When you’re eating for metabolic health, whole foods reign supreme. But that doesn’t mean all convenience foods are off-limits. In this ongoing series, we highlight some of the most metabolically friendly packaged foods found in popular supermarkets.
Whole Foods Market made its name as a purveyor of natural and organic products, so it’s easier there than at most grocery chains to find well-sourced whole foods, from nuts to vegetables to meat, as well as packaged foods with clean ingredients lists.
But there are still plenty of highly processed foods and added sugars in its aisles. If you venture beyond the whole foods into packaged goods, be sure to check labels. Four easy things to look for:
- Minimal ingredients (three or fewer is ideal)
- Ingredients you recognize (no strange additives)
- No added sugar, even if it sounds natural (like honey or agave)
- Refined grains, like white flour
Here are 10 foods you can find at Whole Foods that pass that test.
These crunchy bites are made from organic flaxseeds and not much else (just some salt, dried herbs, and vinegar for flavor). A serving supplies 6 grams of protein and nearly a third of the fiber you need daily, both of which help keep your blood sugar steady. Plus, flaxseeds are a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which your body can’t make on its own.
Per serving (8 crackers): 150 calories, 10 g fat (1 g sat), 10 g carbs, 9 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 6 g protein, 160 mg sodium
Price: $5.99* for a 5-ounce package
A lot of alternative pasta and rice products are highly processed and end up not being much healthier than the blood-sugar-spiking, refined-white-flour versions. This pasta is made from only organic red lentil flour, which is a superior source of fiber, plant-based protein, and even iron compared to enriched pasta or white rice. That combo slows the release of glucose into your bloodstream to keep your energy and hunger levels steady. Individual glucose response will vary, but this pasta alternative is worth a try.
Per serving (3 ounces): 300 calories, 2 g fat (0 g sat), 50 g carbs, 9 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 21 g protein, 0 mg sodium
Price: $4.39 for an 8-ounce package
This simple sauerkraut uses only kosher salt and caraway seeds for flavor. The real benefit, though, is in what it will do for your gut microbiome. Emerging research shows that the microorganisms that colonize your digestive tract play a key role in metabolism. Keeping those organisms balanced and well-fed ensures that the microbiome can carry out its functions, including secreting hormones that regulate glucose. This kraut contains both probiotics (beneficial bacteria) and prebiotic fiber to fuel the health-promoting bacteria.
Per serving (1 ounce): 10 calories, 0 g fat, 2 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 0 g protein, 230 mg sodium
Price: $5.99 for a 16-ounce package
This organic vegan option is creamier than most thanks to its nut-milk base, which also contributes some blood sugar-steadying protein. Live active cultures including L. Bulgaricus and L. Acidophilus add probiotic benefits (including possibly lowering cholesterol) that the typical Western diet lacks and contribute to a healthy microbiome. And with no added sugars or flavors, this non-dairy yogurt is a good snack or addition to marinades, dips, or vegan crema sauce.
Per serving (5.3 ounces): 110 calories, 7 g fat (1.5 g sat), 9 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 3 g protein, 5 mg sodium
Price: $5.49 for a 24-ounce container
While other kale chips are baked or fried, these stay crunchy and retain most of their micronutrients—including 130 percent of the daily value of vitamin K, an essential nutrient for bone health, per serving—with a low-heat air-drying process. They also deliver plenty of fiber and protein in each serving, with no added ingredients.
Per serving (1 ounce): 70 calories, 5 g fat, 6 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 3 g protein, 210 mg sodium
Price: $4.99 for a 2-ounce package
Many milk alternatives rely on thickeners or gums to create a creamy texture, but this nut milk has only two ingredients: filtered water and organic almonds. That increases protein and fiber, two macronutrients that help regulate digestion and can help blunt blood sugar spikes.
Per serving (1 cup): 100 calories, 9 g fat (1 g sat), 3 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 4 g protein, 10 mg sodium
Price: $6.49 for a 28-ounce bottle
This protein-heavy crust uses cauliflower, cage-free eggs, parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast, and spices for a pizza base less likely to cause a blood sugar spike than the typical flour-based crust. Unlike some other cauliflower brands, it has no hidden corn or potato starches.
Per serving (1 crust): 120 calories, 6 g fat (3 g sat), 4 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 10 g protein, 310 mg sodium
Price: $5.99 for 2 crusts
A small 2020 study found that, compared to people who ate a granola bar as an afternoon snack, hummus eaters had lower blood sugar levels after eating. This brand is made with extra virgin olive oil, not soybean oil, and a handful of other whole ingredients and spices. Soybean oil tends to be highly processed and high in omega-6 fats, which can contribute to many chronic diseases when over consumed (as they often are in the standard American diet).
Per serving (2 tablespoons): 60 calories, 4 g fat (0.5 g sat), 5 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 2 g protein, 130 mg sodium
Price: $2.29 for an 8-ounce tub
With their natural fiber, protein, and healthy fats, nuts can be one of the best snacks for keeping blood sugar steady and hunger in check. Many mixes, though, roast the nuts with a refined seed oil like canola, which research has found may encourage cells to store more fat, in turn increasing inflammation and leading to insulin resistance. Instead, these are dry-roasted and non-GMO.
Per serving (¼ cup): 190 calories, 16 g fat (2 g sat), 9 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 6 g protein, 80 mg sodium
Price: $8.29 for a 9-ounce bag
Few people get the recommended two servings of fatty fish per week, which means they could be missing out on omega-3 fatty acids, compounds that fight cellular inflammation and support brain and heart health. Salmon is also a good source of vitamin D, low levels of which have been linked to insulin resistance and obesity. Having these fillets in the freezer and ready to go makes it easy to get your seafood fill.
Per serving (4 ounces): 150 calories, 5 g fat (1 g sat), 0 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 25 g protein, 90 mg sodium
Price: $29.99 for a 2-pound package
* The prices in this article reflect those listed by the retailer at time of publication. Prices and local store availability may vary.