Friday, April 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Open a Can of Health

Save money and eat healthy with the best of canned foods

After the holidays, many folks turn their attention to losing those extra pounds and shoring up their finances.

Yes, it’s time for belt-tightening, for both your budget and your waistline, and you may be searching for the trendiest tips.

But instead of investing in expensive devices or programs to improve your nutrition or your bottom line, reach for – wait for it– the can opener.


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  • How much does it cost to eat healthy?
  • Those staples of the cupboard can help you manage your budget and your diet, if you know what to look for, say nutrition experts.

    Canned beans are tops on the list for Dee Sandquist, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

    “You can’t beat beans in terms of nutrition and convenience,” Sandquist says.

    “Beans have a great mix of carbohydrates, vitamins, protein and dietary fiber,” says the dietitian, who recommends eating a variety of beans, not just one type.

    The dietary fiber in beans help you feel full so you’re less apt to overeat.

    Fish is also one of Sandquist’s recommendations.

    Canned fish, including salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring, deliver protein and omega-3 fatty acids, she says.

    Choose edible bone-in sardines and salmon and get the added benefit of calcium.

    Soup in a can not only provides an economical addition to a meal, it may help you drop a few pounds.

    When you start a meal with low-calorie soup you’re likely to eat fewer calories during the meal, according to research from Penn State University.

    However, as beneficial as canned foods may be, you should still be discriminating in your choices.

    Canned foods may be very high in sodium. A serving of canned kidney beans or salmon (without draining or rinsing) each has more than 300 milligrams of sodium. A cup of canned chicken broth reports more than 800 milligrams of sodium.

    Here are tips for your best nutrition bargains in canned food:


    Buy no-salt added versions. Check the ingredient list in prepared bean dishes. Sugar shouldn’t be one of the first ingredients.

    Fruit and fruit juice

    Fruit should be packed in its own juice or water, not sugar-sweetened.

    Fruit juice should be “100 percent fruit juice without sugar,” says Sandquist, consultant and nutrition expert for Mom’s Meals, which provides meals for seniors.

    She also recommends keeping servings to a half cup.

    Vegetables and vegetable juice

    Again, watch out for sodium in both vegetables and juice products and select low-sodium options if available.


    No-salt-added broth is a good nutrition buy, according to the dietitian. For more substantial fare, opt for broth-based, not cream-based vegetable soup.

    Nuts and nut butter:

    Whether you prefer roasted or raw nuts is a personal taste, according to Sandquist. Sodium and fat content are more important issues. Look for no-salt added nuts and nut butters. Processing should be dry-roasted.


    Pick fat-free evaporated milk for cooking or baking; fat-free sweetened condensed milk can reduce calories in puddings and custards.

    Use your can-do skills to make the following delicious and filling entrée salmon and bean salad. 

    Mediterranean-Style Salmon and Bean Salad — Makes 4 servings

    • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt added kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1 (14.5-ounce) can salmon, drained and flaked
    • ¼ cup sliced pimiento-stuffed olives
    • 1 large celery rib, chopped
    • 2 scallions, chopped
    • ¼ cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 5 teaspoons white wine vinegar
    • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
    • ¼ teaspoon pepper

    Combine beans, salmon, olives, celery and scallions in large salad bowl. Stir together broth, oil, vinegar, paprika and pepper in a cup. Pour over salad. Toss gently but well.

    Each serving has: 270 calories; 14.5 grams total fat; 27 grams protein; 15.5 grams carbohydrates; 66.5 milligrams cholesterol; 515 milligrams sodium and 7 grams dietary fiber.

    © CTW Features

    Bev Bennett CTW Features
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