February is Canned Food Month,
a national observance from the Canned Food Information Council which invites us to take a fresh look at canned foods and their role in our daily lives.
Prior to canning, food was preserved by salting, drying, sugaring, and smoking. In response to a contest laid out by the French government in 1809, French inventor Nicholas Appert
developed the first process that involved hermetically sealing and heat-sterilizing food storage containers.
In 1810, he published The Art of Preserving All Kinds of Animal and Vegetable Substances for Several Years
, which described the first functional process for canning foods, laying the foundation for the food-processing industry. With Appert's method, food was sealed hermetically in glass jars, which were then placed in boiling water.
By providing the first reliable way to preserve many types of prepared foods for extended periods of time, Appert also created a means of furnishing safe, nourishing, unspoiled food to armies in the field. Soon thereafter, English businessman Peter Durand started selling tin-canned foods, which he patented in 1810. By 1820, the Royal Navy was largely sustained by his tinned foods.
If we fast forward to the present day, canning has clearly come a long way. If you don’t currently use canned foods when preparing meals at home, here are some reasons to take a fresh look at these handy staples and
some healthy, versatile options to explore.
The benefits of canned food
They offer good food value
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, canned foods can be just as nutritious as fresh and frozen foods
. The amount of minerals, fat-soluble vitamins, protein, fat and carbohydrate remain relatively unchanged by the process of canning. And while canned goods may have less vitamin C and B vitamins due to heat processing, some antioxidant nutrients increase, such as lycopene in tomatoes.
They support healthy eating
There is research to suggest that many people who rely on canned foods follow a healthy diet overall. In one study, researchers found that those who often use canned foods consume more nutrient-dense foods
such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products and protein-rich items, with a higher intakes of 17 essential nutrients.
They support home cooking
Creating healthy meals from scratch can be a daunting challenge for many busy families. However, with some key canned staples to lay the foundation, the prospect becomes far easier. Then you can simply embellish upon them with fresh, nutritious additions. See ideas below.
They make healthy eating affordable
For many families, buying canned is a great way to stretch the monthly food budget. According to the U.S. Inflation Calculator
, as recently as August 2022, the rate of inflation for food at 11.4% was the highest since May 1979.
Along with saving you money, canned foods allow for a lot of fun, healthy creativity. Here are some of the most nutritious, adaptable options for your healthy pantry.
The best canned food finds at Vitacost
This gluten-free, vegan meat substitute is easy to use. Simply drain, shred and heat with your favorite sauce. You can enjoy this pull pork alternative in tacos, sloppy joes, Vegan Jackfruit Empanadas or Jackfruit Burrito Bowls
Also known as banana hearts, these large, purple flowers grow at the tips of banana clusters. Featuring a mild, nutty flavor with a delicate banana aroma, this gluten-free, Southeast Asian
staple is being called the New Vegan Meat Substitute. Learn here how to make Banana Blossom crispy vegan “fish.”
This 100% plant-based, gluten-free, 10-veggie blend is terrific as is, or you can transform it with coconut milk, tofu, cilantro and curry powder for a Thai twist. For a Mexican vibe, incorporate black beans, cumin, garlic, and oregano. As it’s sodium-free, you can season to taste with high-quality Pink Himalayan
or Celtic salt
This nourishing prepared meal is a pantry gold. With 28 grams of protein per can, it’s a superb option for vegans and non-vegans alike. To make it extra special, serve it with fresh toppings like cilantro, shredded purple cabbage, avocado, Pica de Gallo, fresh lime, etc.
This sustainably caught, Non-GMO Project Verified wild salmon lends itself to sandwiches, spreads, salads and mousses. Wow your guests with this impressive Wild Smoked Salmon Pâté,
or try these Salmon Salad Wraps
for an elegant lunch.
Tuna salad lovers will want to keep this nutritional staple on hand. Add some Mediterranean flair to your usual recipe by adding green onions, chopped red bell pepper, sun-dried tomatoes
, capers and dill weed
Made from amazing mushrooms, this unique seafood alternative is pre-marinated for all your favorite recipes. Batter it up, grill it or steam it. It’s also a winner in "seafood" paella, vegan cioppino, soups or ceviche.
Home-made soups come together quickly when you start with these tenderly precooked, whole green organic lentils. Simply add broth, veggies and seasonings for a hearty entrée soup. Or, craft a guest-worthy Mediterranean stew by combining lentils with sautéed onions, fire-roasted tomatoes
, roasted red peppers
, Kalamata olives
, basil, oregano, capers and salt/pepper to taste.
This farm-harvested, eco-friendly gourmet item is a unique, low-calorie vegetable from the innermost core of select palm tree varieties. They have a crisp texture and a subtle sweetness, perfect for salads and antipasto plates. Try them in Vegan "Lobster" Rolls
or Spicy Hearts of Palm Stir-Fry Noodles.
These tender, versatile shrooms are low in fat and calories. Enjoy them in soups, sauces, pasta dishes, salads, tacos or lasagna. They are also great on pizzas, with plenty of this antioxidant-rich Pizza Seasoning
featuring onion, bell pepper, fennel seed, oregano, garlic, basil, chili peppers, parsley, thyme, marjoram and celery.
A plant-based staple for Tex-Mex, Cuban or Mexican-inspired meals, these gluten-free beans offer 14 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber in a mere 1/2 cup serving. Try them in Vegan Smoky Black Bean & Buckwheat Chili
, Grilled Mushroom & Black Bean Burgers
or (surprise!) these Black Bean Brownies with Chocolate Lime-Avocado Frosting
These richly-seasoned gems are a flavorful compliment to any Indian-inspired meal; they also make a lovely side dish or a light entrée along with a colorful salad, papadums, and some Mango Chutney
Yams are rich in antioxidants and nutrients while also being filling and satisfying for comparatively few calories. Enjoy them as a fun side to any meal in One-Pan Candied Yams
, or rise & shine with these hearty Jewel Yam Protein Pancakes
Made in Thailand, this vegan condiment?free of soy, dairy, gluten and lactose?works well in both sweet and savory dishes or beverages calling for evaporated milk. Enjoy it in Thai Curry Miracle Noodles with Coconut-Peanut Broth
Did you know that canned pumpkin offers more beta-carotene than fresh? Apparently, the heat used during the canning process causes more bio-available, beta-carotene to form. If you want to get your pumpkin on, check out Dairy-Free Pumpkin Lasagna
, Pumpkin Pie Parfait
or Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal with Cream Cheese Icing
While there are many additional canned items you are sure to enjoy, this array will ideally offer some inspiration for a fun pantry make-over, and many easy, healthy, delicious meals to follow!