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A dietitian’s top 10 prepackaged food picks: Giant Food Store

Editor's Note: Last month, we launched a new series in which dietitian Katie Cavuto will be scouring local grocery stores for their healthiest prepackaged food options. First, she took a trip to Trader Joe's. Today, she shares what landed in her cart at Giant. But first, you'll want to reference her healthy grocery shopping cheat sheet here.

Many of my clients shop at Giant because they assume it is less expensive than the boutique grocers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. They are often surprised to find this assumption is not always correct, especially if you are looking to purchase organic and natural products. You see, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have something going for them — demand — that allows them to keep their pricing down on goods like nuts, seeds, grains, eggs, meat and fish. That being said, convenience is another factor to consider when choosing a grocery store and there are plenty of finds on the Giant shelves. A few words of wisdom before we dive into my picks at Giant:

  1. Shop the entire store. While the organic and natural section may be appealing, there are organic products scattered throughout the store, often at lower prices then what can be found in the natural section (see quinoa, below).

  2. Nature's Promise, the store's natural and organic brand, is just that, "natural and/or organic" but not always both. Read the labels. Many consumers assume all Nature's Promise products are organic, including the animal proteins. They are not.

  3. Some stores offer deep discounts on eggs that are short an egg or two due to breakage. This is a great way to purchase more expensive, organic and/or pastured eggs for less than $2.50 per dozen!

Woodstock Almond Butter Smooth Unsalted: While peanut butter is a staple in our house, I like to have a more traditional nut butter on hand as well. In terms of carbohydrates, protein, fat and calories, almond butter and peanut butter are practically identical so is the hefty price tag even worth it? Almond butter, when compared to peanut butter, contains more vitamin E, calcium, iron and magnesium. (And reminder, peanuts are a legume).
Price: $11.29/16oz
Ingredients: Dry Roasted Unblanched Almonds
Note: Trader Joes Almond Butter is $7.99/16 ounces.

Boulder Canyon's Canyon Cut Avocado Oil Kettle Cooked Chips: Let's face it, potato chips are delicious and if you ask me, they can be a small part of a healthy lifestyle. While I am not going to say there is a "healthy" potato chip, some brands are superior to others. What do I look for? The quality of oil is most important. Avoid more inflammatory oils like cottonseed and soybean oil and instead, opt for brands that use healthier oils like avocado, coconut and olive oils. Just remember to eat them in moderation and savor every bite.
Price: $3.99/5.2oz Bag
Ingredients: Potatoes, Avocado Oil, Sea Salt

Nature's Promise Organic Sumatra Ground Coffee: When it comes to organic, I often recommend spending your money on the products you consume the most. And it's safe to assume that coffee is one of those products for many people. Organic coffee can be expensive with prices ranging from $7.99-$13.99 per pound. Giant offers their organic coffee in a few different varieties at a great price.  
Price: $5.09/10oz
Ingredients: 100% Arabica Organic Coffee

Nature's Earthly Choice Organic Italian Pearled Farro: This hearty and nutty grain is becoming increasingly popular because many people are now more familiar with ancient grains. A great source of fiber, protein and micronutrients like magnesium and iron, this whole grain is a hearty substitute for rice. This particular brand and grain can be found in the natural foods section but the price is on par with Whole Foods ($6.99-9.99/pound). Try pearled wheat berries for a cheaper alternative.
Price: $5.39/14oz
Ingredients: Organic Farro Wheat

Giant Maple Syrup Dark Amber Grade A 100% Pure All Natural: In the land of syrup, many of us grew up enjoying an imposter, also known as brown colored sugar water if you read the ingredient list of many old school brands.  Replace the imposter with a 100% pure maple syrup like this one and you will be in awe of the difference. Not only does it taste better but it is also a natural sweetener that works well on its own. It also functions as my primary baking sweetener! Yes, it can be expensive but that keeps your serving size in check.
Price: $6.99/12.7oz
Ingredients: Pure Grade A Dark Maple Syrup

