Trying to squeeze more fruits and vegetables into your family's diet? Don't forget your trusty can opener. "Canned foods are a great convenience," says Liz Weiss, a registered dietitian and author of The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers. "You can open a few cans and pull together a healthy meal in no time."
The boon goes beyond convenience. "With canned food, you're not sacrificing quality," adds Carolyn O'Neil, a registered dietitian and author of The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous! "You can even get bigger, bolder flavors from some canned foods because it's concentrated."
A few creative suggestions from Weiss and O'Neil on using canned produce:
- Artichoke Hearts A great source of fiber, vitamin C, folate, and magnesium. Try canned artichoke hearts in pasta salads or tossed salads.
- Baby Corn Rich in fiber and folate, this is a great addition to any stir-fry.
- Beans All kinds are high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Add chickpeas to salads. Blend black beans into meat loaf or burgers. Toss red beans into rice dishes.
- Black Olives Loaded with healthy fats. Throw slices on Mexican dishes, pizza, and soups.
- Blueberries The antioxidant level in canned blueberries is actually higher than that of fresh. Gently fold wild canned berries into a muffin mix. Or add them to cereal.
- Peaches Taste summer year-round. Use as an ice cream topping, a smoothie ingredient, or just as a snack.
- Pumpkin Canned pumpkin also has a higher concentration of antioxidants and fiber than fresh. Fold a few spoonfuls into canned tomato soup for some extra flavor and body.
- Spinach Heat a drained can of spinach with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and some coarse salt for a simple side dish loaded with antioxidants and vitamin C.
Originally published in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, April 2005.