don't like tomatoes and pasta cravings only hit me once every few months. But when they do, I love having a package of rice pasta sitting in my pantry. Tinkyada is the best gluten free pasta substitute I've found so far - it cooks easily, tastes delicious and my gluten-eating family members even prefer it to our old, wheat-filled pasta.
In particular, I use this for homemade mac and cheese (with a 3:1 ratio of sliced veggies to rice noodles). Whether made on the stove top, in the oven or via crock pot, this is always a tasty, stick-to-your-ribs dinner for a busy college celiac! (Fun fact: I've recently found this pasta at my local Walmart, so it doesn't have to break the bank either).
Gluten free tortillas can definitely be a hit or miss. Pick the wrong one, you're chewing on cardboard for a few weeks...but these two brands always deliver a flexible, fresh wrap!
My favorite parts? Both of these have limited ingredients, are free of dairy and eggs, and can be used soft (for tacos or quesadillas, for instance) or cooked for a few minutes in a pan on the stove top until crispy. If you want a serving-size-controlled, low salt, easy homemade chip, these are the tortillas for you!
6. Coconut milk - (a bit of a cheat since it's canned vs. "packaged" but close enough!)
I clearly remember the first time I added coconut milk to my nana ice cream...as I devoured the bowl, I couldn't stop saying, "It's sooooo creamy!" Coconut milk has been a beloved staple ever since. I personally buy the Sprouts brand at my local grocery store, but I know that Thai Kitchen's coconut milk works equally well!
Coconut milk is great for more than just smoothies. Use it to make a creamy potato curry, like the one I drooled over from Further Food! Or whip up a thick chia seed pudding, add a little luxury to your overnight oats, or even make a vegan white sauce for pizza. With a can of coconut milk, you can do about anything (a pun was far overdue, don't you think?).
Package foods may have a devilish reputation, but, with the rights one in your pantry, you'll end up cooking a bite of heaven. If you want to hear more about the goodies hidden in my shelves, shoot me a message and I'll add a part two to the list.
Because the only thing worse than an empty stomach would be an empty pantry!
What are your packaged pantry staples? Do you love any of the ones I mentioned? Comment below!