Canned goods can be an excellent way to meet the recommended 5 cups of fruits/vegetables per day! They are tasty, convenient, and affordable. A common trap you might fall in when trying to eat more fruits and vegetables is overbuying from the produce section. By day 6, that bag of spinach is looking less than stellar. This can be extremely frustrating. You spent good money on those veggies/fruits, and now you have to say “sayonara” and dump them in the garbage. Sure, you bought that bag of dried beans, but you keep forgetting to soak them. A lot of this heartbreak can be minimized by swapping out some of your fresh produce for some canned goods.
The Journey of Your Canned Foods
Where do canned goods come from? No, not the grocery store – the field! That’s right, first they are grown by farmers. Then, they are picked, washed, and cut/pitted/peeled to get ready for canning. The cans are filled with some liquid such as water, juice, syrup, and then sealed and heated at high temperatures to eliminate bacteria and give the product a long shelf life.
5 Benefits of Canned Foods
For one, canned foods are accessible. In areas that don’t have access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, canned foods can come in handy and help people reach their recommended intake for things like protein, fruits, and vegetables.
Especially for foods out of season, canned goods can be far more budget friendly. Fresh fruit for instance, is typically far more per ounce compared to canned fruit.
Canned foods are extremely convenient. You just open it, may heat in a pot, and bam! It’s ready to go as a side dish on its own or be mixed into a dish to add some extra nutrition. Although beans, for instance, are cheaper if bought dried, canned beans are a huge time saver – no soaking required!
For some people, prepping fresh fruits and vegetables may not be feasible, or they just don’t have the energy for it (hello treatment fatigue). In these scenarios, canned foods are your best friends.
Since canned foods are typically picked at peak ripeness and then quickly prepared for canning, their nutrients and flavor are preserved. Although some nutrients like vitamin C and B vitamins are lost from the high cooking temperatures, some nutrients actually become more bioavailable after cooking, like lycopene in tomatoes. Additionally, canned fruits and vegetables are a great source of fiber, which can help to reduce the risk for colon cancer. Adding canned beans, specifically, can help you meet the daily recommendation of pulses (dried beans, peas, and lentils). Consuming one cup of pulses daily has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol sometimes in as little as two weeks.
Some canned goods can last for several years, unlike that fresh broccoli you bought that will be good for a week if you’re lucky. Since they last for such a long time, that means you will have fruits and veggies on hand for a while. They also do not require refrigeration, meaning they can be taken on the go and used if you don’t have access to a fridge- just make sure you bring a can-opener! They are also recyclable! Just make sure you rinse the can before tossing in your bin.
Considerations When Buying Canned Goods
When buying or using canned goods, there are a few things to look out for.
- Can Condition- Don’t buy or use any cans with dents, bulges, or leaks. Damaged cans can be exposed to airflow, making them susceptible for a bacteria called clostridium botulinum.
- Sodium- Some canned goods can easily contain over 30% of the daily value for sodium. That is considered to be HIGH. Unfortunately, excess sodium is linked with an increased risk of stomach cancer. If sodium is something you are trying to limit, avoid canned entrees like ravioli, chili, and spam, and look for the phrases “no added salt” or “low sodium” on the can. Your store doesn’t carry lower sodium options? Simply draining and thoroughly rinsing canned beans and vegetables under running water can remove almost half of the sodium!
- Added sugar- This is something that you can commonly find in fruits that are canned in heavy syrup. Only one serving will deliver over 20% of the daily value for added sugar. That is also HIGH. To avoid this, look for fruit canned in light syrup, or ideally canned in 100% juice.
Ways to Enjoy Canned Goods
- Throw canned peaches into your oatmeal or yogurt
- Use canned fruit in baking, for example upside down pineapple cakes
- Use tomato paste to make your own pizza sauce
- Throw canned tomatoes, beans, corn, or other veggies into soups and stews
- Make bean burritos
- Add canned beans to salads for protein and fiber
- Add canned spinach to your morning omelet
- Make nachos with refried canned beans
- Used canned beans to make bean burgers
Smart Shopping Tips
Canned foods are the perfect item to stock up on for those go-tos when groceries are running low and you want to put something together FAST. Check out my rules when grocery shopping to reduce waste.
- Go with a plan – plan to use fresh items shortly after buying – only stick to 1-3 fresh veggies (include one for snacking on). If you notice you consume more during the week, increase the amount you buy gradually.
- Make sure you get some frozen and canned foods to use later in the week when the fresh stuff runs out.
- When cooking, try to use the fresh stuff FIRST and then move on to meals with frozen and canned foods. This will help to minimize waste!
A big take-away here is that canned foods absolutely have a place in a healthy diet, and they can save time, energy, and money. You can enjoy them on their own or add to a dish to get some of those wonderful nutrients that fruits and vegetables have to offer. Try adding some canned goods to your list for your upcoming grocery trip!
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- Facts about Canned Foods. Have A Plant. https://fruitsandveggies.org/stories/5-facts-about-canned-foods/. Accessed April 14, 2023.
- Are canned foods nutritious for my family? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.eatright.org/food/planning/smart-shopping/are-canned-foods-nutritious-for-my-family. Published October 3, 2022. Accessed April 14, 2023.
- Advantages of Canned Foods. Cheerful Choices. https://cheerfulchoices.com/advantages-of-canned-foods/. Published November 28, 2022. Accessed April 14, 2023.
- Wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and cancer risk. WCRF International. (2022, April 28). Retrieved August 4, 2022, from https://www.wcrf.org/diet-activity-and-cancer/risk-factors/wholegrains-vegetables-fruit-and-cancer-risk/
- Andrews N. Sugar Does Not Feed Cancer: The Complete Guide to Cancer Prevention Nutrition & Lifestyle. The Oncology Dietitian; 2022.
- Collins, K. (n.d.). Dietary fiber: Fiber – increase amount and variety – today’s Dietitian Magazine. Today’s Dietitian. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0718p11.shtml. Published July, 2018. Accessed April 14, 2023.
This blog is not intended as medical nutrition therapy, medical advice, or diagnosis and should in no way replace consultation or recommendations from your medical professional.