Canned foods are a great staple to keep around the kitchen, but which are best for you and your family?
Spending hours in the kitchen cooking lavish meals is not a feasible option for many of us. Stocking up on canned foods can make mealtimes a little easier to manage. But how do you know which canned foods are the healthiest options?
We spoke to Hannah Kaye, a nutritional therapist from Cape Town, to find out what’s best to shop for when it comes to canned goods.
They’re great for adding to sauces, but Kaye always recommends getting sugar- and salt-free options.
Canned beans and chickpeas
Kaye says that she always tries to recommend the best products to suit your pocket. “If I’m working with someone who doesn’t have a lot to spend on store cupboard foods, I recommend canned beans and chickpeas,” she says. “The key is to try and find ones that are sugar- and salt-free or at least low in sugar and salt.”
Kaye says they can be a great part of a meal if combined with veggies, but try to look out for low-sugar options as some of them can contain up to one teaspoon of sugar per serving.
Pilchards, tuna in brine, tinned salmon and sardines
“If on a tight budget, pilchards in tomato sauce are not a bad option – but tuna in brine would be much better as it contains less sugar.” Kaye says salmon is also a great tinned fish to have, but it can be pricey.
Kaye’s next suggestion might not be as popular, though. “Sardines. I absolutely love and always recommend – if you can find it in olive oil even better – but a lot of people don’t like to eat them, unfortunately.”
Coconut milk and cream
Kaye says these are great especially for low-carb diets, but they can also be a little pricey.
Canned goods you should try to avoid
Kaye says: “I generally never recommend canned vegetables as the nutrient status of fresh vegetables is much higher.”
There’s also quite a high sodium content in a lot of canned soups, so unless you can find low-sodium options, rather just go with the fresh kind.
What should you look out for in canned goods?
“Keep an eye on the sodium and sugar content – 575mg of sodium is equivalent to 1/4 teaspoon of salt,” says Kaye. Try to avoid things with preservatives and remember the more natural the end product, the better. “If you buy a can of chickpeas that contains just chickpeas and water, that’s perfect,” she says.
Always read the label
Kaye says what you find on labels can be quite shocking. “The worst offenders are things like bacon and preserved meats (salami, polony etc). They usually contain added sugar, colourants and preservatives. The less we have of these, the better.” This goes for all your food, not just the canned variety. “Always compare nutritional information when making choices,” says Kaye.