Using Canned Foods

Questions about using canned foods in your diet?

From flavor, to nutrition, to storage issues we want to share with you some of the benefits of stocking your pantry with canned food items.  Read how Chef T answers your questions!

  • What kind of canned goods are good to stock up on, and why?
    • When I suggest canned items to stock up on, I ask some basic questions to further understand a client’s needs.  “What do you and your family like? Are there any allergy or health concerns?  Are there storage limitations?” Canned green beans, corn and peas are common choices for most people.  They can be served in various ways, hot or cold, so as not to become routine.  However, I also suggest legumes in many varieties (black beans, chick peas, black eyed peas, etc.)  for not only their time saving convenience, but also for the added plant-based protein and nutrients. They are also a fantastic source of fiber. Canned tomatoes of all varieties give the client the opportunity to make soups, chili or a salsa for example, and are high in vitamin C.  Canned meats such as chicken or fish are convenient and high in protein and can be used in many ways adding to a healthy, well balanced diet. Canned items in any variety with pull tops are a great addition for those that may have difficulty using a can opener.
  • Why is this a good idea for your overall food budget, staying healthy and eating well – even when money is tight?
    • Studies have shown overall food waste is nearly 40%, with much of that coming from fresh produce.  Buying canned food items are a great option to reduce this waste. Canned food items are packaged approximately four hours after the produce has been harvested with the nutrient values remaining at their peak. In addition, they retain their flavor and nutrition for more than two years, making canned items an obvious choice for those on a budget and who want to eat healthy.  There is a greater likelihood of increased consumption of fruits and vegetables when a menu is planned around canned food items.  Between the budget friendliness, time saving convenience and nutritional impact, canned foods are a win-win. Also, the cans are recyclable reducing impact on our environment!
  • What canned items work for long-term storage and which ones don’t?
    • While canned food items have a long shelf life, food safety still applies.  Practicing “First In, First Out” is recommended so the pantry items are rotated often.  This is when you bring those older items forward in the pantry, newer items go in the back. Food manufacturers suggest that canned items should be stored no longer than a year.  Tomato products can be stored around 18 months and low acid foods such as canned vegetables can be stored for over 2 years. In addition, do not use a can that is dented at the seam, leaking or has signs of bulging no matter the age of the can. Properly stored canned food will almost always be safe. 
  • How can you best use these items?
    • The opportunities are endless!  Be creative! 
      • Smash chickpeas, garlic, some lemon juice and olive oil with a fork and make a chunky hummus, no fancy equipment needed. 
      • Drain chickpeas, roast or pan fry them with spices to make a yummy, crunchy snack.
      • Beans can be added to soups making it a great filler, and it increases the nutrition profile substantially.  Use them to make plant based burgers for a “Meatless Monday” option. 
      • Out of pasta sauce?  Simmer those canned tomatoes and canned zucchini with a few added dried herbs into your own Italian creation to top your pasta or even pizza dough.  
      • Sautéing tuna patties is a super quick and nutritious option for those busy nights or made ahead and used the next day as a sandwich.  
  • Canned foods are nutritious, flavorful, and economical and offer us variety.  We should all be using them!
  • Pro Tips
    • Choose canned vegetables that say “No Salt Added” on the label or rinse the product under running water to further reduce the salt content up to 40%. 
    • With fruit, choose cans labeled “100% Fruit Juice” or “No Sugar Added” for a healthier option.
    • Avoid cans with dents, bulges, cracks or leaks. This may be a sign of the bacteria that causes botulism. Damage to the can may allow air to enter, creating the ideal environment for Clostridium botulinum to grow. Botulism is more common in home-made canned goods that are improperly handled and is extremely rare in commercially packaged canned goods.

Featured Recipe

Spanish Rice
Add some canned beans, stuff some tortillas and have a complete meal!
Yield: 6 serving Total time:  25 minutes


  • 2 Tablespoons Olive oil (recommended) or fat of choice
  • ½ white or yellow onion-chopped small
  • 1-2 garlic cloves- minced (can use jarred garlic)
  • 2 cups instant rice-uncooked (Ex: Minute or Uncle Ben’s)
  • 1- 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes-do not drain
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 bouillon cubes -any flavor
  • 1 teaspoons salt (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Optional Add-On Ingredients

  • ½ teaspoon Cumin,  jalapeno, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, cilantro
  • You can use a can of Rotel tomatoes instead of diced tomatoes to add more flavor
  • Add a bag of frozen veggies of your choice to boost the nutrition!


1. In a saucepan, warm oil over medium heat. Sauté onions till soft then add garlic.  Sauté for one minute.  Add rice; cook and stir until lightly browned stirring often. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 10-15 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving.
*Inspired by Taste of Home

Questions or suggestions for Chef T?

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Using Canned Foods
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