Did you know February is National Canned Food Month? I used to steer away from canned food because I thought it was inferior in its nutrition, and that's not necessarily true! Canned food absolutely can be a part of a balanced diet and healthy kitchen! Especially now that I'm a mom, I have an even bigger appreciation for many of the benefits of canned food. Check out my top 6 reasons moms should buy canned food:
The convenience of canned foods cannot be topped. Half the time you don't even need a can opener when the cans have the pull tabs! This ready-to-go luxury makes it perfect when you need a meal in a pinch - just grab a can or two from your pantry and with a quick reheat (if needed) on the stove top or in the microwave, you can have a balanced meal in a jiffy.
Meal Idea: Three Bean Salad + Canned Fruit
There's a big misperception that canned food isn't healthy, but this isn't entirely true. Protein, fat, carbohydrates, and most minerals and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) are entirely maintained in the canning process. Water-soluble vitamins (like vitamin C and B vitamins like folate) are heat sensitive, and thus are lost slightly during the canning process, which has a heating step. However, with certain foods, this heating step actually brings out more antioxidants, like in corn and tomatoes.
Additionally, canned food can sometimes be nutritionally superior because it's typically harvested and canned at peak freshness, which means more nutrients are maintained compared to "fresh" produce that's been sitting on a shelf for who knows how long. Just be sure to buy canned food that is low sodium or no salt added or fruit that is packed in 100% fruit juice, no syrups.
The other thing to be aware of with canned food and health benefits is Bisphenol A (BPA), a compound in cans that is a known endocrine disruptor. This is definitely something to be avoided, but it's pretty easy to do that now. Just look for cans that say BPA-free on the package (many do) or buy canned goods in glass containers.
Meal Idea: Mexican Chicken Chili
Affordable + Accessible
Canned goods are typically more readily available, as I've even seen some basic canned goods (like canned tuna and fruit) at gas stations. Additionally, canned food is typically more affordable per serving, even if you're buying organic canned food. Bonus: grocery stores often have buy one, get one free sales on various canned goods, which is a great time to stock up and replenish your pantry!
Meal Idea: Tuna Salad Sandwiches + Canned Fruit
Easy First Foods for Baby
A lot of my clients are surprised when I mention this, but canned foods can actually translate to easy baby food! You can easily buy fruits and vegetables (no salt added and in 100% juice!) in BPA-free containers, and even organic canned food, for an affordable price. These can be easily pureed (and sometimes pureed easier than their fresh counterparts, like with green beans). Once your baby starts doing more finger foods and self-feeding, you can offer small pieces of things like green beans, black beans, peaches, pears, etc. They're already really soft and great for working on that finger dexterity! (Fun fact: my mom tells me I double-fisted canned green beans as a baby, and funny enough I craved them during my pregnancy, too!)
Meal Idea: Smashed Black Beans + Chopped Green Beans + Chopped Pears
Decreased Food Waste
The vast majority of Americans struggle with food waste. We've all done it - you're rummaging around in the fridge and all of a sudden you find that tomato that got shoved back in the corner, bottom shelf and is now way paste its prime. Canned foods last for years, which is much better for food waste and the environment (and your wallet!).
On the food production side of things, canned food actually helps decrease food waste as well. We have a problem with rejection of "ugly produce" in our country - think misshapen carrots, tomatoes, etc. These "ugly" foods that wouldn't look so pretty on store shelves are perfect for already washed, chopped or diced, and canned food!
Meal Idea: Canned Veggie Soup
Long Shelf-Life (Think: Emergency Stores!)
We've touched on this in some of the other points, but canned food lasts forever! Well, the jury is out (some scientists say canned food truly lasts infinitely), but generally speaking canned food lasts 1-5 years. This is perfect for stocking that pantry! You know when you come home from vacation and there's nothing in the fridge? Pantry to the rescue!
Meal Idea: Sweet Veggie Smoothie with Canned Carrots + Canned Pears + Evaporated Milk + Ice
This is also important if you live in an area prone to natural disasters. Here in Florida we have a yearly hurricane season. I like to make sure I have some essentials on hand to get as many food groups as possible in case a storm hits and power is lost for days. My favorites: a variety of vegetables, fruit, beans, canned fish or chicken white meat, evaporated nonfat milk.
Meal Idea: Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches with Canned Shredded Chicken Breast and BBQ Sauce + Canned Fruit
I hope you guys are just as inspired as I am to get cooking with more canned goods in the kitchen!