In a perfect world, our diet would consist entirely of whole foods: fruits, vegetables, fresh meat, nuts, and minimally processed groceries. The reality is, we all live busy lives. Sometimes it’s easier to grab something in a bag or a box and go on with our day than whip up something from scratch.
Luckily, not all packaged food is created equal. Sure, some snacks and frozen meals come with loads of sugar, unwanted extra calories, and sketchy-sounding ingredients. But there are some heart-healthy gems hiding in the aisles and freezers of your supermarket. We consulted registered dietitians for their top choices for brand name groceries to stock in your pantry and refrigerator.
And before you shop for some of these picks from the pros, be sure to avoid the 75 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.
Good Culture Cottage Cheese
Per 1 Classic container (150 g): 150 calories, 6 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 450 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 19 g protein
“Cottage cheese makes for such a great snack since the protein casein in it breaks down meaning it helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer, helps keep your metabolism burning and can aide in weight loss!” – Gina Hassick, MA, RD, LDN, CDE
Mary’s Gone Crackers
Per 13 herb crackers (30 g): 140 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 180 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein
If you’re looking for something as a dipper for hummus or a base for cheese, Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, recommends Mary’s Gone Crackers. They’re loaded with seeds and grains, she says, and have a great crunch. At 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of fiber per serving of 13 crackers, they won’t spike your blood sugar like other refined flour crackers will.
Dave’s Killer Bread Powerseed
Per 1 powerseed slice (42 g): 100 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 140 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (5 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 5 g protein
“”Research suggests that eating whole grains is associated with decreased risk of developing heart disease (and cancer too!). The American Heart Association touts the benefits of whole grains because of their abundance of fiber. Dave’s Killer Bread Powerseed has 5 grams of fiber (or 1/5 the recommended daily intake) per slice. And as if that wasn’t enough, each slice contains flax seeds that supply 440 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, which have also been linked to heart health.” – Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. Natalie is a spokesperson for Dave’s Killer Bread.
Lean Cuisine Apple Cranberry Chicken
Per 1 package (1 oz): 280 calories, 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 470 mg sodium, 48 g carbs (5 g fiber, 23 g sugar), 14 g protein
“It can be tough to find packaged foods that fit into a heart healthy eating pattern. My go-to heart-healthy option in the frozen aisle is the Lean Cuisine Apple Cranberry Chicken, which provides lean white meat chicken, cranberries and veggies along with whole grains and fiber. Lean Cuisine offers dishes that meet the American Heart Association’s healthy criteria, and these single serving entrees also help keep portions in check. To get even more bang for your buck, I recommend rounding out your meal with additional veggies and a side of fruit to meet desired health and fitness goals.” – Jim White, RD, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness Nutrition Studios. Jim works in association with the Balance your Plate Campaign with Nestle.
Endangered Species Dark Chocolate
Per 1/2 forest mint bar (43 g): 210 calories, 18 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (5 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 3 g protein
“Dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa is a good source of the flavonoid polyphenols which is linked to lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation and can reduce nonfatal heart attacks and stroke.” – Gina Hassick, MA, RD, LDN, CDE
Per 1 slice low sodium sprouted whole grain (34 g): 80 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 4 g protein
Although we’re huge fans of Ezekiel 4:9 low-sodium sprouted whole grain bread—after all, it topped our list of 19 Best & Worst Store Bought Breads—Ezekiel also has other bread products that are good for your heart, says Shapiro. She’s a fan of their bread as well as their English muffins and wraps. They’re packed with heart-healthy whole grains and fiber. “Sprouted is so easy to digest and absorb nutrients from,” she explains.
KIND Fruit Bites
Per 1 mango, pineapple, apple pouch (18 g): 60 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (2 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 0 g protein
“The American Heart Association recommends filling at least half your plate with fruits and veggies, which can be difficult when you’re busy or on the go. Luckily, KIND has developed a packaged snack that is made with just fruit. Their new fruit bites are made with only real fruit and don’t contain any added sugar, purees, concentrates or preservatives. And, each bag contains a full serving of fruit that you can take with you anywhere you go.” – Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. Natalie is a spokesperson for KIND.
