It’s all too easy to assume that heading into a traditional big-box retailer like Walmart isn’t great for maintaining a healthy diet. After all they’re more known for having cheap deals and selling everything under the sun, than for offering healthy options.
But if it’s been a while since you’ve wandered in, you’ll be happy to learn that the retailer has taken many initiatives to stock healthy food over the last few years, like launching a line of organic foods in 2014, and shifting their focus to more plant-based foods last fall.
What about Walmart’s private brands, though? Supermarkets have increasingly won over customers with private-label products which are more affordable.
Walmart’s private label, Great Value, is on products all over the store—from paper plates to air fresheners and even bleach. This includes unhealthy items like pop tarts or frozen hot pockets, but Great Value has also put out more than a few healthy items to sway consumers away from popular competitors.
We closely examined Walmart’s grocery section for the best Great Value items. There are a few product lines that sound promising upon first look that could mislead you—like their “Lean” line of frozen ready-to-eat meals, where numerous meals have sodium counts that are upwards of 1,400mg—but there were many hidden gems among each aisle.
With the help of Cooking Light’s assistant nutrition editor, Jamie Vespa, we’ve compiled a list of foods worth choosing if you need a healthy time-saving meal or snack that’s also budget friendly:
1) White Cheddar Flavored Popcorn, $1.98
This air-popped snack is a great, low-cost alternative to popular brands like Smartfood. Just about four cups worth of this popcorn will run you 130 calories and only 250mg of sodium, which is certainly manageable for snacktime.
2) Organic Chickpeas, $0.57
A 15oz can of these cooked garbanzo beans can be spread out as toasted snacks or quick additions to meals like salads or hearty stews. Compared to Whole Foods’ 365 brand, Great Value product is nearly 50% cheaper.
3) Marketside Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, $2.93
Do you regularly munch on crudites and hummus? You’ll save a considerable amount if you buy Walmart’s Marketside product, which is just as clean as other varieties and come in a range of flavors.
4) Sweet & Salty Almond Granola Bars, $1.98
Fan of breakfast on the go? Each pack has six bars that clock in at 170 calories and 140mg of sodium. Eat only one, however—the 10g of sugar can spiral out of control if you’re hungry for a fuller breakfast spread.
5) Frozen Pineapple, Banana and Yellow Bell Pepper Smoothie Mix, $4.48
Another option to jumpstart your morning, this frozen blend is portioned out into individual packages for three 16 oz smoothies. There are zero added sugars in the mix, and each smoothie is only 160 calories.
6) Lean Italian-Style Pasta with Sausage, $1.88
If you’re looking for a microwavable lunch option, the Great Value Lean line could be a solution—but you do need to read the labels. This pasta dish was one of the safest options we found in our frozen aisle—290 calories, 470 mg of sodium, and around 20 percent of your daily recommended intake of carbs.
7) Lean Roasted Turkey and Vegetables, $1.88
The healthiest option within Great Value’s “Lean” line: this meal has 170 calories, 430mg of sodium, and just 18g of carbs total. It’s certainly an impressive nutrition label for a frozen affordable meal.
8) Zesty Herb Salmon With Vegetables, $9.98
A pricier option that is part of the Sam’s Choice line of products, this meal kit easily serves two and is ready to eat in just a few minutes. Each serving is 180 calories and holds just 3g of saturated fat—but don’t devour the whole kit yourself, because there’s a whopping 2,600mg of sodium in the kit’s entirety.
9) Chicken Marsala, $3.96
The last of the manageable frozen meals in our lineup, this chicken dish is designed as a quick meal for one—it’ll cost you 390 calories, 610mg of sodium, and 3g of added sugar.
10) Vanilla Frozen Yogurt, $1.98
A great purchase for anyone with a sweet tooth, this 48oz tub of vanilla froyo will only set you back 40 calories for a whole cup’s worth. As always, moderation is key—each serving will cost you 15g of sugar, so best not to feel like the low-calorie count excuses any kind of binge.
Honorable Mention: Great Value Low-Sodium Organic Chicken Broth, $1.98
A staple for many hearty soups and stews, this Great Value 32 oz bottle of chicken broth can help you get dinner going in a pinch.