Thinking Inside The Can, But Outside The Box
By Katie Toulouse, Communications Manager
Canned Food Alliance
As the weather warms up, people tend to shift their minds to “outside food.” Grilling picks up, and Farmers Markets begin to open for the summer. Before we jump feet first into the fresh swimming pool, we wanted to share some ideas for how to double consumption of fruits and veggies this year. And to do that, we need “All Forms,” (canned, fresh, frozen, dried and 100% juice) all year round.
As the Communications Manager for the Canned Food Alliance, I’ve had the privilege of attending several conferences this year where we interacted with dietitians and industry partners and attended sessions highlighting trends, new ideas and challenges.
For this month’s newsletter, I thought I’d stop and take a moment to share some of my key learnings and show how they’ve inspired us to think differently about canned foods. One of our favorite meetings each year is with the Produce for Better Health (PBH) Foundation’s annual meeting. As most of you probably know, PBH’s mission is to increase consumption of “all forms” of fruits and vegetables, AKA “F&V’s” (including beans). For a while the motto was “5-A-Day” which eventually evolved into Fruits and Veggies More Matters™. For years, we’ve been churning out ideas on how to increase consumption, but research shows people are still falling short. In fact, 75 percent of Americans are falling short on the preferred amount of fruit and 87 percent aren’t eating enough vegetables.
The challenge coming out of the PBH meeting this year went beyond increasing consumption. How can we DOUBLE consumption? This got me thinking on a personal and professional level…what small changes can we make so we’re doubling our intake? Here are some themes that rose to the top for me that might help us start to think more creatively about F&V’s.
Just Add One.
This is not a concept new to CFA, in fact, we actually have an entire campaign with infographics right here. But revisiting it again, I thought about where I can add fruits and vegetables to meals I regularly prepare. When I came back from PBH this year, I went through my weekly ritual of meal prepping and challenged myself to double my own consumption of fruits and vegetables. I added chopped green peppers and canned mushrooms to my egg muffins. Canned peaches accompanied my cottage cheese and I included canned chickpeas in my salad for lunch after a few days of topping it with tuna or chicken. I even tried zoodles with canned peas in a homemade Alfredo sauce! Yum! So where can you or your clients add just one more fruit or veggie into everyday meals?
Trends Start in Food Service.
We used to work with a Chef and Cookbook Author, Andrew Schloss, who developed many of the recipes on Mealtime.org. He always said, “Use your pantry as your prep kitchen.” So when ingredients like fire roasted canned tomatoes come with seasonings, use that to your advantage. If a recipe calls for a poached pear, save yourself a step and use a canned pear! Use the juice in canned fruits when baking or making smoothies. Taco Bell shared an example of how they added a ‘healthy’ options menu. They didn’t change their regular menu, but found that if you make healthier options available, people will choose them. Next time you’re in a restaurant think about how you would add fruits or vegetables to menu items that you can prepare at home.
Consider the New Generation.
The Millennials are all grown up and Generation Z makes up about ¼ of the U.S. population! And by the way, people are getting “ethnic” foods at their friends’ houses for dinner on the reg. They aren’t going out for Mexican anymore; they’re going out for tacos. They aren’t going out for Chinese; they’re going out for ramen. Customized “bowls” leave college students seeking healthy options to top their salads, ramen and tacos. Are we making enough F&V choices available in these “bowl bars” or even on the simplest salad bars? Are we giving them flavors that make sense while understanding they still want convenience? I had an Uber driver at one of the conferences who was also a chef and in discussing with him he said, “I don’t think about whether it’s in a can or not, I think about the flavor I’m trying to achieve.” Using canned and frozen ingredients can deliver flavor and consistency, which is a huge factor in a restaurant, food service and at home. Something to consider.
With that, I challenge all of you to think about what we can be doing to encourage consumption of “all forms” of fruits, vegetables and beans, and to think about where they fit in with our lifestyles and meal time. I challenge you to use canned foods to your advantage as ingredients in recipes and give us all permission to cook with more canned options. Let’s communicate that canned foods deliver flavors and convenience, and also provide valuable nutrients. Sure, a can of green beans or peaches can stand on their own, but what other ways can consumers enjoy these and other bountiful F&V’s? As educators, advisors and food service personnel, we have the power to help influence doubling consumption of fruits and vegetables even if it starts with one little meal or one small change.
For additional recipe ideas and unique applications for cooking with cans visit www.mealtime.org.