How to Make Processed Foods Healthier

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Welcome back to the collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody! I’m here to give you tips on living a healthy, happy life on a budget.

Life is crazy. That’s a well-known fact. And when you’re juggling work obligations, social obligations, family life, and basic errands – it can be hard to have time to make nourishing food. And with the insane amount of frozen, processed, and pre-made foods on the market, why would you do anything else? Plus, they’re cheap!

Processed foods are not the healthiest choice we can make for our bodies, since usually they’re packed with sodium, sugar, and preservatives. My general rule for food is to only eat an ingredient list you can pronounce, with foods you’ve heard of before. While most processed foods don’t pass this heath test, I still totally understand their utility and place in the busy person’s life.

So I decided to put together a little guide, along with some recipe ideas for helping to make these processed meals a little healthier for you. This way you can have the ease of a processed meal, along with the cheap price, but your body will be glad to have some added nutrients. It’s the best of both worlds!

How to Make Processed Foods Healthier

1. ADD VEGETABLES. Roast or steam some vegetables at the beginning of the week and then throw them into your ramen or mac ‘n cheese to add some freshness to the mix. You’ll get the nutrients of the fresh vegetables, and the ease of the premade food. Plus, we’ve already established that seasonal fruits and vegetables are more budget-friendly. So adding in these extras won’t cost an arm and a leg.

2. MAKE A BIG SALAD. You can prepare a huge salad at the beginning of the week, or just keep salad greens and supplies on hand, to eat alongside your premade meal. This way, you aren’t spending much more time making the meal, but you get an added boost of freshness and nutritional value. Opt for nutrient dense ingredients like dark leafy greens, and for homemade dressings like this one. If you’re going to eat a salad, you might as well make it power packed!

3. MAKE DESSERT FRUIT-HEAVY. If you aren’t a dessert person then, great! Skip it. But if you’re like me and have a never-ending sweet tooth, then this tip will be helpful for you. Processed sweets have a TON of refined sugar, so if you can help balance that out with some natural sugar your body will be happier. (No, I don’t mean fruit-flavored candy.) EAT SOME REAL FRUIT. Pair your chocolate bars with strawberries, or put fruit salad on your store bought cake. This will help lessen the blood sugar spike, and make you fuller faster.


  • Ramen packets with steamed bok choy and carrots.
  • Frozen cheese pizza with fresh spinach, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers.
  • Frozen waffles with almond butter, fresh fruit, and real maple syrup.
  • Mac ‘n cheese with broccoli, brussels sprouts, or asparagus. Try these recipes!
  • Canned soup with freshly chopped kale or green chard.
  • Store-bought pound cake or angel food cake and top it with a fruit salad. Try something like this.
  • Your favorite “junk” candy bar eaten with almonds, and strawberries or cherries.

I always suggest moderation when talking about processed, frozen, or pre-made foods. Check to find brands that are lower in sugar and sodium, and have ingredients that you can pronounce. Look for brands with fewer preservatives – they’re out there!

Overall though, a healthy lifestyle isn’t about being perfect. It’s just about making better choices when we can. So if you have to quickly throw together a meal for yourself or your family, or the budget is low toward the end of the month – give these tips a try! Healthier is better than nothing, after all.

Follow along!

Over the next few months I’ll be covering a variety of ways to be healthy on a budget. Keep an eye out for those and head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further