6 Highest And 5 Lowest Quality Foods You Can Buy At Aldi

Aldi is an undeniable leader in the realm of low-price shopping, offering budget-minded customers a safe space for making their money go further. This doesn't mean everything Aldi stocks is a high-quality choice, though; as with all grocery retailers, cheap prices at Aldi are sometimes synonymous with cheap food. Picking through the aisles to isolate your best buys in both cost and quality means flipping boxes and twisting cans to find out what exactly Aldi's signature label offerings contain. Sure, there are deliciously prime discoveries to be made, but it's up to you to figure out which buys they are.

We feel your pain; having to examine the fine print on your food purchase can be an extra task that just adds to your list of things to think about. To give your task line-up a bit of a break, we cherry-picked a crop of Aldi's specialty selections to determine some of the highest and lowest quality foods available in this contemporary temple of super savings.

High Quality: Simply Nature Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is near the top of the healthy eater's high-quality food list, as a zesty, mindful add-in to a slew of dressings and sauces. Aldi provides an affordable alternative to better-known brands with Simply Nature Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, an enviable bottle that packs essential probiotic power in a culinary component. If you've never shopped at Aldi but are looking for a way to add a splash of nutrition and zing to your home cooking creations, this supreme ACV is as perfect a purchase for your first trip down the aisles as it is for your hundredth visit.

With a one-ingredient item, there isn't too much that can be done to clutter the basic formula. Aldi announces the pure vinegar essence here with a four-word ingredient list: organic apple cider vinegar. In an industry where more on the label doesn't always equal better for your health, this bottle offers clean reading that makes for clean eating. It might intrigue shoppers to know Aldi sources its ACV from Italy, which means you're not only eating nutritionally, you're also eating internationally in a very minimal way. Think about warm Mediterranean sunshine and cool ocean breezes whenever you enjoy this tangy staple over your tomato and cucumber salad.

Low Quality: Millville Cinnamon Crunch Squares

Hey, Aldi: If you're going to replicate one of the most sugar-coated cereals in the grocery biz, expect it to land on the list of low-quality products. Millville Cinnamon Crunch Squares are exactly the sort of item that gives factory food production its dubious reputation. Anything that leaves syrup in the bottom of the bowl after you pour milk over it is bound to be worth a side-eye on your shopping trip. This one? It's a sugar bomb in a bag, in a box, and on a shelf — where it should absolutely remain.

Like other low-quality boxed cereals, these squares are fortified with vitamins and minerals to compensate for the rest of the ingredients in the mix. It feels like the only reason for the whole grain wheat and rice flour is to give the three different forms of sweetness — sugar, dextrose, and fructose — a vehicle for delivery, along with a pinch of unnamed natural flavor. Oh yeah ... there's cinnamon in there, too, but its natural good benefits are sure to be outweighed by the three-sugar pile-up. In fact, a one-cup serving of this crunchy catastrophe serves you 14 grams of sugar, more than a quarter of what you should have in a day. This is one of the worst foods you can buy at Aldi if you value your physiology.

High Quality: Whole & Simple Southwestern Style Chicken & Quinoa

When a quick dinner means reaching for something in the freezer and zapping it in the microwave, Aldi offers Whole & Simple Southwestern Style Chicken & Quinoa, a high-quality blend of protein and grains that satisfies without worry. Is it one of the most delicious Aldi finds ever? Quite possibly — it all depends on how much you love frozen food with the nutritional profile of a freshly-made meal.

What do you get when you toss one of these ready-to-cook boxes in your cart? According to the ingredients on the label, you get red and white quinoa, seasoned chicken breast with rib meat included, and a host of veggies like tomatoes, bell pepper, and sweet potatoes. You'll find black beans too — an added dose of fiber and protein from the plant world — along with chipotle powder and cilantro for that distinctive Southwestern flavor blend. And that's about it, just a blend of high-quality ingredients inviting you to dinner at home. If only every Aldi product could be so simple and straightforward.

Low Quality: Bon Italia Canned Spaghetti and Meatballs

Have canned spaghetti and meatballs ever been associated with high-quality eating? Heat-and-eat meals like Bon Italia Canned Spaghetti and Meatballs are almost always a low-quality pantry addition, thanks to the shelf-stabilizing additives and unhealthy dyes used to maintain a palatable color. Chef Boyardee becomes Chef Boy-hardly, and nobody wins by spending their grocery cash on this unsavory stuff.

