Whether it's affordable bedding options or life-saving beauty buys, it's safe to say that Target is everyone's favorite one-stop-shop for amazing deals. And food definitely fits into this equation, as this popular retailer offers a variety of healthy meal prep essentials at a fairly reasonable price point.
Target's Market Pantry line, for example, helps consumers score some budget-friendly (yet equally healthy!) kitchen staples — the brand offers everything from fresh fruit to frozen veggie blends to specialty dairy items.
But with so many options available, there's no denying that it can be pretty tough to narrow down what exactly you're going to buy. So to help highlight the best Market Pantry items that are great for both your health and your wallet, we consulted top dietitians who recommend keeping these 11 need-to-have items in mind as you shop at Target.
Read more: The 20 Best Foods in Your Grocery Store
1. Market Pantry Chopped Walnuts
Whether you eat them as a midday snack or add them to hearty meals, these pre-chopped walnuts will add a punch of delicious flavor and crunchy texture to your day.
"Nuts are a great source of unsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids for heart-healthy fats," Carly Johnston, RDN, tells LIVESTRONG.com. These fats work to keep your heart healthy by lowering cholesterol levels. In fact, people on walnut-enriched diets were observed to have a 3.25 percent greater reduction in total cholesterol levels, and a 3.73 percent greater in harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, a June 2018 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found.
- Nutrition facts per serving (1/4 cup): 200 calories, 18 grams of fat (2 grams of saturated fat), 0 milligrams of sodium, 4 grams of carbs (2 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar), 4 grams of protein
Buy it: Target.com; Price: $1.29 per 2.25-ounce bag
2. Market Pantry Frozen Stir-Fry Blend
Frozen veggies are another great example of healthy groceries available at Target, as they can be sautéed with proteins (like shrimp or chicken) and a whole grain (like brown rice) for a complete meal, according to Johnston. And not only do frozen vegetables last longer than fresh foods, but they can be more nutritious since they're picked at peak ripeness, she says.
"These veggies are packed with fiber, vitamin C and vitamin A," Johnston says. "They are also low in calories, making them a great addition to any meal."
- Nutrition facts per serving (3/4 cup): 35 calories, 0 grams of fat, 25 milligrams of sodium, 6 grams of carbs (2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar), 1 gram of protein
Buy it: Target.com; Price: $1.99 per 28-ounce bag
3. Market Pantry Empire Apples
Apples are the best fall fruit — they can easily be added into seasonal baked goods, hearty breakfasts and holiday stuffing dishes. And aside from adding some crunch and sweet flavor to each meal, Johnston says apples also offer some serious nutritional benefits.
"Apples contain soluble fiber, which can help reduce your risk of heart disease," she says. Their fiber content also makes them an excellent prebiotic (food for the good bacteria in your gut), she adds. What's more, eating more whole fruits (like apples) is significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to an August 2013 study in The BMJ.
- Nutrition facts per serving (1 medium apple): 80 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbs (5 grams of fiber, 16 grams of sugar), 0 grams of protein
Buy it: Target.com; Price: $2.99 per 3-pound bag
4. Market Pantry 100-Percent Whole-Wheat Bread
Unlike its white counterpart, whole-wheat bread tends to contain more fiber, which will keep you fuller longer, Johnston says.
Johnston advises looking for the word "whole" in whole-wheat as the first ingredient when bread shopping. This ensures that it is truly whole-grain or whole-wheat, she explains.
For a healthy breakfast that's equally filling and nutritious, Johnston recommends toasting a slice of whole-wheat bread and then topping it with avocado, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and a hard-boiled egg.
- Nutrition facts per serving (1 slice): 60 calories, 0.5 grams of fat (0 grams of saturated fat), 115 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of carbs (2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar), 4 grams of protein
Buy it: Target.com; Price: $1.19 per 20-ounce bag
5. Market Pantry Lactose-Free 2-Percent Milk
Find yourself suffering from digestive woes after enjoying a bowl of cereal and milk? Summer Yule, RDN, suggests that this unflavored lactose-free milk is a great buy to add to your shopping list.
"Unflavored dairy milk offers calcium, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12, iodine and a range of other nutrients while containing no added sugar," she explains. And aside from using it as a beverage, Yule explains that this milk is easy to incorporate into a variety of recipes including homemade yogurt.
- Nutrition facts per serving (1 cup): 120 calories, 5 grams of fat (3.5 grams of saturated fat), 120 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of carbs (0 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar), 8 grams of protein
Buy it: Check your local Target for price and availability, and get more details here.
