Fast & Fabulous: 32 Best Packaged Foods for Families

Mom packing lunch box
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More than 40 kids and their parents taste-tested 100-plus convenience foods that met our nutritional criteria, like being free of artificial food dyes and having little or no added sugar. Put these winners in your shopping cart
Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Tyson Dinner Kit Tomato Herb Chicken & Vegetable Pasta

Heat the kit’s ingredients with water in a skillet for about 20 minutes. The pasta, lightly coated in tomato sauce, sold the kid testers, but they also ate up the grilled chicken, carrots, and other veggies.

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Frontera Chicken Fajita Skillet or Chicken Taco Skillet

Warm the grilled chicken and fire-roasted peppers in an oiled skillet for ten to 12 minutes, heat tortillas, and, ta-da, your crowd is fed. The fajita variety features a spicier sauce than the taco version—and kid testers liked a little heat.

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Perdue Simply Smart Organics Lightly Breaded Chicken Breast Strips

A great transition between chicken nuggets and grilled chicken, these moist, tender strips contain just a single gram of saturated fat. “My kids didn’t miss the extra breading, and I even chopped up leftovers to put in a salad for lunch the next day,” one mom said.

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Beetnik Organic Grass-Fed Beef Meatballs

Simmer these 16 fully cooked meatballs (they’re golf-ball-size) in jarred tomato sauce for about ten minutes. Then spoon into toasted sub rolls or serve with pasta. “I’ve finally found delicious frozen meatballs that are made with gluten-free breadcrumbs,” said a mom tester.

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Michael Angelo’s Meal Starter Chicken Bruschetta

There’s nothing in this chicken bruschetta’s shortlist of ingredients that you wouldn’t recognize. “My son complimented me on how tender the chicken tasted,” said one mom. “I’ll take it, even though I only popped the tray in the oven and had a glass of wine.”

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Outsiders Pizza Company Detroit Style Pizza Three Cheese

Motor City pizza is a thing! Kid testers and parents gushed about this rectangular pie with a crust thicker than New York–style but not as thick as deep-dish Chicago. It’s topped with a blend of fontina, white cheddar, and Wisconsin brick cheese. “I hid the leftovers from the kids,” confessed one mom.

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Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Ortega Bakeable Tortilla Bowl Kit

Round up your kid helpers to mold the kit’s four flour tortillas into bowls. “My daughter sat in front of the oven watching them get crisp,” said one mom. “She thought they were so much more fun than taco shells.”

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Rao’s Homemade Margherita Pizza Sauce

With ingredients like Italian cherry tomatoes and a little dried oregano and garlic, this sauce elevates DIY pies. Parents editors are obsessed!

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Jennie-O Taco Seasonings Turkey Sausage

This ready-to-brown ground turkey sausage in the refrigerated section offers fabulous taco flavor without a lot of sodium. Also available in Italian style. 

 

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Barilla Red Lentil Pasta

Hello, protein! Kids score 13 grams’ worth—more than what they’d get in two large eggs—in a single serving of this pasta. Testers ate the brand’s penne and rotini shapes with as much gusto as they eat regular pasta.

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Tillamook Sauce Starter Three Cheese

Combine milk with this kit’s contents: a blend of coarsely shredded Colby Jack, medium cheddar, and Monterey Jack, plus a seasoning packet. Then stir the sauce into your favorite cooked pasta. “My kids also liked using the cheese sauce as a dip for broccoli and other veggies,” one mom reported.

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Stacy’s Cheese Petites Parmesan With Rosemary

Flavors like rosemary sound too fancy for kids, but trust us, even toddlers couldn’t keep their hands off these über-cheesy hexagon-shaped crackers.“ The texture and flavor is even better than a Parmesan crisp,” raved one mom. 

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Angie’s Boomchickapop Microwave Popcorn

The short, easy-to-read ingredients list and the genius packaging that doubles as a bowl melted our hearts. Testers liked both the sea-salt and the real-butter varieties; each has 35 calories per cup. (Serve popcorn only to kids ages 4 and up.)

