From Nutrition Tips
“For the most part, generic brands are equally nutritious and lower in cost,” says Jennifer McDaniel, RD, owner of McDaniel Nutrition in St. Louis, MO. But some products are different in their specific ingredients, which is why it’s important to read nutrition labels carefully. Case in point: “Some generic peanut butters have unhealthy, unnecessary additives such as added sugars or extra fat from non-sustainable resources like palm oil,” she says.
“Products like pasta sauce, marinara sauce, or plain tomato sauces that use high-quality tomatoes and spices with good olive oil tend to taste better and require less added sugar and sodium,” says McDaniel. The store-brand versions might be better options for recipes that need smaller amounts of tomato sauce, such as stews and soups.
Unfortunately, generic cheese which is cheaper, tends to have more additives and fillers that aren’t necessary, says McDaniel. Plus, they tend to score lower than brand-name fromage on taste tests and overall, don’t save you that much anyway.
Something like mixed nuts doesn’t have many ingredients—maybe nuts, sea salt, and one or two more things. So you probably won’t find a ton of variation between brands, says Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet. Breakfast cereals, on the other hand, can have ingredients lists several inches long. “I’d be looking closely at how much added sugar is in it? How much fiber?” she says.
Eggs are not created equal, says Gans. It all depends on what the chickens that laid them have been fed. Her brand of choice, Eggland’s Best, has six times more vitamin D than other brands, and less saturated fat.
The market is full of brand-name yogurts and sometimes it’s tricky to find the best yogurt for you. “It’s usually a matter of taste,” says Gans. Shoppers will gravitate toward whatever has the texture and flavor they most prefer. Some generic brands sneak in extra sugar or other additives, as well, so it’s best to check the label.
While you won’t find much taste variation among canned beans or chickpeas, there is another good reason to stick with a known brand, according to Frank Proto, chef instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education. “They hold up better in recipes,” he says. “Whenever I can, I go with Goya. Store brands tend to be a little overcooked.”
“I find that a lot of the name brands have just a little better quality,” says Proto. “It’s worth the few pennies more you pay.” Anything neutral, like white vinegar, I buy the store brand,” he says. But for flavors that will star in a dish, like sherry or red wine vinegar, he goes with a known name. Ditto Hellman’s Mayonnaise. “It’s not brand loyalty as much as I just like the flavor.”