The key to unlocking quick (yet healthy) dinners may be as simple as opening your cupboard. Research shows that a well-stocked pantry—or cantry®—can help busy families prepare healthy meals more often while meeting their fruit and vegetable needs. Canned fruits and vegetables typically have a bad reputation…so how can you make the healthiest choices possible? It turns out, the information you’re looking for may be right on the front of the package.
When choosing canned vegetables and beans, aim for the lowest sodium option. Americans generally eat 2 to 3 times the recommended amount of sodium, most of which comes from processed foods. Did you know sodium is added for flavor, not safety? The canning process is enough to keep the food inside the can safe. Your taste buds should adjust to less salty flavors in 2 to 3 weeks, so stick with it! Below are some nutrient claims you may find on your favorite canned vegetables and beans; however, when in doubt, always read the nutrition facts panel.
- Low sodium: less than 140 milligrams (mg) per serving
- Reduced sodium: at least 25% less sodium than the standard version
- No salt added: no sodium (salt) added in procession, but the product may still contain natural sodium
- Sodium free: less than 5mg sodium per serving
Canned fruit requires a packing liquid, which traditionally meant adding sugar, too. To limit added sugar, canned fruit is now packed in a variety of liquids, which is usually noted on the front of the package.
- Fruits packed in heavy syrup contain water, corn syrup and water
- Light syrup contains water and sugar
- Those packed in fruit juice contain water and fruit juice concentrate
That added sugar provides little to no nutritional value (unless you’re looking for extra calories), so look for fruit packed in 100% fruit juice. Keep in mind fruit contains natural sugar, so you will still see sugar on the nutrition facts panel.
The final verdict? A variety of produce – fresh, frozen, and canned – can help you meet your daily fruit, vegetable, and nutrient needs. When it comes to putting healthy meals on the table quickly, canned foods can help you cut down on prep time while sticking to your budget. They’re also picked and packed at peak freshness, so you can feel confident that canned fruits and vegetables are nutritious, safe, and full of flavor.