A meal of spaghetti and meatballs generally conjures up images of wholesome home fare cooked by someone's grandmother and served on a red-checkered tablecloth; such is the power of well-prepared cuisine. What you'll find in this can among the pasta and beef are non-meat soy protein in two forms to fortify the meatballs; thickeners like glycerol monostearate in the spaghetti; high fructose corn syrup to sweeten the sauce; and enough sodium to fill a single serving with 33% of what you should be eating daily. Maybe having this meal in a can on hand for evenings when cooking isn't in the cards sounds like a good idea, but you'd be better off with a box of real spaghetti in the pantry and a bag of frozen meatballs in your freezer instead.

High Quality: Simply Nature Organic Sea Salt Popcorn

The simplest healthy snack in the world may be popcorn with a bit of neutral oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. So when you see Aldi shelving Simply Nature Organic Sea Salt Popcorn, you know you've got a nutritious nosh on your hands. Not that you're snacking for the health of it, but isn't it nice to know you can indulge with less worry for what you're consuming? Simple snacks are always the best for this kind of unbothered eating, and with less than a handful of ingredients in every handful of noms, this popcorn is a pure sensation of sensational purity. Let's see microwave popcorn try to pull off that kind of high-quality double-up.

Reading the back of the bag feels like rediscovering how minimalist a mass-produced food product can be. With organic popcorn, organic sunflower oil, and sea salt as the tasty triumvirate Aldi offers shoppers, it almost feels like the chain has made a mistake. Where are the fancy multi-syllable add-ins that dust the corn with tingly-tangy flavors? Where are the chemical preservatives that make sure everything stays fresh until the cows come home? Aldi proves it knows better than to tamper with what nature has declared a high-quality food. The absence of weirdness and words only scientists can pronounce is all part of the deal, and what a lip-smacking deal it is.

Low Quality: Benton's Caramel Coconut Fudge Cookies

Resist temptation from the indulgent description in the name and check out the ingredients list on Benton's Caramel Coconut Fudge Cookies to discover the low-quality nature of these sweet treats. A glimpse of the wrapper easily reveals that these cookies are a knock-off of Girl Scouts Caramel DeLites, a gooey favorite come springtime. Having them within reach all year round at Aldi makes it easy to overindulge in a food that's best enjoyed infrequently. The Girl Scouts are onto something with that springtime schedule.

It's enough to know that two bite-sized cookies deliver 160 calories and 6 grams of fat, 5 grams of which are saturated, representing a whopping 25% of the recommended daily intake. The ingredient run-down shows off the use of hydrogenated coconut and soybean oils, as well as palm and palm kernel oil, along with sweetened condensed milk. All of that comes between sugar (the first ingredient) and high fructose corn syrup, with the controversial plant-based sweetener sorbitol making an appearance, too. How many questionable components can you include to add sweetness and creaminess to a single cookie? In this Aldi offering, the answer is way too many.

High Quality: Simply Nature Raw Cashews, Walnuts, and Macadamia Nuts

Nuts of all sorts are part of a high-quality diet, thanks to the high fiber and protein count, accentuated by a splash of beneficial fats. Simply Nature Raw Cashews, Walnuts, and Macadamia Nuts is Aldi's rustic mix of shelled favorites that come with a high-quality pedigree, ready to tear into and enjoy. The chain makes it easy to grab a ready-made snack blending the plant-focused health benefits of cashews, walnuts, and macadamia nuts in a single scoop, packaged up and ready to go.

Do you want high-quality ingredients in your Aldi foods? With an ingredient list rattling off a mix of cashews, walnuts, and macadamia nuts (just like the name on the package announces — mind-blowing!), you have just about the highest quality food you could hope for. And these crunchy nuggets are uncooked, which anyone who adheres to a raw food diet will be over the moon to discover. In an industry that makes tricky moves to get customers attached to their products, it's refreshing to find a packaged food that offers exactly what it says on the label, nothing more and nothing less.

Low Quality: Casa Mamita Salsa con Queso

Jarred queso is always a questionable purchase, given the low-quality profile of the ingredients required to make cheese sauce creamy and pourable. Casa Mamita Salsa con Queso may be Aldi's in-house branded attempt at shouldering out the competition, but it also ranks as one of the more low-quality products you can purchase here. It's a real temptation to grab a jar for your office food day or tailgate party, but is it the best you can do for your colleagues and weekend warriors? Hardly.

