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Tips for Choosing Canned and Frozen Food

These are tips to improve the nutrition profile of your canned food choices and tips for help you navigate the frozen food section.

Canned Foods

Food snobs take note—canned produce actually retains more nutrients than fresh produce that has been trucked across the country, sat in the display case for a couple days, and stored in your refrigerator for a week before you finally get around to eating it. Yes, there may be a flavor and texture difference, but many people are willing to sacrifice a little in those areas for the convenience canned foods offer. You know yourself best—use these tips to improve the nutrition profile of your canned food choices:
  • Canned fruits packed in their own juice or light syrup have less added sugar and fewer calories than canned fruit packed in heavy syrup. It isn’t much of an issue either way if you don’t drink the juice or syrup!
  • Canned vegetables are similar in nutrition content to fresh vegetables (and sometimes better) but usually contain more sodium. Put canned vegetables in a strainer and rinse with cold water to reduce the sodium or buy no added salt varieties.
  • Canned soups and tomato products (pastes, sauces) are generally very high in sodium. Look for low sodium or no added salt varieties. Cream soups can be high in fat; look for reduced fat varieties.
  • Canned beans are great to keep on hand to pump up soups, salads, spaghetti sauce, pasta and rice dishes, and more. They’re more convenient than dried beans, but are also (you guessed it) higher in sodium. Check the labels for lower sodium products. As with canned vegetables, you can greatly reduce the sodium content by draining and rinsing under cold water.
Frozen Foods

As we spend less time preparing our own meals, we spend more of our food budget on prepared frozen foods. Label-reading skills come in handy in this department because nutrition content varies so widely among products. Here are some hints to help you navigate the frozen food section:
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables are convenient and generally as nutritious as fresh produce. Use frozen fruit in breakfast smoothies with milk or soymilk, yogurt, and/or juice. Throw cooked frozen vegetables in with macaroni and cheese, couscous, or marinara sauce.
  • In frozen meals, calorie, sodium, and fat content varies greatly. Compare labels! Some “healthy” frozen meals do not provide enough calories for active individuals—supplement with fruit, salad, and yogurt. Balance out your day with fresh, low-sodium meals and snacks.
  • Frozen chicken, fish, and shrimp can be a convenient alternative to fresh. Follow package instructions for thawing and avoid thawing any food at room temperature.
  • Soy-based meat alternatives abound in the frozen food section. Try soy break- fast sausages, burgers, chicken patties, chicken nuggets, and ground beef crumbles. Most can be fully cooked in the microwave in less than two minutes.
  • Some frozen yogurts and light ice creams contain less fat and saturated fat than regular ice cream but similar calorie contents; will you be tempted to have two scoops of a low-fat frozen treat simply because it’s “healthier”? Be sure to read labels and enjoy any type of dessert in moderation!
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