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The Healthiest Canned Foods to Stock Your Pantry With

Multiple cans of food are opened and shown from above.
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Canned foods are affordable and convenient but tend to have a bad reputation when it comes to health and wellness. Like all foods, it’s about recognizing the ingredients and understanding what you are eating.

While many people view canned foods as highly processed and unhealthy, that is not always the case. You’ve heard doctors and nutritionists say that natural and unprocessed whole foods are the healthiest, but that gets expensive.

So, if you want to eat healthily but are on a budget, here’s what you need to know about canned food.

What to Look Out For In Canned Food

Canned foods might be convenient and cost-friendly but may not always hit the nutritional checkmarks on your list. When shopping for canned foods, do your homework and read the ingredients list on the label. It’s a sure way to know what you are putting in your body.

If you are worried about salt intake, always go for anything that is marked “low sodium.” You can also remove some of the salt by draining and rinsing your canned foods before cooking them. Outside of salt, sugar and preservatives are used to improve flavor and appearance, too, so be sure to look out for that as well.

If your grocery store offers it, always go with anything organic, wild-caught, or pasture-raised. Now let’s delve into the healthiest canned options available.

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Keep that canned food organized.

What Are the Healthiest Canned Foods?

Tin cans with different food on grunge background.

Canned Fish

It’s no secret that eating fish is beneficial for your health, but purchasing it fresh can be pretty pricey. We also agree that getting it fresh off the boat is a sure way to keep up with your foodie Instagram account, but it doesn’t do your wallet any good.

So, if you are hoping to keep things healthy without spending a pretty penny, try canned fish.

Canned salmon or tuna is an excellent quick pick when you need a high-protein snack (or meal). Just by reading the nutritional facts label on a can of wild-caught salmon, you see it offers:

  • Iron
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Iron
  • Potassium

While it may seem enticing to grab the marinated canned fish (and yes, there are plenty to choose from), we recommend getting canned fish labeled “in water.” Finally, always choose cans that are labeled wild-caught.

Canned Chicken

You might not have seen this one coming, but yes, canned chicken is an actual thing. Again, like other canned foods, this one makes for an affordable and fast choice. Canned chicken is perfect when you need to whip up a quick meal like chicken salad, soups, and various casserole dishes. Just be sure to select pasture-raised and low-sodium canned chicken that is labeled “in water.”

Beans and Lentils

Make sure to dedicate some pantry space for a few cans of beans and lentils as they are an excellent source of fiber and protein. Canned beans (or lentils) are perfect for meals like:

  • Chili
  • Soup
  • Stews
  • Veggie burgers
  • Dips
  • Salads
  • Rice bowls

In case we haven’t stressed it enough, be sure to choose canned legumes with low sodium. After opening the can, drain the liquid and rinse them thoroughly to remove any extra salt.

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Put those beans to good use in soups and stews.

Whole, Crushed, and Diced Tomatoes

A group of cherry tomatoes are scattered on a table with a few cut in half.

Canned tomatoes are easily one of the most useful and valuable ingredients to purchase and keep on the shelf. You can use them to whip up tomato sauces, soups, stews, and chili.

Even better, they are perfectly harmless and healthy to consume, so you are safe to continue purchasing them.

One common ingredient found in canned tomatoes is calcium chloride used as a firming agent that won’t affect the nutritional value of the tomatoes. The United States Department of Agriculture approves this ingredient, so it’s nothing to be concerned about.

Canned Vegetables

We all have an individual opinion on canned vegetables, but if you are hoping to add more veggies to your diet, without depending on fresh produce, canned is a good option.

Canned veggies have very similar nutritional value as cooked fresh vegetables, and they are less expensive. The best part is that they are prepped and ready for most recipes.

The downside, of course, is that you won’t get that al dente crunch if you use canned veggies, and they often have high sodium content. Resolve that by purchasing low sodium and always rinse your vegetables before cooking.

Norpro Canning Essentials Boxed Set

You can always try canning your own.

Remember, it’s all about reading the label and knowing what ingredients are added. But if you’re looking to save money at the grocery store, opting for canned foods could be the way to go.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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