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Healthy Canned Foods to Stock Your Pantry With

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By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer at The Fit Father Project

healthy canned foods

Keeping healthy canned foods in your pantry is often beneficial to avoid frequent trips to the grocery store or simply reduce meal prep time.

Some canned foods are healthier for you than others.

Knowing which healthy canned foods to purchase, and those to avoid, can optimize your health and save you time and money.

Ready to stock that pantry? Start with these healthy canned food tips!

Examples of Healthy Canned Foods

Healthy canned foods don't contain preservatives, fillers, added sugar, or a lot of sodium.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams daily and 1,500 milligrams for many adults.

Healthy canned foods are minimally processed and low in saturated fat.

Consider some of the following nutritious canned food options next time you head to the grocery store or order food online:

Non-Starchy Vegetables

Most non-starchy canned vegetables are a good choice when staying healthy is your goal.

They are low in calories, high in fiber, and rich in vitamins and minerals.

If you’ve been diagnosed with heart problems or have high blood pressure and your doctor recommends a low-sodium diet, choose canned veggies without added salt.

Consider nutritious non-starchy canned vegetables like green beans, water chestnuts, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, asparagus, pumpkin, squash, artichoke hearts, baby corn, beets, hearts of palm, and spinach.

Aim to fill about half of each plate of food with non-starchy vegetables to maintain ideal body weight and optimize health and wellness.

Starchy Vegetables

Like non-starchy veggies, starchy vegetables are rich in fiber.

They help fill you up, give you energy, and provide essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

Examples of starchy vegetables include corn, green peas, yams, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, white beans, lentils, and other legumes.

As with non-starchy vegetables, choose low-sodium or sodium-free canned starchy veggies if you’re watching your sodium intake.

Avoid exceeding 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily.

Some Canned Fruits

All canned fruits offer fiber, vitamins, and other essential nutrients, but some are healthier for you than others.

Choose canned pears, peaches, mandarin oranges, pineapples, mangoes, or fruit cocktail without added sugar.

Opt for fruit packed in water or its own juice.

While fruit is a source of natural sugar, canned fruit containing syrup or other forms of added sugar adds extra calories and can pack on pounds.

Certain Canned Meats

Many types of canned poultry and fish are classified as healthy canned foods too, and last much longer than fresh and even frozen meats.

Examples of nutritious canned meats you can stock your pantry with include canned light tuna, salmon, crab, white chicken, turkey, and pork.

If you’re following a low-sodium diet, choose reduced-sodium canned meats.
Steer clear of highly processed canned meats, such as ham, cured meats, and meats containing nitrates or nitrites (look for nitrites or nitrates on food labels).

Opt for organic canned meats whenever possible.

Healthy Canned Soups

Soups make simple healthy meals and have a long shelf life.

Make sure to choose nutritious soups over high-calorie, high-sodium varieties.

Be careful if you have high blood pressure or heart disease so you can opt for reduced-sodium soups when shopping for healthy canned foods.

Choose broth-based soups containing chicken, turkey, seafood, or lean organic meats with non-starchy vegetables.

If your favorite soup contains brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, beans, legumes, or other starchy veggies, it's well-balanced with a good mix of protein, starch, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Oils

While oils don't come in cans, they're shelf-stable and good to keep in your pantry.

Use olive oil or other plant-based oils in nearly every dish you prepare at home.

Doing so helps boost satiety and reduces your risk of heart problems when you use plant-based oils in place of animal fats.

How Long Do Canned Foods Last?

The best way to determine how long to keep canned foods is to look at the expiration date on the can.

As a rule, unopened canned foods can last 2-5 years after the manufacturing date.
Acidic foods generally have a shorter shelf life than low-acid foods.

To ensure canned foods are safe to eat, it's best to discard (or avoid purchasing) bulging, dented, leaking, or rusty cans.

If food in cans has an abnormal color, odor, or overall appearance, avoid eating it. If it tastes off, throw canned food away.

Never store leftover foods in their cans, even in the refrigerator.

Place leftovers in a plastic or glass storage container with an airtight seal.

You can safely store leftover foods in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days, or freeze them.

If the food looks, tastes, or smells funny, toss it out to be on the safe side.

Canned Foods to Avoid

If you're trying to lose weight, get in shape, reduce chronic disease risks, and improve your overall health, steer clear of the following canned foods whenever possible:

Cream-Based Soups

Cream-based soups are often much higher in calories and saturated fat than broth-based soups, which can take a toll on your waistline.

Steer clear of potato soups, clam chowder, and other cream-based soups.

Instead, choose reduced-sodium broth-based soups containing vegetables and beans or chicken to maintain optimal health, an ideal body weight, and high energy levels.

Tomato-Based Soups and Sauces

While tomato sauces and soups are common ingredients in many favorite American dishes, they aren't the healthiest choice overall.

Some canned tomato-based products contain more than 10 grams of sugar in just a single serving!

When optimal health for you and your family is your goal, steer clear of tomato-based canned food products.

Examples include canned ravioli, canned spaghetti with meatballs, tomato soups, canned chili, sloppy Joe sauce, and other canned foods containing tomato-based ingredients and added sugar.

Read the nutrition label before buying so you know how much added sugar each of these foods contains.

Canned Fruit in Syrup

Canned fruit packed in water or juice is a good choice when shopping for healthy canned foods, but fruit packed in syrup contains added sugar and extra calories that can expand your waistline.

