A "Fresh" Look Inside the Can

Farm to Can

Alyson FendrickBy Alyson Fendrick, RD, LD, CPT
Corporate Dietitian, HAC Retail

Consumers often tell me they are trying to eat more whole foods but simply can’t afford them. When asked their definition of whole, many will say fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, seafood and dairy products. Customers are surprised to find that the canned food aisle also contains whole foods, giving you the most nutrition bang for your buck.

Canned foods are picked and packed at their peak nutrition and flavor quality. While perishable and sometimes more costly fresh fruits and vegetables lose nutrients during storage. In contrast, the nutrients in canned foods are relatively stable until they’re opened, since they aren’t exposed to oxygen during storage.

It is a popular misconception that canned foods are heavily processed. I encourage you to read the labels of many canned fruits, vegetables, beans and seafood/meats. I think you may be surprised that many contain three or fewer simple ingredients. For example, a can of sweet corn contains corn and water. Canned black beans contain black beans, water and salt. That’s it! With a few simple ingredients and no preservatives, these whole food options are a home run.

Canning Process ButtonThe canning process itself isn’t that complicated, either. In fact, it’s very similar to the one our grandmothers used to “put away” food to be enjoyed the rest of the year. Once picked from the field, fruits and vegetables travel to a local cannery to be cleaned, chopped, peeled and or/ stemmed. Beans are harvested when they are dry in the pod and can be packed year-round. After the food is sealed inside the can, the cans are quickly heated to preserve the contents and to keep the food fresh, safe and delicious until eaten. After all, there is nothing better than opening a can of sweet corn in January and tasting sweet summer on your lips.

For a downloadable resource filled with facts, tips and recipes involving simple canned foods, click here.