The Dish On Canned Foods

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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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!

Butternut Squash Soup-Er Bowl

Butternut squash soup

Did you know that January is National Soup Month? It’s cold, it’s dreary, and everyone is sick. Fitting, as soup can be the perfect antidote to the wintertime blues. This is one of my favorite recipes. It’s full of hearty vegetables and a little fruit, combined with the other ingredients it provides a savory flavor with just a tinge of sweet. And, it is easy and fast with minimal clean up. You can’t beat that!

My Vitamix helps make much of that easy clean up possible. I know, I know. Those suckers are expensive. BUT. You get so much more than just a regular blender. For this recipe (and any other soup you would use a blender for), it not only blends up the goodies, but also heats it at the same time. Leaving you extra time and less dishes. However, if you do not have a Vitamix or do not want to spend the money, an immersion blender or regular blender will work just fine (you may have to divide it though into two different blending batches, as not all ingredients will fit in a regular blender at once). 

Check out the recipe below and enjoy this soup-er bowl, then visit us next week as we share some of our favorite SUPER Bowl recipes in preparation for the big game!

Ingredients:

  • 1 3-4 lb butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 peeled honey crisp apple
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 1 small onion
  • 1-2 T. olive oil (enough to drizzle produce)
  • 2-3 c. vegetable broth (this will depend on how thick you want your soup)
  • 1/8 t. coriander
  • 1/8 t. cinnamon
  • 1/8 t. nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • Chopped cashews, toasted, to garnish
  • Toasted coconut to garnish
  • Creme fraiche or sour cream to garnish
Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 

2. Drizzle butternut squash, apple, carrots, and onion with olive oil and toss. Roast at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned.

3. Add roasted vegetables/frui, broth, and spices to blender. Blend at medium high speed fo 5 minutes, or until completely pureed. 

4. Add heavy cream and blend for 1 more minute. 

5. Garnish with toasted cashews and coconut flakes, add a dollop of sour cream or cream fraiche (these 3 ingredients look pretty, but they also add texture and impart great flavor when mixed). 

6. Enjoy! Makes 6-8 servings. 

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2019: Simple is HOT, Fad Diets & Gimmicks are NOT!

Fruit and Computer

Oh, the beginning of the year. For many of us, it signifies a renewal of promises we’ve made to ourselves. Maybe you said you would stop spending so much money on “stuff” and more on experiences. Maybe you said you would spend less time on social media and more time in real life. Or maybe you said this is the year you get healthier. Admittedly, this is something I personally focus on every year – improving my health. And why not? Our health is extremely important. Move more, eat better. Simple, right?

But health looks completely different for everyone. What I need may not be what YOU need. What works for you may not work for me at all. And what works today may not work a year from now! Nowhere is this truer than in the world of nutrition and wellness. I’ve spent the better part of 12 years trying to help people stay healthy or get healthy through nutrition education. And the biggest thing I’ve learned? There is no “one size fits all” approach. Sure, there are general guidelines – we all know them: eat your fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, cut back on bad fats, etc., etc. But is there one diet that is the best thing ever for all human kind? Nah. It just doesn’t exist.

As a result of our quest for wellness, we are losing the point. We throw billions (yes, billions!) of dollars into the weight loss industry. Even worse? TRILLIONS are thrown into the wellness industry. It’s great that people want to be healthy. What is not great are the gimmicks and fad diets that have become rampant, increasing those dollars thrown at that quest for a quick fix. And for what? Our waistlines continue to grow, our legs move less, and our bank accounts get smaller.

So, what’s the point? Simplify. Life is complicated. What we eat shouldn’t be. How we eat shouldn’t be. And getting healthier shouldn’t be a drain on our bank account or time. Am I saying that out of all the diets, programs and products out there, there is nothing good to be taken? Not at all. Many of them may have at least one good take away. But here are some things to ask yourself before buying into anything that can cost you not only money, but also time:

1. What is being sold? Do you have to continue to buy in (time or money) in order to be successful?

Note: This does not apply to someone you may be seeing to help you start a plan or program or a nutrition professional you choose to continue seeing. As a dietitian who saw patients regularly for follow-up, I tried to set my clients up for success from the beginning, with or without my future help. And if they chose to come back to see me for accountability, then that ball was in their court!

2. Who is selling it? Do they truly stand behind their service or product? Are they reputable? Do they have an ulterior motive?

3. How was the product or program developed? Is it science-based? Science helps us better understand our environment. It’s the movement forward toward a better understanding based on past and current research and principles. And nutrition is a science. Be sure the programs or products you choose are based on sound science.

4. How much time, effort and money are you willing to spend in order to be successful? Whether you are following a wellness trend or doing your own thing, this is always a great question to ask yourself. You get what you put in. But that doesn’t always mean the same thing for everyone. Baby steps may seem small but yield large results over a greater amount of time and usually cost less money!

Making an effort to eat better and exercise doesn’t have to come with expensive price tags, fancy food, crazy programs, silly supplements, cutting your favorites out, and spending loads of time (that, let’s face it, none of us have!) at the gym or just exercising in general. It can start with the SIMPLEST changes (see our 30 Days of Baby Steps for Your Health calendar). So simple, in fact, that you don’t even feel like you are changing anything. These changes create new habits (or break old ones), and these habits can make or break your goals.

So this month, as we celebrate the beginning of a brand new year, Rid the World of Fad Diets and Gimmicks Day, and Women’s Healthy Weight Day, let’s have a toast to simplifying. Real Food. Real Life. Real Simple.

Lucky Salsa

Black-Eyed-Pea Dip

Happy New Year! The beginning of a new year often signifies a fresh start for most of us. Black-eyed peas have traditionally been a way to ring in the new year, signifying luck for the coming year. We have taken this traditional food and given it a bit of a simple twist, using it as a salsa and mixing it with a colorful combination of peppers, tomatoes, and corn. It is packed not only with luck, but yummy goodness as well!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes (can also use diced, fresh)
  • 1 can sweet yellow corn
  • ½ c. diced purple onion
  • ½ c. diced bell peppers, any color
  • ¼ c. cilantro, diced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2/3 c light Italian dressing
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Toss all ingredients together.
  2. Refrigerate for at least an hour for fullest flavor.                                                                                                                                                                    Note: Can be served immediately, if short on time!
  3. Serve with your favorite chip or vegetables!