Whether you’re trying to eat healthy on a budget or consolidate trips to the grocery store, canned foods are pantry essentials. If you know what to look for, canned foods can make for nutritious additions to meals and snacks. As a bonus, canned foods are typically much cheaper and last longer than their fresh or frozen counterparts. Here are a few of the best healthy canned foods to keep on hand.
Fish is one of the healthiest foods around, but can also be one of the priciest. Canned fish is an easy way to get all of the nutrition at a fraction of the price. Whether you fancy sardines, tuna, salmon or mackerel, canned fish is super affordable and healthy. Try tuna salad loaded with fresh dill for a quick and tasty lunch, or make salmon cakes for dinner in a pinch.
Beans are versatile, packed with protein, fiber and nutrients. For the price, they are one of the best-value foods in the grocery store. Whip canned chickpeas into hummus or tuck black beans into vegetarian tacos. White beans make a great addition to veggie soup. When buying beans, be sure to keep an eye on the sodium content and choose “no salt added” versions when you can.
Canned diced tomatoes
While fresh tomatoes can be delicious, they have a limited growing season in most areas. For the rest of the year when “fresh” tomatoes are out of season, try canned diced tomatoes. They are useful for a variety of dishes beyond pasta sauce, from curries to soup. Similar to beans, try to choose “no salt added” or low-sodium versions when you can.
Canned coconut milk
If you are looking for a super-affordable, creamy flavor additive that is vegan- and vegetarian-friendly, coconut milk is for you. Try adding it to smoothies, curries and fish stews to feel like you’re transported to the tropics. As a bonus, it’s dairy-free, and it lasts much longer than refrigerated coconut milk.
If you think canned pumpkin is just for the fall, think again. It’s packed with vitamin A and fiber and can add a great earthy flavor to many dishes. And canned pumpkin works for so much more than pie. You can turn it into soup or use it to make a pasta sauce. Left with half a can after you make a recipe? There are several delicious and creative ways to use up canned pumpkin, like adding it to oatmeal or even hummus.
Though it has taken some heat in the anti-carb era, corn has a lot going for it. Canned corn has only 60 calories per half-cup and 2 grams of fiber. It is also loaded with B vitamins, iron and potassium that can help with vision and heart health. As with many other canned veggies, watch the added sodium. Canned corn is versatile and can help you add veggies to everything from salads to stews.
Beets may help lower blood pressure, boost athletic performance and fight inflammation, but they aren’t always the easiest to prepare. Buying canned beets allows you to enjoy their flavor and nutrition in a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the price. Try tossing them in a salad for a colorful addition.
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)
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