Image by Angela MN via Pixabay
Before college, canned foods were something I never gravitated towards. I had this perception that to be canned, meant unhealthy and low quality. Along with this perception, canned foods instantly reminded me of spending summers with my grandparents. You see, my grandfather used to eat canned sardines alongside his bowl of grits every morning. Smelling canned sardines every morning, for every summer, started my food aversion towards any type of canned foods. However, working as food pantry outreach intern, I learned eating fresh foods is not always ideal for someone who is trying to budget. I was able to work with different participants and found some cheats on how to make canned foods healthy and appealing!
Cheats for Reading the Labels of Canned Foods
- Sodium: Canned foods need preservatives to help with shelf life. Salt is often the main preservative added to canned foods, which can make the sodium content per serving high. Consuming a diet high in sodium can lead to hypertension and other heart problems. When buying canned food, try reaching for cans with the label “low sodium.” If you are not sure if it is a low sodium option, look at the milligrams per serving. Americans are recommended to consume about 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.1 If your can contains more than one-fourth of the recommended option it is most likely not a low-sodium option!
- Added Liquids: Canned fruits and vegetables usually have a water, juice, or syrup added to the can to help keep the product moist. Some canned meats, such as tuna and salmon, also have added liquids, like oil, to help prevent dryness. When looking at the cans of these products, you may see these options on the side of the can: “Canned in Water”, “Canned in Fruit Juice”, “Canned in Oil” or “Canned in Syrup”. Of the four options, canned in syrup and oil are the worst options to buy; due to added sugar and added fats. Americans consume on average sixty pounds of added sugar per year. 2 While fishes canned in oil make the fat content of regularly healthy-fat fishes high. To avoid the add fats and sugars, choose the cans with the label “Canned in Water.”
- BPA Free: BPA is a chemical used to line cans and plastic bottles. According to the Journal of Environmental Research, eating foods that encounter BPA can have potential health effects, such as brain damage, if consumed in high amounts.3 Due to this risk, look for cans labeled as “BPA Free” or “Non- BPA Lining”
My Top Two Canned Picks
Image 1: by Sean Chambers via On Fire to Change
Image 2: by Warren Pirce via Shutterstock
While working as food pantry intern, I spent a lot of time trying to create healthy recipes for the clients. Most of the ingredients for the recipes came from the canned foods distributed by the pantry. After creating numerous recipes, I found these two canned foods are top two picks. The picks are not only good for you but also can be used to create tasty recipes!
- Beans: Whether it’s black, cannellini, garbanzo, or kidney beans, if you’re looking for plant-based protein this is the choice for you! One can of beans contains approximately twenty-four grams of protein. Along with protein, beans are a great source of fiber; which helps keep you full and regular. The great thing about canned beans is they can be added to soups, salads, or even brownies. When buying beans look for brands such as Goya and Bushes, which always offers low sodium choices. Cans of beans typically cost about $0.50-0.99 per can.
- Tuna: Many consumers stay away from consuming fish, because of either taste or cost. Luckily both of these problems can be solved. Canned tuna usually costs $0.99 at the grocery store and can be incorporated into various recipes. Tuna is a lean-fat fish that contains some omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are heart healthy fats that can help reduce your modifiable risk of heart disease. Although tuna is a healthy fish, one should use caution of consuming tuna due to mercury content. One benefit of canned tuna is it has a lower mercury content than tuna steaks. Doctor David Katz recommends limiting tuna consumption to 2-3 times per week should prevent over consumption of mercury.4
Now that you have unlocked this cheat code, you can shop with confidence on your next grocery trip. If you are interested in some recipes with the items mentioned in this post, check out my “Dorm-Friendly Recipe” board on my Pinterest (profile link available in the menu bar).
- National American Heart Association. “Processed Foods: Where is All That Salt Coming From.” National American Heart Association. http://bit.ly/2lVlX2a. April 1, 2014. Accessed March 7, 2017
- Welsh JA, Sharma AJ, Grellinger L, et al. “Consumption of Added Sugars is Decreasing in the United States.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011;94(3):726-734.
- Hartle JC, Navas-Acien A, Lawrence RS. “The Consumption of Canned Food and Beverage and Urinary Bisphenol A. Concentrations in NHANES 2003-2008.” Journal of Environmental Research. 2016;150: 375-382
- Oaklander, Mary. “Should I Eat Canned Tuna?” TIME HEALTH. http://time.com/3735402/canned-tuna-mercury/ .March 26, 2015. Accessed March 7, 2017.