The following post is sponsored by The Canned Food Alliance. I am grateful for the opportunity to highlight a product that I truly and legitimately enjoy and use on a weekly basis.
As a dietitian I’ve sort of been wired to teach people that “fresh is best”. But then, what are canned foods doing in my diet? Perhaps the “fresh is best” slogan no longer holds true. After all, canned foods fit into a healthy diet, and they fit well. Canned (and frozen) foods have been processed in a way that actually locks in their nutrients, and in some respects they could even be considered a more nutrient dense choice than some fresh fruits and veggies (yes, I said it, gasp!). Both canned and frozen fruits and veggies are picked at their peak ripeness, cooked, blanched, and either pressure canned or frozen. Signed, sealed, delivered, without further nutrient loss. Fresh fruits and veggies, while also chock full of nutrients, start to lose their nutrition as soon as they are harvested, leave the farm, and travel for (sometimes) days on end before ending up on your supermarket shelves. Yes, many of their nutrients are still intact, but these loses aren’t an issue at all with canned produce. I’ve been using canned foods to increase my intake of fruits and veggies for many years. After all, it’s not always easy practicing what I preach (and by that I mean making half my plate fruits and/or vegetables), but with canned foods it is much easier. If you’ve followed me for a while you’ll know about my past obsession with canned pumpkin (don’t remember? Check out this post, Pumpkin Breakfast Parfaits).
February is American Heart Month, and as you may or may not have known it’s also Canned Food Month (hence the post), but most importantly, it also happens to be the month my husband and I decided to pay a visit to our new friend; Baby Finn! Our friends Amy and Matt had a baby in mid-January and we stopped by the other day with a heart-healthy meal for the new family; Chia Meatballs (shhh, don’t tell them there was chia in there) and a Kale Salad with Oranges and Apples. The chia meatball recipe can be found on my Facebook page (and, might I add, the delicious sauce was made from canned diced tomatoes, one of my favorite cabinet staples). The Kale and Orange Salad recipe can be found below.
- For Dressing:
- 4 Tbsp canned mandarin orange juice *
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- ½ tsp dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- For Salad:
- 3 to 4 cup finely chopped kale leaves (toss the tough ribs)
- ½ cup canned mandarin orange slices
- ½ medium red apple (Gala or Red Delicious), chopped *
- -21 Tbsp raw sunflower seeds
- In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.
- Place the kale in a medium bowl and drizzle the dressing on top. Toss a few times until well coated with the dressing. Let the kale sit for about 10 minutes, tossing often to re-coat with the dressing. Add the remaining ingredients, toss again, divide between two plates and serve.
This salad was a hit. While I was making it all I could think of were ways I could modify it to fit certain times of the year. For example, wouldn’t it be great as a holiday salad with pomegranate, cranberries and canned pear? I’d probably add walnuts in that case, instead of sunflower seeds. I was also thinking about how this salad could go from a side dish to a main dish by adding beans for protein and fiber, or canned protein like salmon or chicken. That’s the great thing about canned foods; they take little prep and they are an easy way to add variety to your diet, and fill in nutrient gaps. Adding beans to any meal can boost heart-healthy magnesium and fiber (two nutrients Americans tend to lack), whereas adding fruit such as mandarins or grapefruit can boost vitamin C. If you’d like more simple salad recipes, similar to the one above, or more complex, check out the recipe stash at MeatTime.org. They also have recipes for soups, desserts, dips, and just about anything you can imagine.
Before I head out I want to share some things about canned foods and FODMAPs, because I’ve sort of become a low FODMAPs blogger. One of the reasons I’m so keen on canned foods is because FODMAPs are all water-soluble so cooking and especially high-pressure canning can help get rid of them (i.e.: it’s been hypothesized that FODMAPs can leach out into the water, so straining the cans could potentially strain out many FODMAPs in foods like canned lentils). Regardless of if you are following a low FODMAPs diet or not, it’s still a good idea to strain your canned goods, especially vegetables, as this can reduce the sodium up to 36 percent. If you strain and rinse you can reduce the sodium by up to 41 percent. You could also simply buy low sodium or reduced sodium canned vegetables. As for sugar, I’m not exactly sure how much you can reduce the sugar by straining and rinsing, but it certainly would help. You could also start by purchasing fruits in “light syrup” vs. “heavy syrup”.
So in celebration of American Heart Month and Canned Food Month, remember canned foods do fit into a healthy and balanced diet. Use them to your advantage, put away the excuses, and start building that healthy balanced plate!