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Lundberg Organic Grounded Snacks Baked Grain Bites

Made with brown-rice and sorghum flours, these puffs come in varieties like aged Parmesan and smoky-sweet barbecue that wowed both parents and preschoolers. 

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Classic Snacks We Love

Original Cheerios: We hope that our kids never outgrow their first finger food! They’re whole grain, supply 12 nutrients, and have just a bit of sugar.

Mott's Unsweetened Applesauce Cups: These are a diaper-bag and lunch-box essential thanks to simple ingredients (apples, water, and vitamin C) and a kid-pleasing taste.

Annie's Homegrown Shells & Real Aged Cheddar: Kids get their fave comfort food; we get the peace of mind that it’s made with healthy ingredients, including a natural source of coloring.

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Colors: Ahead of their time, the brand’s cute and vibrant rainbow crackers have always been free of artificial flavors and preservatives.

Amy's Organic Soups Alphabet: Letter-shaped pasta woos little ones to slurp bits of carrots, corn, and green beans in a mild-tasting tomato puree.

Nabisco Triscuit Original Crackers: This three-ingredient, whole-grain wheat cracker makes the best mini PB sandwiches.

Kellogg's Eggo Mickey Homestyle Waffles: A quick breakfast can feel special.

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Athens Phyllo Shell

The cute little cups we’ve long used for savory apps now come in graham-cracker and chocolate flavors. Crisp them in the oven for a few minutes and spoon in a sweet filling, like marshmallow crème and mini chocolate chips.

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Duncan Hines Wilderness Simply Strawberry Pie Filling & Topping

We tried it because it doesn’t have any artificial colors.We were hooked because it’s an easy and delicious shortcut for shortcakes, hand pies, and other bake-sale faves. 

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Nestlé Toll House Simply Delicious Chocolate Morsels

Rock a no-nut bake sale with these semisweet or dark-chocolate chips that are free of eight major allergens.Our kid testers liked them as much as the originals.

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Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Dole Slawsome! Kit Fiesta Lime

Our kid testers were way more into this twist on coleslaw—found in the refrigerated section—than the classic. A zesty cilantro-lime dressing that you mix into the shredded cabbage and carrots is the magic ingredient. High praise from a 6-year-old: “It’s even better than ranch.” 

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Alexia Mexican-Style Street Corn

You’re going to want to microwave this tray of frozen roasted corn every Taco Tuesday. Kid testers questioned the look of the Parmesan and mild red chile topping at first, but they ultimately dug in! 

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Taylor Farms Cheddar Ranch With White Meat Grilled Chicken Chopped Kit

Bite-size greens, shredded cheddar, grilled-chicken cubes, and uncured bacon elevates this blend above bagged-salad status. “My 5-year-old doesn’t normally eat salad, but she liked this,” said one mom, who served it with grilled cheese. Save leftovers for lunch.

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Birds Eye Veggie Made Broccoli Fries

Kid testers couldn’t tell that these baked fries, found in the frozen-foods aisle, contained more broccoli than potatoes. They only knew that they wanted seconds. 

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Stonyfield Organic Whole Milk Yogurt Pouch

Clever combos, like blueberry-apple-carrot and pear-spinach-mango, helped this pouch stand out from the sea of options. It contains about half the sugar of the average yogurt and is fortified with bone-building vitamin D. 

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Sun-Maid Mixed Berry Sour Raisin Snacks

 Kid testers raved about the sweet-sour contrast of these berry-flavored raisins. We found ourselves nibbling too. 

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Quaker Kids Organic Blueberry Whole Grain Bites

These bites have the texture of cookies and the aroma and flavor of blueberry muffins. And since they’re made with whole-oat and whole-wheat flours and not so much sugar, they definitely qualify as a healthy-ish treat.

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Skippy P.B. & Jelly Minis

This pouch of three tiny sammies—made with whole-grain bread, natural creamy peanut butter, and grape jelly—defrosts in your kid’s lunch box. “I worried that the bread might get soggy, but my daughter told me it was yummy,” said one mom.

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