Today, supermarket shelves carry over 1500 different and healthy canned food convenience products – make good use of them!

Today, supermarket shelves carry over 1,500 different canned food products. That’s more variety, convenience and flavor – plus more nutrition – than you may realize. This is especially great news for busy families and singles alike, which can now turn to canned foods for ease of preparation and more importantly, nutritious, flavor-filled meals.

Fresh: Almost Always Best

We all know that fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the healthiest foods we can eat, but in some cases fresh may not always be best! Tomatoes, for example, have a nutrient called lycopene that is absorbed better when the tomatoes are canned. Canned peaches and apricots have more accessible beta carotene, and the water-soluble nutrients in canned spinach are more stable. Frozen peas have more B vitamins than canned or fresh. However, it is recommended that you avoid canned fruits that are packed in heavy syrup. In addition, you’ll want to watch the sodium content on canned vegetables.

Canned foods just keep getting healthier!

For instance:

  • More varieties of canned fruits and vegetables on supermarket shelves mean more ways you can get the recommended five servings a day.
  • Canned fish – tuna, salmon, mackerel, crab, shrimp – offers a convenient way to reach the heat healthy goal of eating fish twice a week.
  • Fish has less fat, especially saturated fat, than meat and poultry. Several varieties (salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies) are also high in beneficial fatty acids.
  • Heat will not diminish food’s protein content. Canned poultry, meat and fish deliver as much protein as comparable amounts of these same foods you cook yourself.
  • Besides protein, canned beans, even soybeans, deliver plenty of dietary fiber.
  • Look for no-sodium or low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties of canned vegetables, soups and legumes. Many canned fruits are now available with no added sugars, or packed in natural juices.
  • Canned products are preservative-free because the canning process denatures enzymes that deteriorate food.
  • If you prefer organic ingredients, the canned food aisle has a growing variety from which to choose.
  • You can find canned ingredients with less fat, such as tuna in spring water (not oil), fat free refried beans or fat free broth.
  • Best of all, canned foods need only heating, not cooking. Less time over heat helps them retain heat-unstable B vitamins and vitamin C.
  • Canned ingredients can be kept up to two years. After that, they are still safe if the seal is intact and the can is not bulging.

Cooking with Canned Tuna

Choosing a tuna for one of the many canned tuna recipes is not an easy task. There is chunk light, chunk white, solid white albacore or premium albacore. Confusing matters more, there are now cans of select-prime light fillets and “gourmet’s choice” light fillets.

Chunk white or light tuna is now available reduced in sodium and lower in fat. These variations are all packed in spring water. If you do not want a fishy tasting tuna, get solid white or premium albacore.

If you want a minced texture, choose chunk light. Select prime light fillets is on the mushy side while the “gourmet choice” fillets are quite firm. Low sodium chunk white tuna is popular because it has a light taste and saves 215 milligrams of salt. Many say they do not miss the salt at all.

Add a little lemon and lime to tuna to add zest and flavor to tuna sandwiches. Use mustard instead of mayo to cut the fat and add a tang.

A spokesman for Starkist says the difference in tuna taste and texture are dictated by the type of tuna in the can and what the fish is mixed with when it is cooked. Gourmet tunas tend to be yellowfin, all white tunas are albacore and the least expensive are usually skipjack.

Also now available are a type of tuna that sells in pouches and do not require draining. The tuna cooks in half the time of the canned variety and has a fresher taste and firmer texture.

Spaghetti with Tuna and Spinach — A Penny-Pincher!

Cook 12-ounces spaghetti according to package directions, but omit salt and oil; drain. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1-tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Cook 2-cups sliced onion, four minced garlic cloves and 1/2-teaspoon red pepper flakes for five mniutes or until softened. Add one 14-1/2-ounce can chopped tomatoes and cook five more minutes. Gradually add 5-cups chopped fresh spinach.

Cook five minutes or until spinach is tender. Add one 6-ounce can drained and flaked albacore tuna. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Toss mixture with spaghetti and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serving Suggestions: Serve with a green salad and garlic bread. Serve pineapple sherbet for dessert.

Tasty Tuna Salad and Cucumber Chips.

Mix one-half can (6-1/2 ounce) white tuna in water; drained, flaked with 1-tablespoon Miracle Whip Light Dressing and 1/8 teaspoon each dried oregano leaves and salt. Serve with six thin slices cucumber for dipping. Makes one serving.

Italian Tuna.

Blend 3 ounces canned chunk light tuna, drained, with 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 2 tablespoons capers, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve with four Rye Krisp crackers. Total calories are 413.

Mediterranean Tuna Cold Plate

Cold plate: An easy-to-assemble array of fresh fruits, vegetables and meats, along with delicious dips. Satisfy hearty appetites while beating the summer heat!
Arrange 1/4 cup drained canned tuna, 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, six slices cucumber, six slices red pepper, 1/4 of a cantaloupe, seeded, sliced and six Triscuit crackers as desired on a plate. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons Greek Vinaigrette dressing or use dressing as a dipping sauce. Makes one serving.

Cooking with Canned Crabmeat

Calorie content: 3/4 cup canned or cooked crab meat equals 100 calories.

The bad: Crab meat can be very high in cholesterol and sodium.

The ingredients, not their form, are what really determine a recipe’s nutrient content.

With limited growing seasons in most parts of the country, canned food provides an ideal way to add nutrition, flavor and variety to any recipe, anywhere and at any time of the year.

Quick idea for twice baked potatoes: Twice baked potatoes become more festive when crab meat is added along with the cheese. Add about 6-ounces of flaked crab meat for every four potatoes you are stuffing.

You can also make delightful seafood lasagna by just substituting the meat with crab meat.

Nutrition nibbles for crab meat:

Crab meat is a VERY good source of:

Last but not least – National Crabmeat Day is March 9th.

Cooking With Canned Salmon

Sardine Pasta: Toss 1/2 pound cooked whole wheat spaghetti with 1 cup warmed marinara and 1 can sardines, chopped. Top with toasted bread crumbs and torn basil.

Sardine Salad: Top 2 cups arugula with 1 can sardines, 1/2 cup each chopped cherry tomatoes and cucumber, and 1/4 cup each sliced red onion and canned chickpeas. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon each balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Sardine Tartine: Spread 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard on a piece of sourdough toast and top with a butter lettuce leaf, 2 or 3 canned sardines and 1 tablespoon chopped toasted almonds.

You may also like: Food Canning Facts.

Picking the Best Canned Soup

Keep your eye on the total fat — it should be no more than 3 grams. Some canned cream soups pack a whopping 25 grams. Others pour almost an entire day’s worth of sodium in one can; if a can has more than 500mg of sodium, put it back. Try to choose soups that don’t skimp on vitamin A (with its cancer-fighting phytochemicals); look for at least 30 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin A. Also try to find at least 3g of fiber. Broth and vegetable-based choices are generally best bets.

Canned Broth Tip

A squeeze of fresh lemon or orange juice gives canned chicken broth a fresh flavor.

Safety Tip

Once opened, cans should not be used to store food. Lead may leach from the cans into the contents, especially if the food contains acid.