Is Your Prepackaged Dinner Really a Healthy Meal?

Making some packaged food taste good and getting you to buy it can involve a lot of tinkering and some shifty science. The result isn't always pretty. We expose.

Convenient Can Be Code for Belly Bloat

Check the labels on your favorite packaged eats, such as soups and frozen dinners, and you'll be shocked at how much salt is in there. Case in point: One package of ramen noodles has 1,820 milligrams of sodium—that's 80 percent of what should be your daily limit of 2,300 milligrams. (On average, we consume almost 50 percent more than that each day.)

Aside from making your jeans "shrink" a size overnight (thanks, water weight!), high-salt diets can be bad for your stomach and heart.

Avoid OD'ing by buying snacks with less than 250 milligrams of sodium per serving and prepackaged meals with less than 600 milligrams.

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"Diet" Food is Often Just Sugar by Another Name

When companies remove fat and calories from a food, they have to replace it with something to keep it from tasting like cardboard, and that something is frequently sugar—lots of it.

The primary ingredients in many 100-calorie snack packs are white sugar, white flour and oils, says Judy Caplan, R.D., a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). So, basically, empty calories. For between-meal snacks, opt for whole foods, like nuts or fruit.

More: 5 Eat Clean Diet Tips

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