While fresh food is delicious – especially those in-season fruits and vegetables – canned goods are tasty options for the diet too. Better yet, they are equally nutritious, super convenient, budget-friendly, and have a longer shelf life.
Benefits of Stocking the Pantry
- Equally nutritious – Items are picked and canned at peak freshness, so the majority of good nutrients actually stick around. Canned foods are always “in-season” and offer a consistent quality no matter the month!
- Convenient & ready-to-eat – Canned food cuts your prep-time immensely. Good alternatives for quick weekday meals and snacks.
- Budget-friendly – Canned items are reasonably priced at all grocery stores! Despite popular belief, you can eat both healthy and affordably.
- Shelf-stable – Great reason to purchase large quantities in bulk, especially if your favorite bean is on sale! If you have the space, canned goods are perfect to have on hand for last minute meal prep or recipes.
Not all canned goods are created equally though. Here are the key things to look for the next time you are shopping those center aisles at the grocery store.
- Clean, non-dented cans – for safety purposes, make sure to avoid any bulging, leaking, and rusting. When you bring the canned food home, store in a cool, dry place, and make sure to clean off all cans before opening them to prevent contamination of the food!
- Reduced-Sodium, Low-Sodium, or No Salt Added cans – this includes your vegetables, beans, soups, and broths. Canned foods do not require preservatives like salt or sodium, and manufacturers are answering the consumer demand for these lower sodium varieties. In addition, always drain vegetables and beans into a colander and rinse well before using. A study in the Journal of Culinary Science and Technology showed a 41% sodium reduction in draining and rinsing canned beans – that’s almost half!
- No Added Sugar or in 100% Juice cans – this includes your fruits and some vegetables and soups. Best to opt for these options over products sold in light or heavy syrups.
What Can I Make with a Can? The options are endless! Canned beans, fruits, veggies, meats, seafood, soup, and broth are all great choices! Canned foods can be incorporated into side dishes, casseroles, slow cooker meals, snacks, and desserts. Need some ideas…
- Add canned veggies to cooked whole grains like brown rice, couscous, quinoa, or barley.
- Incorporate canned fruits and pumpkin puree into baked goods.
- Swap out some ground meat with extra canned beans in chili.
- Add canned beans, fruits, or veggies to salads, pastas, or potatoes.
- Top cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with canned fruit for a snack or dessert.
- Bulk up homemade soups, stews, or casseroles with extra canned beans or veggies.
- Put a scoop of canned pumpkin puree into your morning oatmeal or overnight oats.
- Use canned tuna on top of a salad or whole grain crackers for a good boost of protein.
- Mix canned chicken or tuna with mashed avocado and Greek yogurt and put on top of toast.
As with all food choices, the key is VARIETY. Aim to include fruits, vegetables, beans, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy – whether from fresh, frozen, dried, or canned sources.
Try this simple 4-Bean Chili recipe using canned goods from your pantry this weekend!
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 (8 ounce) cans mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, fire-roasted
- 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained
- 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
- 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
- 1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1-3 cups vegetable broth (*depending on desired thickness)
- Sauté garlic, onion, and mushrooms in the olive oil in a medium to large pot until browned.
- Add all other ingredients and stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until heated to preferred temperature.
- Serve with fresh, chopped herbs of choice, a scoop of plain Greek yogurt, and/or a pinch of shredded cheese.
Let me know if you tried & enjoyed the recipe by commenting below! Email info@NicoleOlenRDN.com with any questions.