In the spirit of giving love this month, we want to take a minute to give some love to canned food. February is National Canned Food Month and, as it is so often treated as the inferior to its fresh or frozen counterparts, we think it is worth highlighting the many benefits of canned foods. Does it come with pitfalls? Of course (hello sugar and salt!), but what doesn’t? There are easy ways to navigate these issues and still get a lot of benefits from the goods themselves. Let’s dive in, shall we
- Canned goods are nutritious. Did you know that fruits and vegetables are often canned just hours from being picked? This means that they are picked at the peak of freshness, and the nutrients (especially carbohydrates, protein, fat and fat-soluble vitamins) remain stable, preserved by canning. Water soluble vitamins (like B-vitamins and vitamin C), can be damaged by the high heat involved in the process, but some antioxidants can actually become more potent with canning, such as the lycopene and carotenoids in tomatoes. Another bonus? Studies have shown that people who include canned fruits and vegetables in their diets get more servings of fruits and vegetables than those who do not.
Nosh Tip: Look for canned vegetables or beans with no added salt or reduced sodium. Rinsing them before use will also help to decrease the sodium content. When buying canned fruit, look for those canned in “100% Juice”, water or light syrup instead of those canned in heavy syrup to reduce added sugars.
- Canned goods are convenient. One of the best things about canned foods is that they are easy. Open the can and toss it in a salad, soup, stew or just heat and eat! Canned foods were one of my favorite go-to’s when my kids were learning to eat solids as well. It provided me an easy and quick option to introduce them to more kinds of fruits and vegetables, and they were soft enough for the kids to gum.
- Canned goods are affordable. Typically, canned foods are cheaper than fresh, frozen or dried. You can also store them for much longer periods of time than fresh or frozen without deterioration, leading to less food and less money wasted.
- Canned goods provide a safe and reliable food source. As an emergency food source, you can’t get much better than canned foods. Keeping a stock of these in your storm shelter, safe room, etc. ensures that if you are ever in a pickle, you have safe food to eat. Canned foods are also great for food drives, food banks, and other helping hands since they are shelf stable and can be stored for lengthy periods of time without fear of deterioration.
Nosh Tip: Keep an eye on your expiration dates that are printed on your canned foods; rotate first in, first out through your pantry to reduce waste. Also, ensure any canned goods you buy or store are free of dents – this is one way to ensure your canned food stays safe to eat.
If you store canned foods for emergencies or if you take canned foods camping, make sure you store a can opener as well – the last thing you want is to get stuck with all your canned goods and no way to open them! My favorite manual can opener is the Kuhn Rikon Auto Safety Lid Lifter – it cuts the outside edge of the can, not the lid, providing a duller edge and has mini-pliers attached to easily lift the lid off with the push of a button, instead of your hand, which reduces the likelihood of cuts.
- Canned goods have sustainable packaging. You can recycle your cans once you are done with them!
As you can see, canned foods have many benefits. Variety is the spice of life, and this is no different when comparing fresh, frozen and canned foods – they all have unique benefits to offer!
Canned Staples in My Pantry:
- Beans – all varieties! Beans are a must in my household; they are packed with nutrients and are so versatile. From roasting garbanzo beans for snacking to throwing several kinds into a chili, canned beans are never NOT in my pantry!
- I put tomatoes in everything. Literally, everything. Sometimes I even like to open a can and eat them just like that. The fire-roasted are my favorite!
- Salmon and Tuna. These are by far the two canned meats I use the most (sometimes I will use canned chicken if I am short on time). Canned salmon is one of the food sources higher in vitamin D, and I love to use it for salmon patties. Tuna is an excellent omega-3 source, and I use it for anything from casseroles to tuna salad to just plain tuna on crackers!
- Mandarin Oranges. My. Kids. Love. These. Canned in 100% juice, they are tasty and easy. I also love to throw these in salads or cottage cheese!
- Green Beans and Carrots. Let’s face it, we all have busy nights where we just don’t get to washing and chopping our fresh vegetables, or we don’t have any in the freezer. I keep a couple of cans in the pantry at all times because I know in a pinch my kiddos will eat them, and I like them too!
Look for more recipes on our blog, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest using various canned foods. You can also visit the Canned Food Alliance at www.mealtime.org for a plethora of facts, ideas and recipes using canned foods!