Wondering what the best of the brand-name foods are for overall health and nutrition?
Everyone wants straightforward and honest advice when they are choosing brand-name products in the grocery store. We will give you the best choices in 16 categories of brand-name foods which are based on the independent evaluation of the latest research by our nationally respected scientists and nutritionists.
Best Bites: Best of the Brand-Name Food Ratings is a special compilation of one of the most popular features in Nutrition Action Healthletter: brand-name food ratings give you the opportunity to choose the best of the best when it comes to nutrition and taste. We’ve compiled and condensed the products that were chosen as “Best Bites” (or Better Bites) in each of those 16 categories to make it easier for you to use.
Many of the foods our experts reviewed are prepared and packaged foods. If you want to make sure you pick the best without being confused with false claims of being healthy you'll want to stick with these products, and you’ll be sure to pick the healthiest foods.
When a food makes our Best Bite list we'll tell you what it takes to get that designation. Here is what it takes to be a best bite in few of the categories rated:
- Breads: have no more than 120 milligrams of sodium per slice and are all (or almost all) whole grain. We disqualified breads made with the poorly tested artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium or sucralose.
- Vegetables: Best Bites have scores of 150 or more, because they are packed with nutrients. We calculated a score for each vegetable by adding up its percentage of 1) the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) or Adequate Intake (AI) for seven nutrients, 2) the Daily Value (DV) for fiber, and 3) the daily targets that we devised for lutein (plus zeaxanthin) and carotenoids other than lutein. We counted calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, and carotenoids other than lutein in our scores.
- Spreads: have no more than 1.5 grams of saturated fat and 50 calories per tablespoon. We eliminated spreads made with partially hydrogenated oil or added sugar. Items are ranked from least to most trans fat, then saturated fat, then calories, then sodium.
- Cold Cereals: must meet 4 criteria: (1) Little or no refined grains OR the first 2 ingredients are whole grain, bran, fruit, or soy; (2) No more than 250 calories per cup; (3) At least 3 grams of fiber for lighter cereals (a serving weighs about 1 oz., or 30 grams) or at least 6 grams of fiber for heavier cereals (a serving weighs about 2 oz., or 55 grams); and (4) No questionable artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
- Hard Cheeses: have no more than 3 grams of saturated fat and 170 milligrams of sodium per ounce. (Because of rounding inconsistencies, we included some cheeses whose labels list up to 3.5 grams of saturated fat.) Cheeses are ranked from least to most saturated fat, then sodium, then calories.
- Soups: have no more than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving and contain no more than 2 grams of saturated fat. Within each section, soups are ranked from least to most sodium, then least to most sat fat, then least to most calories.
- Nut Butters: have no added salt or sugar and must have at least 6 grams of protein and no more than 3 grams of saturated fat in a two-tablespoon serving.
- Popcorn: contain no partially hydrogenated oil and have no added sodium, sugar, or questionable artificial sweeteners. They also have no more than 200 calories and 1.5 grams of saturated fat per serving. Popcorns are ranked from least to most trans fat, then saturated fat, sodium, calories, and sugar.