6. Market Pantry Black-Eyed Peas
Dried beans are a healthy and money-saving way to up your daily protein intake. "These beans are an excellent source of fiber and low in fat," says Yule.
And since slow cooker season is approaching fast, Yule says that black-eyed peas can be added into chili, soups or stew dishes in order to save time. Set the cooker in the morning, and you'll have a hot meal waiting for you when you return from work.
- Nutrition facts per serving (¼ cup): 100 calories, 1 gram of fat (0 grams of saturated fat), 15 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbs (6 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar), 8 grams of protein
Buy it: Target.com; Price: $1.59 per 1-pound bag
7. Market Pantry Yellow Onions
Yellow onions are rich in phytochemicals that act as antioxidants that may benefit the body, Yule says. Plus, onions are inexpensive, have a long shelf life and can be added to a variety of dishes. "I always add yellow onions to omelets, salads, soups, sandwiches and many other savory dishes," she says.
- Nutrition facts per serving (¼ cup): 29 calories, 2.4 grams of fat (0.3 grams of saturated fat), 0 milligrams of sodium, 1.7 grams of carbohydrates (0.4 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar), 0.2 grams of protein
Buy it: Target.com; Price: $2.59 per 3-pound bag
8. Market Pantry 100-Percent Pure Pumpkin
If you are looking for an easy way to increase your vegetable intake, Yule suggests grabbing canned pumpkin next time you are at Target, as it makes it easier to incorporate veggies into your diet without any time-consuming cooking or peeling. Try adding pumpkin to oatmeal, creamy pasta dishes or chili.
Pumpkin is very nutritious: It's packed with beta carotene (which your body converts to vitamin A), as well as potassium and fiber, according to Yule. Just remember to stick with plain canned pumpkin, as canned pumpkin pie filling often contains added sugar.
- Nutrition facts per serving (½ cup): 50 calories, 0 grams of fat, 5 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of carbs (4 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar), 2 grams of protein
Buy it: Target.com; Price: $0.95 per 15-ounce can
9. Market Pantry Steel-Cut Oatmeal
Plain oatmeal (with no added sugar) may be one of the best healthiest grocery items around. Oats contain both fiber and lunasin peptides, which help maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels and are linked to anti-inflammatory and anticancerous properties, a February 2015 study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology suggests.
Aside from enjoying oatmeal as a nutritious breakfast option, add it to recipes such as meatloaf, as oats make a great alternative to carb-heavy breadcrumbs.
- Nutrition facts per serving (1/4 cup): 150 calories, 2.5 grams of fat (0.5 grams of saturated fat), 0 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbs (4 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar), 5 grams of protein
Buy it: Target.com; Price: $2.99 per 30-ounce container
10. Market Pantry Frozen Cut Leaf Spinach
When it comes to selecting frozen veggies, Yule suggests choosing frozen produce with no sauces added like this one. "Sauces add a lot of sodium, added sugar or oil to the veggies," she says.
Frozen spinach is also very nutrient-dense, as phytonutrient-packed veggies like these are linked to a lower risk of chronic disease over the long term, Yule says. Be sure to add spinach to eggs, casseroles or pasta to increase the nutrient-density of your meals.
- Nutrition facts per serving (2.6 ounces): 25 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of carbs (1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar), 2 grams of protein
Buy it: Target.com; Price: $0.69 per 16-ounce bag
11. Market Pantry Lentils
Dried lentils are another great protein choice, says Samantha Harmon, RDN, thanks to their protein, folate, iron and manganese content. Stellar nutrition aside, lentils are also pretty easy to prepare in the kitchen, since they do not require soaking, Harmon says.
And since lentils are available in different colors (like red, green, brown and black), she suggests using them in soup, chili and curry dishes for a pop of color and nutrition.
- Nutrition facts per serving (¼ cup): 100 calories, 0.5 grams of fat (0 grams of saturated fat), 5 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbs (7 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar), 8 grams of protein
Buy it: Target.com; Price: $0.99 per 1-pound bag
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Effects of Walnut Consumption on Blood Lipids and Other Cardiovascular Risk Factors: an Updated Meta-analysis and Systematic Review of Controlled Trials"
- BMJ: "Fruit Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Results From Three Prospective Longitudinal Cohort Studies"
- Journal of Food Science and Technology: "Nutritional Advantages of Oats and Opportunities for Its Processing as Value Added Foods - a Review"