Read nutritional labels carefully on your favorite canned fruits and choose those without added sugar as an ingredient.

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Fruit Pie Fillings

Many canned fruit pie fillings, such as blueberries, cherries, and apples, are loaded with added sugar.

In fact, some contain 15 grams of sugar in just a 1/3-cup portion!

Instead of choosing canned fruit pie filling with added sugar or artificial sweeteners, pick canned fruit pieces packed in water or 100% fruit juice.

Gravy

Gravy adds extra calories to your menu but few, if any, beneficial nutrients.

Most gravies are high in sodium, which is problematic if you have high blood pressure or you're at risk of heart problems.

Instead of gravy, consider heart-healthy oil-based dressings or olive oil with meals.

Cheese in a Can

Cheese in a can, or cheese spread, is highly processed and contains few essential nutrients.

These cheeses are often high in calories, sodium, and preservatives.

Steer clear of them in favor of natural, reduced-fat cheeses, as they're lower in calories and fat and higher in protein than cheese from a can.

Processed Meats

Avoid processed meat whenever possible, as the American Cancer Society says eating just 50 grams of processed meat daily increases your risk of certain cancers by nearly 20 percent.

This holds true for bacon, hot dogs, sausage, ham, and other canned meat products.

Many processed canned meats are also high in sodium and contain large amounts of cancer-causing nitrates or nitrites.

Say no to processed meats, including canned sausages, canned ground beef, Spam, spreadable meats, and corned beef hash, whenever you can.

Baked Beans

Beans are healthy for you when they're canned without added ingredients.

However, many types of baked beans are loaded with added sugar and sometimes even bacon or other meats.

With these baked beans you're often getting additional calories from sugar plus artificial ingredients or fillers.

Instead of canned baked beans, choose canned beans without the sauce.

Check the ingredient label of canned goods to make sure they don't contain added sugar.

Some Refried Beans

Canned refried beans aren't necessarily bad for you, but many brands contain lard as a hidden ingredient.

If you do keep refried beans (which are an excellent source of protein and fiber) in your pantry, choose vegetarian varieties containing plant-based oil instead of animal lard.

Canned Mac and Cheese

As with many prepackaged mac and cheese products, canned mac and cheese isn't the healthiest choice for you and your family.

It's often high in calories, carbohydrates, saturated fat, preservatives, and sodium with few beneficial nutrients.

A healthier alternative is to prepare whole-grain pasta and add chicken with olive oil, pesto sauce, or reduced-fat cheeses to it instead of mac and cheese sauce.

Albacore Tuna

Watch your family's albacore tuna intake if you have a pregnant or nursing wife or young children at home.

Albacore tuna is much higher in mercury, a neurotoxin, than canned light tuna.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends pregnant women and young children eat no more than 6 ounces of albacore tuna weekly.

Where to Find Healthy Canned Foods Online

There are numerous online websites you can order healthy canned foods from and have them delivered to your home.

Examples include:

Amazon

Amazon.com delivers healthy canned foods to your house, often within a day or two after you order them.

Amazon deliveries are often free if you're a member and product prices are reasonable.

You can select from a variety of healthy canned foods from various sellers.

Walmart

Like Amazon, Walmart.com offers numerous healthy canned foods you can have shipped to your house, often within a day or two of placing the order.

Prices are reasonable and you can shop from the comfort of home to save yourself time and money.

Target

Similar to Amazon and Walmart, Target.com offers home delivery, including healthy canned foods and other groceries.

Same day and next day delivery services are available for many Target food items.

Other Healthy Foods with Long Shelf Lives

In addition to choosing healthy canned foods, other foods with long shelf lives to consider keeping in your pantry include:

  • Frozen fruits
  • Frozen veggies
  • Dried fruits
  • Dried vegetables
  • Dried, low-sodium organic meats
  • Frozen chicken breasts
  • Frozen fish
  • Frozen seafood
  • Shelf-stable plant milks
  • Protein powders
  • Healthy protein bars
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butters
  • Plant-based oils
  • Oatmeal and whole-grain cereals
  • Dried brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, and other whole grains

Some benefits of choosing frozen foods over canned foods are they're usually lower in sodium and you don't have to worry about substances from cans leaching into your food.

If you have fresh meats at home that you can't use up in time, consider freezing them.

Many frozen foods can last up to 12 months or longer before they go bad.

Additional Healthy Living Tips for Men

In addition to keeping plenty of healthy canned foods and other nutritious shelf-stable foods in your pantry at home, it's crucial to follow healthy living tips and tricks to boost your immune system and reduce chronic disease risks.

For example, make sure to participate in regular exercise most days of the week.

Try Fit Father Project at-home workouts to get and stay lean from the comfort of your house.

In addition to daily exercise, make sure to keep your body moving at least 45 additional minutes each day by walking the dog, doing yard work, or playing outside with your kids.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get at least 7 hours of sleep each night to optimize health and wellness.

De-stress daily by getting outdoors, trying yoga or tai chi, meditating, getting a massage, or taking time for yourself to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

Take dietary supplements for men to keep energy levels high, prevent nutritional deficiencies, keep your immune system strong, and optimize overall health.

If you weigh more than you'd like to, the FF30X program can help you reach your goal weight to look better, feel better, have more energy, and reduce your risk of diseases.

Sign up for the free fat-burning workout and meal plan to get started today!

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Erin Coleman B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer at The Fit Father Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.


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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on healthy canned foods.

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