In our quest to eat 'clean' and healthy, many of us begin cutting out certain foods that offer little nutritional value and are heavy in fat, sugar, or sodium, and are either quite processed or have many additional preservatives added to them.
While this is a great step to take to get you on the track to a healthier diet, often you will end up cutting out foods that may actually be able to offer you some great health benefits while making your life a lot easier. One such group is canned foods.
Canned Foods: High In Sodium?
One of the biggest reasons canned foods are cut out of people's diets is because they tend to be quite high in sodium. It's not unusual for a can of soup to meet your whole day's worth of sodium needs! This is why if you are going to include canned foods in your diet you need to be particularly careful in reading the nutritional information so you know exactly what you are getting.
Deciphering Product Labels!
Almost everyone has at one time or another attempted to read a label and realized that they seemed to be reading a foreign language. We try to read labels to be informed of what we are putting into our bodies, but do we really understand?
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Canned foods can be a great addition to your diet because often when life gets busy, most of us simply don't have the time to prepare healthy, clean meals, 5-6 times a day on a regular basis. By having some canned foods as a backup, you will reduce your chances of turning to fast foods or other convenience products.
And, in addition to the canned foods, with many of them you can also add other easily prepared natural foods to increase their nutrient value and provide yourself with a complete and healthy meal.
One other advantage to canned foods is that they have a great shelf life, meaning you can stock up on them while they are on sale and not have to worry about throwing them out the next week because they have gone bad. Since everyone is concerned with saving more money, canned foods, when on sale, can fit into almost everyone's budget.
So, let's take a peek at some of the canned foods that can offer you a great deal of nutritional benefit.
Nutritional Canned Foods
This is a great source of healthy fats, and if you consume the bones along with the meat, will provide a good source of calcium.
There are many different ways to prepare canned salmon, from making salmon burgers, to mixing in some fat-free mayo and having salmon salad. Salmon is also a great source of proteins and can be used by those on semi-vegetarian diets (those who still consume fish on a regular basis).
Canned Chili's & Soups
You've probably seen numerous different varieties in your grocery store. From chunky chicken to clam chowder, the possibilities are endless. What you want to look for in a chili or soup, however, is one that is low-sodium, offers lots of vegetables, and that is not cream-based (unless you are opting for some of the newer fat-free, cream-based soups).
Watch out for some that are mostly noodles, as well, as these tend to be relatively processed noodles and you would be better off boiling your own whole wheat noodles or rice and adding it to the soup yourself.
If you are using this soup as a complete meal, you may also wish to add your own chicken breast, can of tuna, or some egg whites (added in while soup is simmering to create poached eggs) to increase the protein content.
Most often, the biggest drawback of canned soups is that they do tend to be low in protein, so this will remedy this problem.
Have you always thought of canned fruits as the equivalent to a bag of candy from your local gas station? Yes, in many of these products there is so much high-sugar corn syrup that you might as well just dig into a feast of gummy worms, but with the right selection, you can find some that come close to the real thing.
What to look for here is fruit that is labeled as being canned in natural fruit juices. This means that they are put in the can either with juice from the actual fruit or water, and then the natural juices from the fruit have come out to form the liquid.
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And, if all else fails and you can't find a product packed in natural juices, you could always buy the syrup variety and just drain the can before eating!
The most popular canned fruits are canned peaches, pears, mandarin oranges, cherries and fruit cocktail. And for those of you with young kids, you would be a hundred times better off sending your child to school with a can of fruit in their lunch than the popular 'real fruit' snacks that are out there. Often, these snacks are the true equivalent of gas station candy!
Canned beans are a blessing for anyone on a vegetarian diet. They help to form complete proteins along with grains, such as rice, and offer a great deal of fiber per serving as well.
They also offer a great deal of carbohydrates making them a perfect food for those who are highly active and require a higher energy diet.
Try substituting beans in a few of your meals a week instead of meat to help lower your dietary fat intake and boost your fiber count. Just try and steer clear of the 'beans and wieners' variety, or the ones that are higher in sugar such as maple-style beans if you are trying to keep your diet free from added sugars.
Canned Corn & Peas
While these vegetables are not ones that are of the lowest calorie count, they still offer many nutrients, and are a convenient source of carbohydrates for your diet. This will come in handy for those days when you may not have time to make some whole wheat pasta or brown rice, and are looking for something that is easily transportable.
Combine them with a lean source of protein and some fibrous vegetables such as celery, cauliflower, and broccoli, and you will have a complete meal in just a few minutes!
Canned Ready-To-Drink Meal Replacement Shakes
Don't forget about the popular meal replacement shakes (MRP's) that are sold at Bodybuilding.com. These are a great option for those who are in a rush and are looking for something tasty to grab on the run. They come in many different flavors, so there is sure to be one that will suit everyone's taste buds.
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So, the next time you are tempted to make a detour on the way home to your local drive-thru window, remind yourself that you have a much healthier option at home that is just as quick. Stock up on these canned foods when they go on sale as they have a good shelf life and will make hectic nights a thing of your past!
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