Benefits of Cooking with Canned Vegetables and Fruits
Find tips for preparing and sharing your favorite meals.
The holiday season is here, and we can’t wait to connect with family and friends. The busier we are this season, the more we need our meals to be easy to prepare and share, as well as affordable. If this has you reaching for cans in the pantry, you’re not alone. Research shows that there are plenty of benefits of including canned produce in your family’s meals – from nutrition and affordability to convenience and long shelf life.
1. Canned fruits and vegetables have nutritional value
Did you know that produce is harvested fresh and goes right into the canning process? The heat in this process can reduce some of the crisp texture and bright color we enjoy when we eat raw veggies and fruit. That might make us think they are less nutritious, but nutrition loss is rare.
Be sure to check the nutrition labels for sodium content and added sugars, because it is easy to exceed what you need to feel healthy. Look for low-sodium veggies and fruits canned in water or very light syrup. You’ll be able to taste the ingredients without unnecessary salt and sweetness getting in the way!
2. Canned produce tends to be more affordable than fresh produce
Cooking food while it is in season is a great way to get to know where our food comes from. But raw, fresh produce is not always the most practical option. With winter on the way, freshly harvested fruits and vegetables can become harder to get and more expensive than they are during other times of the year.
Researchers have found that compared to perishable produce, the canned versions cost less or about the same year round. Canned goods are also easier to ship, too, so you’re more likely to find it in your local store if you do not live close to farmers market or major grocery store.
Buying and receiving canned produce can also help your family learn about fruits and vegetables - and can lead to better nutrition. As you’re browsing the food aisles or unpacking a pantry box, take turns naming each fruit and vegetable, describing one way you like to eat it, and learning about when and where it grows best.
3. Canned produce can save us time and effort
When your friend is planning a last-minute get-together and asks you to bring a shareable veggie side dish or “something fruity,” don’t sweat it. Many cans are full of pre-chopped or pre-mashed ingredients that are ready for you to mix into your next delicious recipe. This will save you time and impress your friends with your amazing cooking skills.
Try rinsing and draining canned produce before measuring them for your recipe. This can help cut back on added sugar and sodium. Also, look for cans with an easy pull tab to help your family open cans more comfortably if needed.
4. Canned produce has a long shelf life
When you are cooking for a crowd, it helps to purchase ingredients when they’re on sale to have them around when you need them. But you might wonder, “How long is too long to keep canned goods?” It turns out, canned produce stays safe and nutritious for a very long time when stored properly.
The “best by” date on the can does not indicate when the food will spoil, but when it might start to be less flavorful or lose some color and texture. Follow these food safety guidelines from the USDA to protect your family from potential risks, and always check your cans for any dents, rust, or swelling.
Using foods with long shelf stability can help your family reduce food waste and save money. If you end up buying more veggies than you need to make Grammy’s famous green beans, you can save some cans for later!
Preparing and enjoying meals is one of the ways we connect and share our lives during the holidays and year-round. Canned vegetables and fruits can be foundational ingredients in meals that taste good and are good for us – meals we can feel proud to share with the people we care about most.
Learn more about connecting with family over meals and find recipes to bring your loved ones together at HealthierGeneration.org/DelMonte.