Surprisingly, this jar's label lists water as its number one ingredient. Shouldn't a cheese sauce feature cheese as the primary element? There are also thickeners like sodium alginate, DATEM, and xanthan gum on the list, all of which are food safe, but not exactly top quality components by any stretch of the discerning shopper's imagination. And you've already paid for water as part of the purchase. Add to that salsa flavorings that come in the "contains less than 2%" section of the culinary credits, and you start to wonder how much better you could fare with a block of cheese and a jar of real salsa instead.

High Quality: Earth Grown Black Bean Chipotle Burger

Plant eaters in search of high-quality burger alternatives will be elated to have Earth Grown Black Bean Chipotle Burger as an option. Aldi stocks its freezer section with an enticing burger made from brown rice, black beans, soy protein, and wheat gluten — an A-team of power players in the plant-based protein world. For vegetarians and vegans who have a hard time swallowing the strange blends that bend over backward to emulate beef and chicken, a dependable patty that doesn't play games is a real winner.

To flavor its concentrated quartet of nutritious base ingredients, these burgers toss in green chilis, green and red peppers, corn, onion, garlic, and tamari, an umami drizzle similar to soy sauce. Some of these items are in dried form, a point to be aware of if your version of high-quality includes only fresh vegetables and spices. But a profile like this is a savory find for seekers of heat-and-serve staples made of actual food. The label does make mention of natural flavor near the end of the list, which may give cautious consumers cause for pause. With all the other prime elements in the formula — and presumably a modest inclusion given its placement in the line-up — we're willing to let it slide.

Low Quality: Millville Toaster Tarts

Yes, you can find a Pop Tart analog for a lower price at Aldi, in the form of Millville Toaster Tarts. And yes, they're likely to soothe your sweet tooth as a morning staple or an after-meal treat. They're also one of the lower-quality items you can toss in your costs-a-quarter rent-a-cart, made from a mish-mash of things you know as food, things you know as additives, and things you can't even begin to identify.

The volume of ingredients on the back of the box would be enough to put avid readers to sleep, if it wasn't for trying to determine why so many ingredients are necessary for a packaged pastry. There are recognizable low-quality items like corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and palm oil. There are also some unfamiliar and unpleasant-sounding pieces to the puzzle, things like pre-gelatinized yellow corn meal, whey permeate, and enzyme modified soy protein. Isn't a tart in its most simplified form supposed to be crust and jam? That feels miles away from this concoction, and it doesn't take a nutrition expert to recognize food that is this processed is an unfavorable choice.

High Quality: Elevation Pure & Simple Peanut Butter Cookie Fruit & Nut Bars

High-quality sweet snacks can be hard to find, thanks to brands that maximize enjoyment over thoughtfulness. Sometimes, the search for something tasty can lead shoppers beyond the cookie aisle and into the fruit and nut bar aisle. Such is the case with Elevation Pure & Simple Peanut Butter Cookie Fruit & Nut Bars, Aldi's tricky twist on a tempting nom that turns out to be a premium replacement for a more decadent treat, thanks to a simple recipe that keeps the ingredients to a minimum and the flavor to a maximum.

Does the top of the box call out that these cookies are dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO? It certainly does, a green flag for snackers with a limited list of fun nibbles thanks to the inclusion of one or all of those confounding qualities. The reason for such a pure personality in these cookies is the minimalist approach to the ingredients; you'll find nothing but dates, peanuts, peanut meal, and sea salt waiting beneath the wrapper. This may just be an Aldi food you need to try before you die. With a fiber and protein-packed nutritional blend like the one on the label, it might even push back your expiration date to give you more of a chance to get snacking.

How we chose our items

Luckily, Aldi provides an encouraging selection of items that fall into the high quality category, addressing the shopping habits of mindful customers in search of healthful fare at lower prices. Checking labels for a concentration of natural ingredients, healthful profiles, and organic designations made finding high-quality products an easy endeavor, especially with mixed nuts and sea salt popcorn as part of Aldi's stock. The chain offers a hearty supply of items that adhere to high standards of quality.

Unfortunately, Aldi also caters to a clientele that favors convenience over nutrition, which means there are plenty of low-quality items on the shelves that are better passed over than picked up. By examining labels for sugar, fat, and sodium along with strange additive content that signal excessive processing, it was just as simple to find low-quality items as it was to find the high-quality ones. All of which is to say that shoppers should have no trouble picking out other high and low quality foods that didn't make the list.