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How to choose the healthiest canned fruits and vegetables, according to a dietitian

Jessica Ball, M.S., RD, EatingWell.com on

Published in Health & Fitness

Canned foods may get a bad rap, but they are a super-nutritious and cost-effective way to up your produce intake. Plus, they are easy to stock your pantry with, so you can always have fruits and vegetables ready to add to your meals. That said, there can be a lot of different products and options on the shelves at the grocery store. Here are some of my favorite tips on how to choose the healthiest ones.

1. Check the ingredients.

When choosing canned vegetables, I look for a product that is just the vegetable with maybe some water and a little bit of salt added. But personally, I prefer unseasoned canned vegetables so I can customize the flavors myself and keep the sodium content in check. When choosing canned fruits, I pick products that only contain the fruit packed in 100% fruit juice, rather than syrups, which can be high in added sugar.

2. Watch the added sugar and sodium.

Ideally, canned fruits packed in 100% fruit juice should have little to no added sugar. Similarly, many grocers carry “no-salt-added” versions of canned vegetables, aligning their nutrition with their fresh counterparts. According to the FDA, products labeled “low-sodium” need to have at least 25% less sodium than the original product, so they can sometimes still be high in sodium. We recommend keeping side dishes like vegetables to 360 milligrams of sodium or less per serving as a general guide.

3. Don’t forget about fruits.

Sure, canned beans and canned tomatoes are staples for many. But don’t forget about canned peaches, pears, pineapples and more! You may not know that many canned fruits like peaches are picked at peak ripeness and go from field to can in a matter of hours. This means they ripen to their full nutrition and flavor on the plant before making it to your grocery store. Aside from a quick and simple snack, add canned fruits to smoothies or over yogurt for breakfast. They can also be used in place of fresh for sweet or savory cooked dishes. Just aim to look for products that are canned with 100% fruit juice to keep your added sugar intake in check.

 

4. Try store brands.

If you’re looking to save some money without sacrificing quality, store brands are the way to go. Companies that make store-brand products, like Pacific Coast Producers and General Produce, focus on producing high-quality foods that are distributed across the country for a more accessible option to help people stay nourished. They have comparable nutrition to other brands and usually cost a fraction of the price.

5. Choose foods you’ll actually eat.

While canned foods can last in your pantry for a long time (think two to five years in most cases, per the USDA), they don’t last forever. And you won’t benefit from their nutrition if you don’t actually eat the canned fruits and vegetables you buy. There are numerous options at the grocery store, so choose the ones that you and your household will actually enjoy and look forward to eating. Healthy eating should be an enjoyable endeavor.

(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)

©2024 Dotdash Meredith. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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