Nature's Promise Organics Quick Oats Rolled: Oats are one of those household staples that should always be on hand. You can eat them for breakfast, you can bake with them, or add them to your meatloaf - the possibilities are endless. At this price, I can feel good about allotting some of my organic dollars to this purchase. 
Price: $2.99/18oz carton
Ingredients: Organic Whole Grain Rolled Oats

California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil: With all the controversy around the quality of many olive oil brands, it's good to know which brands you can rely on. I can trust that California Olive Ranch is going to be a great product at a really affordable price. Olive oil is my primary cooking oil due to its anti-inflammatory properties and nutrient density.  I buy the biggest bottle I can get my for a better value (plus I have been known to use this amount in about two weeks). When buying olive oil, look for a product that says "Extra Virgin Olive Oil" and "first cold-pressed".  Only choose brands that are packaged in a dark bottle, as this will ensure quality and shelf life.  Avoid refined, light colored olive oils as they are highly processed and lacking in nutrient density. They may even be mixed with less expensive, more inflammatory oils. Other brands I love: Olive Organic, Lucini, and Gaea Organic .
Price: $13.99/47.3oz
Ingredients: 100% Naturally Unfiltered, Unrefined Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Simply Enjoy Pasta Sauce Tomato Basil: It is unrealistic to expect ourselves to make everything from scratch. Life is rarely that perfect.  On busy days I would much rather pop open a jar of sauce then stress myself out (don't tell my Grandma), but many sauces are packed with superfluous ingredients, additives and preservatives—no thanks! One of my favorite grocery store tips is to ask yourself, "What ingredients would I use to make this at home?" Then look for only those ingredients on the list.  This sauce fits the bill and it passes my other shopping tip test too: I can buy each ingredient in the store! Compare this sauce to the popular Rao's, which has very similar ingredients, and you will save at least $4 a jar.
Price: $3.99/25oz Jar
Ingredients: Tomatoes, Olive Oil, Onions, Basil, Sea Salt, Garlic, Ground Black Pepper, Oregano

Seven Stars Farm Yogurt Original Plain Organic: I try to support local farms whenever I can so I was excited to see this local creamery on the Giant supermarket shelves. When it comes to yogurt, I tend to buy plain and add my own toppings at home. Many store-bought flavored yogurts can contain 4-6 teaspoons of added sugar – yikes! I add one teaspoon of my real maple syrup, some nuts or seeds and fresh fruit and it is equally, if not more, delicious.
Price: $4.59/32oz Tub
Ingredients: Grade A Pasteurized Organic Whole Milk, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus And Living Yogurt Cultures

Birds Eye Long Grain White Rice with Mixed Vegetables: Your freezer should be your best friend. Did you know that frozen vegetables, which are picked at peak ripeness and quickly frozen, are often more nutrient dense than their fresh counterparts? I always have frozen vegetables on hand and I also make it a point to take a bag out of the fridge at the beginning of each week and allow them to defrost in the fridge so I can easily incorporate them into any meal. I try to avoid microwaving in plastic as chemicals can leach into the food. Instead, use a saucepan or transfer the contents into a glass container before you microwave. When buying, make sure to read the label and choose options that are free of sauces and other ingredients you can't buy in the grocery store. This Birds Eye choice is often on sale so you can stock up. Plus, they have brown and wild rice options available as well.
Price: $1.49
Ingredients: Rice, carrots, peas, corn

Katie Cavuto MS, RD, Chef is a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian and wellness advocate. Katie is the dietitian for the Philadelphia Phillies and Flyers and the Nutrition Advisor for Unite For Her, an organization that supports newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. She appears in regular nutrition and cooking segments on local and national TV.  Her writing and recipes have been showcased nationally in Eating Well Magazine, Everyday with Rachel Ray Magazine, O, the Oprah Magazine, Parents Magazine and more. For more of Katie's recipes and wellness tips visit her blog. Her first book, Whole Cooking and Nutrition is available now!