5 Of The Worst Convenience Holiday Foods And How To Avoid Them

Published by Bonnie on

The holiday season is upon us, and all the grocery stores are lined with their special displays of the most popular holiday foods. You’ve probably already been by the holiday baking display or the dress-your-turkey shelves of canned goods and boxed potatoes.

Upon a closer look, though, many of these “convenience” foods turn out to be not-so-convenient for our family’s health. In fact, we end up paying a very high price for the convenience of certain holiday foods.

So, while we were out shopping the other day, I decided to investigate several of these popular holiday picks. (My kids were a bit embarrassed by my food photography, but hey, it’s worth it if I can help our readers be more nutrition-savvy!)

I came up with my top five most nutrient-deficient unnatural holiday foods and how you can avoid them this holiday season.

Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauceI originally didn’t think this one would make my list of five, but when I noticed the sugars, I knew it needed to be here. A mere 1/4 cup of this yields 24 grams of sugar in the forms of high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup. In fact, over 87% of the calories in this sauce come from sugars alone!   Just one serving of this meets your child’s daily limit for added sugars. Ugh.

Indeed, cranberries themselves are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals, but unfortunately, this can has very little in there. It’s better for your family to make a fresh cranberry sauce from scratch, where you can control the type and amount of sugar you add. This way you’re also guaranteed to retain all of the cranberry’s nutritious health benefits.

The Swap —> Martha Stewart’s Basic Cranberry Sauce

(Be sure to read the reviews on this too if you’re still on the fence.)

Pillsbury Moist Supreme Yellow Cake Mix

Pillsbury yellow cake mixEver since I’ve started cooking things from scratch, I have often wondered why I ever used to buy the boxed cake mixes.  They really represent food marketing at its best because they provide the illusion that you are actually saving a ton of time.  In reality, the boxed mix saves you maybe 10 minutes of time and you get the added deliciousness of 18 extra ingredients that your body (and your cake) doesn’t need.

It’s true that our homemade version will give you more sugar per serving…but then you have the freedom to change this amount–something you can’t do with the box.

The Swap —> Better Homes & Gardens Basic Yellow Cake Mix

Heinz Homestyle Roasted Turkey Gravy

heinz homestyle roasted turkey gravyThis holiday food is super convenient, especially if you’re not planning to roast your own turkey. However, when you look at the ingredients, you might think twice about how you prepare your Thanksgiving meal. The Heinz version is comprised mostly of turkey broth, modified corn starch, and chicken fat.  The other 26 ingredients are listed in the “less than 2%” category.

When I was growing up, my mom always made her own pan gravy from the drippings of the roasted turkey. I used to think it was a really involved process, until I tried it on my own the first time. I remember getting the how-to over the phone with my mom, and asking, “Is that it?” It seemed too easy to taste so good.  It was indeed that easy, and your body won’t miss the modified corn starch either.

The Swap —> Better Homes & Gardens Pan Gravy

Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts

Pillsbury pie crustsCompared to its homemade counterpart, it has 300% more ingredients and is loaded with extra stuff that your body does not need, nor can it use. These extra ingredients include chemical preservatives and artificial colors…Why does a pie crust need added coloring anyway?

Our homemade crust that uses real butter may have more fat per serving; however, it is a much better form of fat than the trans fat in this one. (And yes,  though the trans fat on the box says “0 g”, you have to look closer at the ingredients for the “partially hydrogenated.” Food manufacturers are not required to list the trans fat if it comes to less than 1 g per serving. Even that small amount is still NOT beneficial nor recommended.)

Are these boxed pie crusts convenient? You bet. But when it only takes about 20 minutes longer to put together a much healthier one from scratch (not to mention, a much tastier one too), you have to ask yourself if the time you’re saving is really worth it. Serve your kids the real deal this holiday with our Butter Flaky Pie Crust Recipe, and leave the partially hydrogenated lard off the table.

The Swap —> Our Butter Flaky Pie Crust

Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy Vanilla Frosting

Betty Crocker rich and cream vanilla frosting nutrition facts

Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy Vanilla Frosting Nutrition Facts and Ingredients

Compared to our homemade butter cream icing, the Betty Crocker version has 5 times as many ingredients and more than 87% of them are totally unnecessary. Why do we do this to our bodies?

Just two tablespoons of this stuff delivers more than two day’s worth of the upper limit of dangerous trans fats, according to the American Heart Association.

“The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of trans fats you eat to less than 1 percent of your total daily calories. That means if you need 2,000 calories a day, no more than 20 of those calories should come from trans fats. That’s less than 2 grams of trans fats a day. Given the amount of naturally occurring trans fats you probably eat every day, this leaves virtually no room at all for industrially manufactured trans fats.” – American Heart Association

And how many of us really consume only two tablespoons on a single piece of cake?

The Swap —> Homemade Butter Cream Icing

So, there’s my top 5 holiday foods to avoid this season.  Which one will you swap out this year?

Is there anything that you would add to this list?

Leave your thoughts and ideas below!

holiday food comparison chart


Bonnie Hershey currently serves as a business and nutrition coach with their business, Hershey Holistic Health. She holds an undergrad degree in education, and a certification in Practical Nutrition from the Northwest Academy of Practical Nutrition. She has over 20 years of leadership experience and enjoys encouraging others in their personal growth.


Ellie · November 7, 2016 at 3:06 am

Ugh! Thanks for the analysis and alternatives Bonnie! I will definitely switch our frosting to homemade in the future!!

    Bonnie | ProvenNutritionForKids · November 7, 2016 at 3:33 am

    You’re welcome, Ellie! So glad you found it helpful and are encouraged to try something new!:)

Bonnie | ProvenNutritionForKids · March 17, 2017 at 9:48 am

Want to see some more amazing health benefits of the mighty cranberry? Check out this article on JenReviews.com for a great list of benefits and a few yummy recipes to boot!

Fitoru mct · July 11, 2020 at 3:01 am

Thanks for sharing these information. Good thing I don’t buy these holiday foods but people should be aware of this.

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