With all the pressure in the wellness world to eat clean, and Instagram stars who seems to grow and cook absolutely everything from scratch, it’s easy to feel guilty for buying a bottle of sauce or a bag of trail mix.
No more. Part of healthy eating is eliminating stress, so we asked nine healthy food experts what they always buy. So you can fill your cart with the best products, and feel good about it.
There’s nothing like spaghetti sauce that’s simmered all day. But when time is of the essence, Sarah Phillips, founder and CEO of food waste educational program Ugly Produce Is Beautiful, buys marinara made without preservatives or artificial ingredients and then makes it her own. “It’s great to use a base for homemade pasta sauce, doctored with mushrooms or pureed celery and parsley,” she says. “I also use it as a base for vegetable soup with added vegetables. That’s a great way to use up scraps and leftovers from the fridge and ugly produce from the farmer’s market.”
Buy it: Amy’s Organic Family Marinara Pasta Sauce
If you’ve ever cooked with tofu, you know all the flavor comes from the sauce or marinade, and that it’s best to press your tofu before using it to get the excess water out. All of that takes time, so celebrity vegan chef Chloe Coscarelli keeps pre-marinated tofu in her fridge. “I love getting creative with my own tofu marinades, but having a store-bought pack on hand achieves two things,” she says. “First, you avoid attempting a quick soak and not getting enough flavor in your tofu, and second, you can add it to anything at any time to up your protein. I add it to salads, noodles, soups, and sandwiches.”
Buy it: Nasoya TofuBaked
Not only does making waffles require mixing up batter—you also need a waffle iron (obviously). So unless it’s a lazy Sunday and you have all the ingredients and equipment on hand, frozen is a good option. “I love waffles but just don’t have the space for yet another kitchen gadget that I would only use maybe once or twice a month,” says Katie Higgins, cookbook author and creator of the blog Chocolate Covered Katie. Her favorite topping combo is mashed banana, peanut butter, and mini chocolate chips, but she also likes homemade coconut whipped cream and jam.
Buy it: Kashi 7-Grain Waffles
Thanks to growing enthusiasm for plant-based proteins, there are more meat substitute options than ever. Nutritionist Gena Hamshaw, author of vegan blog The Full Helping, keeps her freezer stocked with veggie burgers and vegan meats. “I love veggie burgers, but they’re not one of my favorite vegan foods to make from scratch. It always seems like a lot of ingredients and steps for a finished product that’s relatively one-note,” she says. “And I’m sure I’ll perfect homemade seitan at some point, but for now, I like to let the pros do the job.” She’ll heat up a burger to toss into a salad or bowl and add the other vegan meats to pasta dinners.
Buy it: Beyond Meat’s Grilled Strips; Upton’s Naturals Chorizo Seitan; Hilary’s World’s Best Veggie Burger
You’ll always find hummus in Amie Valpone’s fridge. “I love using it in new ways,” says the best-selling author of Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body. “I do often make my own, but when I’m short on time, I’d rather make my own main meal and buy condiments that can get a bit messy and be a lot to clean with the food processor when you’re short on time and short on space.” She likes to incorporate hummus into salad dressings, Buddha bowls, and lettuce wraps.
Buy it: Tribe Hummus
When friends pop by, Marjorie Meek-Bradley, chef/owner of the Smoked and Stacked sandwich shop in Washington, D.C., pulls out baba ghannouj and serves it with crackers or crudites. “I love the stuff, but making baba is time-consuming and a bit messy,” she says.
Buy it: Oasis Baba Ghannouj
In the past, granola was considered a health food, until some brands began loading it up with added sugars. So the backlash set in, and granola got the cold shoulder from healthy eaters. But the truth is, there are plenty of brands that use wholesome nuts, seeds and grains, and don’t load up the sweet stuff. Alexa Mehraban, founder of EatingNYC, keeps a simple granola in her pantry so she can enjoy it as a snack or as a light meal with Greek yogurt.
Buy it: Purely Elizabeth Ancient Grain Granola
Homemade guac is easy to put together—as long as you have those elusive perfectly ripe avocados on hand exactly when you need them. That’s why registered dietician nutritionist Liz Weiss, host of Liz’s Healthy Table podcast and blog, buys premade guac. “I freeze the individual containers for later use. Just thaw, add some fresh cilantro if you have any, and you’re good to go,” she says.
Buy it: Wholly Guacamole Minis
Registered dietician nutritionist Megan Roosevelt loves the ease and convenience of nut butter in jars, and also squeeze packs to stash in her purse. She’ll spread nut butter on toast, blend it into a smoothie, or pair it with carrots or apples as an afternoon snack.
Buy it: Artisana Organics nut butter squeeze packs