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A dietician shares her 4 hacks to make packaged junk food healthier

Monica D'Agostino on a field of snow
Monica D'Agostino is a registered dietician Monica D'Agostino
  • Registered dietician Monica D'Agostino started a TikTok series about how to make packaged meals healthier.

  • She provides hacks on how to make foods like pizza, mac and cheese, and french fries more nutritious.

  • Small changes can make prepackaged foods healthier and more satiating, without having to cook a full meal.

We all know that processed foods are not the best for your health, but they are often more accessible, cheap, and faster to prepare than home cooked meals every night.

Rather than trying to completely cut out processed or prepackaged foods, one dietician is instead recommending you mix in some healthier ingredients.

"Social media has really created an idea that every single time you cook at night, it needs to be this elaborate meal, and you've got to be doing everything from scratch, and it's going to take hours. It just doesn't need to," Monica D'Agostino, a New York-based registered dietician, told Insider.

In July, D'Agostino started a series on TikTok, where she has over 700,000 followers, showcasing how to make packaged foods healthier.

"What we're working towards with this series, and just healthy eating in general, is making those packaged foods more filling, nutrient dense and satiating," D'Agostino told Insider.

Here are some hacks she has for adding nutrients to your favorite packaged foods.

Add an egg to your favorite boxed mac and cheese sauce

In her most popular packaged food video, which garnered over 2 million views on TikTok, D'Agostino makes a classic: Boxed mac and cheese. In the video, D'Agostino says boxed mac and cheese is her "favorite packaged meal of all time."

To make mac and cheese a little healthier, D'Agostino recommends swapping the butter and milk you typically mix in with the cheese sauce for an egg. The egg adds in protein and healthy fats, and still creates a creamy cheese sauce texture. She also recommends steaming a cup of broccoli and stirring it in for a tasty and satiating serving of vegetables.

Serve up more nutrients with your frozen pizza

Frozen pizza lacks enough fiber and protein to be truly filling and satisfying, D'Agostino told Insider. To add in protein and fiber, she recommends chopping up pre-cooked chicken sausage as well as some veggies — she uses red pepper, red onion, and broccoli — and then placing those on top of the pizza before cooking it according to package instructions.

"It's really easy to pop a frozen cheese pizza into the oven and then sit down and finish three quarters of it because there's not a lot in that pizza that's keeping you satisfied," D'Agostino said. But adding in these extras "is going to create a more satiating and balanced meal and you'll find that you eat less of the whole pizza."

Mix protein powder into your morning milk and cereal

Inspired by another registered dietician, Liv Kinkade, who goes by @livkinkade on TikTok, D'Agostino recommended mixing protein powder into your milk of choice, and then pouring that onto your favorite cereal.

D'Agostino uses a handheld frother to mix the protein powder into her almond milk, so that it's creamy and clump-free, and then pours it over cereal — she recommends a cereal with at least 5 grams of fiber. She tops her bowl with strawberries, which add nutrients including vitamin C and potassium, hemp seeds for a healthy fat, and a sprinkle of cinnamon for its antioxidant properties.

If you don't want to use protein powder, you could opt for mixing in powdered peanut butter, which is what Kinkade did in her original viral video.

Bulk up your fries

D'Agostino said that one of the best meals in her series is her sweet potato nacho-style fries, which she dubs "a healthified bar food."

For this hack, she takes frozen sweet potato fries, air fries them for about 10-15 minutes, and then tops them with black beans and pepper jack cheese for extra protein, as well as tomatoes, onions, cilantro and guacamole which add in additional fiber and flavor.

"They're so filling and just a very easy way to get a nice balanced meal. But have it feel like something that's a little more fun," D'Agostino said.

Read the original article on Insider