In our fast-paced, multi-tasking, over-scheduled lives, when it comes to food many of us chose convenience. Canned foods are an option that may seem healthy; Just pop one open and enjoy anything from fruits to soups, but even the most organic brands come at some cost.
For starters, most cans are lined with BPA, a synthetic estrogen linked to many health concerns, which end up in the food. More alarming is the amount of additives found in canned goods including a ton of added salt, citric acid, sugar, artificial coloring, and flavors, and many times unpronounceable ingredients that are highly toxic. Even though some brands market themselves as organic and healthy, and may only have one ingredient, the truth is many of the essential vitamins and minerals are lost in the canning process. Over the years, I developed healthy swaps for some commonly used canned foods.
I used to buy cases of organic canned tomatoes for soups, stews, and pasta sauces. I switched to buying tomatoes in bulk when they went on sale and freezing them as soon as I got home. When I need some, I take out a few tomatoes, throw them in warm tap water and the skin simply peels off. Then I dice them and throw them in the pot. Another option is to buy them in a box or glass jar, to avoid the BPAs, and look for no sodium. The only downside to the second option is a lot of the vitamins will be lost, but there are still many great nutrients.
I loved my canned corn; I used to eat it right out of the can in college to get my daily veggies. However, vegetables lose many of their nutrients from sitting on a shelf. The easiest option is to buy them frozen since they contain just as many vitamins, if not more, as the fresh option. The other option is to eat them fresh. The good news is it is becoming more common to find ready-prepped fresh vegetables like triple-washed salads, cauliflower rice, zucchini pasta, baby carrots, pre-cut and washed broccoli.
I stick to fresh fruits and keep them accessible. Some basic fruit prep will keep them from being wasted. I also keep a ton of frozen fruits in the freezer for smoothies and baking.
Canned soups may taste great, but they are the absolute worst health-wise. The healthiest switch is to get low-sodium broth or stock from the refrigerated isle (you may need to check with your local grocery store first) and then just add whatever veggies, proteins, and/or grains you may want. I make my own broths and stocks in bulk and freeze them in ice cube trays, which I later transfer to freezer bags, and use those over months. It’s totally worth the prep work.
The best option is to chose a brand that does not use BPA, practices sustainable fishing methods, and is low in mercury. My go-to for years has been Wild Planet Tuna, they cost more than conventional tuna but are worth it and taste so much better. On a related note, I like to cook extra chicken breasts when I make dinner, then throw them in the food processor and freeze for later use.
In the spirit of Fall and pumpkin being my favorite food, my healthy swap is to make my own puree. I will buy 2 to 3 sugar pumpkins, roast and puree them, freeze them in trays, and then store them in freezer bags. Whenever I want to bake a pie or make a smoothie, I just take out some cubes. There is always the boxed pumpkin puree option if that is too much work.
Linda Niazi has over a decade of nutrition and personal training experience. She has helped her clients feel their best by creating a positive relationship with clean eating and corrective exercise. As a wife, mom of three young children, and a business owner, she understands the challenges of leading a healthy lifestyle; losing weight; and maintaining mental health. Her goal is to inspire to others to make their best choices when it comes to what goes in their bodies, their activity levels, and positive thinking.
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