We often think of February as the month of Valentine’s and Punxsutawney Phil, but it’s also Canned Food Month. I couldn’t let the month go by without giving canned food some love!
Whether you’re making a pot of chili or a quick weeknight meal of black bean burritos (gluten-free tortillas, of course!), there is no better time for canned food than during this dreary month of February. Honestly, it really should be called canned food season, because, if you’re anything like me, you’ve been using them all winter.
A visit to The Canned Food Alliance website reminded me why the winter months are the perfect time to crack open those cans. The canning process originated back in the early 1800’s as a way to extend the life of fruits and vegetables, so that the seasonal harvest could be enjoyed all year-round. While our grocery stores are now full of beautifully ripe strawberries, tomatoes, and bananas, canning allows us to enjoy the taste of a tomato that was picked at its peak of freshness—even in the dead of winter. Since we have such a long history with canned food, the process has really been refined over the years to offer some of the most safe, nutritious, affordable, and convenient food.
While the topic was fresh in my mind, I decided to check out my pantry and see what I had stocked up. Here’s what I had on hand:
- Canned Tomatoes: Canned tomatoes are hands-down my favorite and most helpful canned companions in the kitchen. There are so many different varieties of canned tomatoes to choose from, so whether I’m looking for a smooth texture or a finely diced tomato, canned tomatoes are my go-to. Some meals that I’ve made with canned tomatoes this month are: artichoke spinach lasagna, marinara sauce, salsa, chickpea cauliflower soup, and many, many more dishes. Canned tomatoes have a lot of range! (Nutrition bonus! Canned tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, a phytochemical that is more available in canned tomatoes than fresh.)
- Canned Beans: Beans are a huge staple in my vegetarian diet. Not only are they affordable, but they also add a delicious rich flavor, and pack a fiber and protein punch. I use them in soup, pasta, hummus and dips, salads—okay, lets be honest, I add them to everything. For that reason, I always have canned beans on hand, in varieties from black beans to chickpeas and everything in between. I love that they can be eaten within minutes, and the sodium can be controlled with a quick rinse. (If you are interested in slow-cooking dried beans, learn how here.)
- Canned Soup: I love soup, and although I’ll eat it for any meal, I find it to be the perfect thing for lunch. Since I’m usually out of the house at lunchtime, sometimes I’ll grab a can of soup to enjoy with a salad for a quick, healthy meal. I look for soups that are low calorie, packed with veggies and low in sodium.
Sodium Savvy in the Supermarket
If you’re watching your sodium intake, be sure you check the label since canned foods can be high in sodium. But don’t worry, there are plenty of lower-sodium options available, you’ve just got to know the lingo:
- Sodium-Free: less than 5 mg. per serving
- Very Low Sodium: 35 mg. or less per serving
- Low Sodium: 140 mg. or less per serving
- Reduced Sodium: The product’s usual sodium level is reduced by 25%
— Guest Post by Michelle Foley