What's "In" This Season? Canned Food!

Roberta Duyff

By Roberta L. Duyff, MS, RDN
Food & Nutrition Consultant 
Author, American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide 




Tis The Season

Crisp, chilling air on wintery days … a fire crackling in the family room … savory stew simmering on the stove: each signals the change of season. Now and at every season, “the great tastes of good health” are my top priorities as both a registered dietitian and a home cook. Whether cooking delicious holiday meals or resolving to eat healthier in the new year, my not-so-secret mealtime approach: a well-stocked pantry. Here’s why …

  • With a variety of canned fruits and vegetables on hand, good nutrition is affordable and always available: especially important during winter when fresh produce often costs more and isn’t in season.  Cost-Per-Nutrient Research shows that canned foods can save money, often delivering more nutrients for the food dollar than fresh, frozen or dried. (That’s a “seasonal plus” when holiday spending competes with my monthly food budget!)

  • When time is short, especially during the holidays, pantry foods provide convenient nutrition: no need to cook from “scratch.” As example: with little effort canned beans deliver protein and fiber: no overnight soaking and lengthy simmering. Since beans are already cooked in the can, I simply add them to belly-warming chunky soup or to meatless pasta sauce or chili, spooned over baked potatoes or cooked pasta; toss a salad – and dinner is done!
  • Packed at their peak, pantry staples like peaches are flavorful and nourishing year ‘round – making them a great ingredient in holiday side dishes like Wild Rice Peachy Pilaf. Canned peaches can be nutritionally comparable to fresh, reports an Oregon State University study, so they can be enjoyed without concern for nutrient loss.

  • Finally, canned tomatoes are canned quickly after harvest and at their ripest, letting us enjoy delicious, nutritious and local tomatoes all year long. Canned tomatoes make the most economical sense during the winter months, certainly when fresh tomatoes from your backyard are just not happening in most parts of the country. But in fact, heat from the canning process gives an added nutritional benefit to canned tomatoes, making their antioxidants more available, compared to fresh uncooked tomatoes, so it’s actually a no brainer any time of year. Not to mention, they’re great for all the flavors of winter meals, whether it’s soups, casseroles, dips or even pizzas. Try this Mediterranean Naan Pizza that provides all the goodness canned foods deliver.

As we work to educate families, schools and institutions about making healthy food choices for children, we can and should advocate consumption of all forms of fruits and vegetables, including canned, fresh, frozen, dried and 100% juice, as this research supports. After all, the more options available in terms of price, seasonal availability, convenience and “rightness” for a given recipe, the more likely we all are to meet the dietary recommendations for these important foods.

To your health in the coming year - and to great flavors of this season!