Fruits and vegetables have been touted as helping to battle everything from Alzheimer's disease and depression to heart disease and cancer. Nutritionists and health researchers say that the antioxidants (substances that counteract the damaging effects of oxygen) and nutrients found in fruits and vegetables help eliminate cancer-causing free radicals in the body.
Giving a family nutritious meals ought to include fruits and vegetables. That seems a no-brainer. But what if vegetables aren't high on someone's list of go-to foods, nor on the list at all? Snacking on carrot sticks or popping open a can of fruit cocktail might be good for you, but only if you do it.
Working fruits and vegetables into your family's daily food routine can be done with little fuss and minimal arm-twisting. And while fresh produce is always nice, not everyone has time to shop for fresh ingredients and cook them every night.
How does canned produce stack up to fresh?
Unfortunately, the average American family throws away 26 pounds of produce a year. Thankfully, there’s an answer to this dilemma: canned fruits and vegetables. They’re convenient, price-friendly and store easily. Canned fruits and vegetables also help the environment because the entire package is recyclable, from the label to the can.
Because canned fruits and vegetables are harvested, cooked and canned at their peak, flavor and nutrients are retained in the final product. Leftovers can be kept in sealed plastic containers to take to work for lunch or to use in another dish. Less waste and more flavor.
So there's no need to feel guilty about opening cans to make dinner. Researchers at several universities, including the University of Illinois Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, have documented that many canned fruits and vegetables are as high in fiber, vitamins and minerals as their fresh and frozen counterparts when prepared for the table. When properly prepared, their taste is comparable, too. Canned fruits and vegetables can help you save time and money, and waste less food.
Quick. Easy. Satisfying.
For busy chefs who arrive home from work with hungry kids in tow, it can really help to have cabinets stocked with a variety of vegetables, broths and pastas. When your family can’t wait to eat, try these ideas:
- Combine some cooked pasta, garlic and olive oil with a can of heated, diced tomatoes and garnish with grated cheese. Add a tossed salad with vinaigrette dressing, and you have a nutritious, simple meal in a matter of minutes that even fussy children (and grown-ups) will enjoy. For some kids, you may want to hold the garlic, depending on their palettes. But it's easy to serve the children first and then add some garlic and even red pepper flakes for the adults who want a little more zing.
- Take the pasta-and-vegetables concept to the next level. Play around with it and instead of, or in addition to, the diced tomatoes, try canned zucchini or carrots.
- Combine a can of mushroom or cream of celery soup with a can of green beans. Add a little milk, heat and pour over cooked rice already topped with chunks of baked chicken for a delicious, well-balanced meal.
- In the winter, make simple, zesty soups by adding a can of mixed vegetables, or whole kernel corn, to a can of crushed tomatoes and chicken broth. Throw in some stuffed green olives and add some cooked ditalini pasta, or white cannellini beans. Crusty garlic bread completes the meal.
- For a special dessert or treat, pour canned pineapple bits, apricots or peaches over low-fat ice cream. Do the same over low-fat cottage cheese for a quick salad. And letting the kids arrange the fruit pieces to create silly faces or animals or other creatures can make the salad fun as well as healthy!