Per 1 Mint Chocolate (52 g): 210 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (6 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 12 g protein
It’s hard to find nutrition bars that are tasty and heart-healthy. Luckily, there are RXBARs to the rescue. They’re made with simple ingredients and pretty low in sugar, Shapiro says. Plus, they are paleo-friendly and gluten-free.
Per 1 Vanilla container (125 g): 130 calories, 4.5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 60 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (0 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 12 g protein
Although we love Greek yogurt for the protein punch, Icelandic is quickly taking its place as our favorite yogurt. That’s because it’s strained to have even more protein, plus it has a thick and creamy consistency. Shapiro picks Siggi’s because of the packaged flavored yogurts on the market, it’s one of the lowest in sugar—8 grams compared to the upwards of 20 grams some brands can have. Plus, the sugar comes from natural sources, not artificial sweeteners. Scoop up Siggi’s vanilla; there’s a reason it topped our list of Every Vanilla Flavor From 17 Yogurt Brands—Ranked!.
Chia Health Warrior Bars
Per 1 Coconut bar (25 g): 100 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 45 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (4 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 3 g protein
Chia Health Warrior Bars are chock-full of (you guessed it), chia seeds. Which means they come packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s can help reduce the risk of heart disease and fight inflammation. They’re also filled with fiber, which means they’ll help keep you fuller, longer. Shapiro, who is an ambassador for Chia Health Warrior, also loves them because they are low in calories, great tasting, all-natural, and come in a smaller size so you can snack on them if you get hungry between meals.
Per 1/3 vanilla blueberry cup (30 g): 110 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 20 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (4 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 3 g protein
Granola is one of those foods that typically has a health halo; it sounds healthy, but is actually filled with tons of sugar and empty calories. Not the case for KIND granola. Shapiro recommends this brand because it’s the lowest in sugar of any brands she’s been able to find, and has a great flavor. Top your Greek (or Icelandic!) yogurt with a tablespoon, or sprinkle some in oatmeal for a tasty and healthy crunch.
Per 1 chipotle pack (5 g): 15 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 40 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), <1 g protein
If you’re craving something salty, then SeaSanx is a great option, Shapiro says. It’s super low in calories and full of nutrients from the seaweed: vitamins A, C, E, and K, calcium, and iodine. We like the chipotle flavor at just 15 calories and 2 grams of fat per serving.
KIND Almond Walnut Macadamia Bar
Per 1 bar (40 g): 200 calories, 14 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 65 mg sodium, 130 g carbs (2.5 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 10 g protein
“The almond walnut macadamia bar from KIND is loaded with heart-healthy benefits. The walnuts are the only nuts that offer an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 alpha-Linolenic acid or ALA (2.5 per 1-ounce serving). Based on findings from literary review, there is evidence that ALA plays a beneficial role in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.” – Jim White, RD, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness Nutrition Studios. Jim works with the Walnut Foundation
Dove Dark Chocolate Squares
Per 5 pieces (40 g): 210 calories, 13 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (3 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 2 g protein
“Other than curbing that sugar fix, studies show that dark chocolate can lower the risk of heart disease,” explains White. “The recommended serving is 1-2 ounces a day for heart health benefits.” One serving of Dove dark chocolate is five whole pieces, which amounts to about 1.5 ounces of the heart-healthy stuff.
Per 6 crackers (28 g): 110 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein
“Reduced-fat Triscuits offer 3 grams of dietary fiber from whole grains. These grains with the combination of an overall healthy diet may help lower risk of heart disease.” – Jim White, RD, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness Nutrition Studios.
Siete Foods Almond Flour Tortillas
Per 1 tortilla (25 g): 120 calories, 7 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 4 g protein
One way to help your heart health is to cut back on refined carbohydrates. In fact, a recent study found that low-carb diets are better for heart health than low-fat ones. This is one of the reasons Shapiro recommends switching to Siete Foods almond flour tortillas from refined flour; they’re super low-carb and contain heart-healthy fats. Use one for your next veggie burrito or turkey sandwich.