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If you’ve been buying canned foods, non-perishable items and filling up your pantry lately, you’re not alone.
According to a new survey in JAMA Internal Medicine, more than 74% of people in the U.S. are stockpiling food and supplies.
In our home, we’ve definitely stocked up on canned foods, not so much out of fear but to cut down on additional trips to the grocery store.
Stocking up on canned foods is also a great way to save money at the grocery store and eat on a budget, which is a good strategy now and when the coronavirus pandemic improves.
When it comes to canned foods however, not all are created equal. In fact, many are ultra-processed, high in sodium and saturated fat, and are some of the worst options you can feed your family. These include many types of canned soups, fruit cocktail, sauces, and meals in a can like spaghetti and meatballs.
There are however, several canned foods that are nutritious and will help you make the most out of your meals. Here are 9.
1. TUNA FISH
Stocking up on tuna fish is a no-brainer—most kids will eat a tuna fish sandwich so it’s an easy option for lunch at home or at school.
Tuna fish is also a great source of protein—3 ounces has 21 grams—and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which supports brain health and memory.
When buying tuna fish however, it’s important to think about mercury, which is toxic.
Although the FDA and EPA say albacore/white tuna is OK for kids to eat, they recommend you limit it to one serving a week.
Tuna, canned light (including skipjack) on the other hand, have the lowest levels of mercury and are considered the safest.
2. CANNED COCONUT MILK
Coconut milk is a non-dairy milk that can be used in a variety of dishes, including soups, rice dishes, and desserts.
One of my friends recently blessed me with a delicious, homemade vegan tom yum soup made with coconut milk and it was so rich and creamy.
Coconut milk can also be a healthy option to keep in your pantry. According to this article by UPMC, research shows coconut milk can be heart-healthy, prevent insulin resistance and aid in weight loss, and has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties.
3. ARTICHOKE HEARTS
When it comes to the best canned foods that also taste good, there aren’t a ton of options, but artichoke hearts are an exception.
Artichoke hearts are a good source of protein and fiber and very low in saturated fat. They are however, high in sodium, so it’s not something you want to serve everyday.
Artichoke hearts pair well with fish, rice and pasta dishes, as a topping for pizza, or served on an antipasto platter.
Beans are hands-down some of the best canned foods to keep in your pantry now and all-year long.
Beans are rich in protein, fiber, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium and high in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that fights inflammation.
What’s more, some types like black turtle beans are also high in calcium: 1/2 cup provides 35 milligrams.
Beans are also some of the most versatile canned foods you can eat. Serve beans with rice or pasta, add them to soups, stews and chilis, make a bean salad, or swap them for meat in tacos and other Mexican dishes.
If you find yourself stress baking, you can also use beans as a replacement for eggs and oil in your favorite recipes.
I particularly like to keep chickpeas on hand because you can bake them for a healthy snack or make your own homemade hummus.
Pumpkin (a vegetable) is a nutrient-dense food that has become a staple in my pantry in recent years.
It has 22 vitamins and minerals, including vitamins, A, C, E and zinc which may boost the immune system. It’s also a rich source of lutein, a carotenoid or antioxidant well known to support eye health.
Of course, pumpkin pie always comes to mind, but you can use canned, pureed pumpkin in other, healthier ways.
My daughter enjoys eating pumpkin with cinnamon sprinkled on top and a hint of maple syrup.
You can also use pureed pumpkin in breads, muffins, pancakes and waffles or use it to make healthy smoothies.
If you can’t get your kids to eat salmon, try canned salmon which is just like tuna, but I think even tastier.
Also, like tuna, salmon has a lot of protein—3 ounces has nearly 18 grams. It’s also a good source of niacin, vitamins B6 and B12 and selenium and has low levels of mercury.
Corn is a good source of protein, fiber, B vitamins and folate, potassium, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Although corn on the cob is a favorite summertime food, when you buy it canned, you can enjoy it all year-long.
My family enjoys the combination of corn, grape tomatoes and avocado or mixed into green salads. You can also add corn to tacos, or make corn fritters, corn chowder, corn risotto or a corn dip.
If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you’ve probably noticed that I write a lot about lentils and that’s because they’re one of my family’s favorite foods.
After I had my first child, my sister-in-law (who is a great home chef) introduced me to the idea of making a lentil chili because not only is it healthy, but it lasts a long time.
Back then, when I was making homemade baby food, I would puree lentils for my daughters. Today, I make a large batch that lasts most of the week for school—and now—distance learning lunches.
Lentils are a good source of both protein and fiber but they also contain 90 percent of the daily value for folate, a B vitamin which helps make serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters that regulate mood.
I don’t know about you, but anything I can do to keep the tears over schoolwork and the sibling fights at bay lately I’m all for.
In addition to chili, you can add lentils to salads (here’s how to get your kids to eat salad), make them into vegetarian burgers, or add them to soup.
A good source of fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C, and choline, tomatoes also contain lycopene, a type of antioxidant that protects the eyes from damage and keeps them healthy.
Tomatoes are also kid-friendly and because they’re so easy and versatile, they’re some of the best canned foods to stock up on.
Whether they’re whole, diced, or crushed, having tomatoes on hand means you’ll have a healthy meal at the ready. Make tomato sauce or salsa, or add tomatoes to pasta, chili and salad. Or make a tomato soup or a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.