Making Canned Food Part of Your Nutrition Plan

Melissa Joy DobbinsBy Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDE
The Guilt Free RD – Because Food Shouldn’t Make you Feel Bad™

I often hear people say if you’re interested in good health you should stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. Nonsense! There are plenty of healthy, nutrient-rich options to be found in the middle of your local supermarket. And I will let you in on a secret…many of them also offer cost and time-savings, making it that much easier to eat healthy every day.

Man in Canned Food Aisle Supermarket

A great example of nutritious center-aisle options is canned foods, including fruits, vegetables, beans and seafood/meats. As we celebrate National Nutrition Month, I’d like to provide some “food for thought” that I hope will have you taking a fresh look at canned food.

  • Canned foods are a convenient, affordable source of nutrition. A quick scan of ingredient and nutrition labels will reveal that canned foods offer important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. Plus, canned foods do not require preservatives and many contain only a handful of simple ingredients. Example: Canned kidney beans = kidney beans, water, salt.
  • Many people incorrectly believe that canned foods are heavily processed and are surprised to learn that commercial canning follows the same basic steps as home canning, including cleaning, chopping/seeding, and cooking the food before it is packed in tamper-resistant steel cans until ready to eat. Fact: Most canned fruits, vegetables and beans are minimally processed. Most canned fruits and vegetables are packed within hours of harvest.
  • There are many options available in the canned food aisle these days for folks looking to reduce their intake of sodium and added sugar. Simply choose lower sodium vegetables, beans and meats/seafood, and fruit packed in 100% juice. Tip: Drain and rinse canned beans and vegetables to reduce sodium even further.

Sound nutrition advice can be so easily drowned out by the latest hype or misinformation, but the “headlines” are not always the “bottom line.” Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy is essential for good health. And I say you should feel good about choosing and cooking with convenient canned foods, and can rest assured you are getting nutrients your body needs this National Nutrition Month and all year long. After all, who says we can’t enjoy delicious peaches and tomatoes in March?