Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to make a pledge not to buy canned vegetables. They’re not worth your money for the nutrition they provide. But don’t worry – there are some great alternatives that are just as convenient.
Why Shouldn’t I Cook with Canned Vegetables?
Canning vegetables involves plenty of heat and lots of water. Most, if not all, of the nutrients in the vegetables end up denatured (like “dead” for vitamins) or leached out into the cooking water. Even though canned vegetables seem super cheap, it’s money for nothing. If you’re going to eat a vegetable, you might as well get something nutritious out of it, and you simply won’t with canned. Those peas, green beans, corn, carrots and potatoes are empty shells that used to have vitamins in them.
BPA Returns: Strike Two for Cans
I really hate to tell you this. I want you to keep eating tomatoes, especially canned ones. Bad news though: the inside lining of cans, if coated, contains the all-too-familiar chemical BPA. (Click here to read an explanation and definition of BPA.) This is another reason to avoid canned vegetables and other foods, but for tomatoes, it’s something we’re just going to have to live with if on a budget. Here’s some more information on how dangerous BPA in canned tomatoes is.
If you have lots of extra money, I would recommend seeking out BPA-free canned tomatoes. They’re difficult to find and only in organics; Eden Organics sells BPA-free cans for all but tomatoes, which contain a small amount because of the acidity. Some are sold in glass jars here or here under the brand name Bionature. When I splurge on glass jarred tomatoes, I look for this deal. There’s a whole discussion here on where to find BPA-free tomatoes. I have to warn you, though: they’re much more expensive than standard canned tomatoes, up to FOUR TIMES as much. Organic tomatoes must be hard to grow!
At least we can rejoice that most spaghetti sauce comes in glass jars, right?
Strike Three: Additives
Anytime you’re asking a factory to process something for you, there’s a chance – a good one! – that they’ll add in something else. Canned vegetables generally have added salt, sometimes other chemicals as preservatives. Once you get into the other canned foods like soups, you’re looking at multisyllabic words no one wants to pronounce, nevertheless eat! I’d rather be in charge of what my family is putting in their bodies.
What Should I Serve Instead?
I assure you that frozen vegetables are very healthy and a good option. They really aren’t more expensive than canned, especially when you put the price in perspective of what you’re paying for. Frozen veggies are flash frozen, usually in trucks in the field right after picking, so they are literally “at the peak of freshness”. Any other vegetable starts losing nutrients from the second it’s picked until it hits your table. That’s just how living things work when they are cut off from a source of energy and food. There’s a chance the fresh broccoli available in your produce section actually is less nutritious than a bag of frozen stuff.
So if you generally rely on a can of veggies for your side dish vegetable, switch to frozen this week and see how it goes. The taste will be different to be sure. That’s all those vitamins and minerals in there!
Added Bonus: You can use exactly the amount you want out of a bag of frozen and you don’t have store the leftovers from the can in the fridge. When I did that, they always went to waste anyway!
What About Non-Perishable Foods for Donations or Emergency Preparedness
Most food banks only accept “non-perishables”, which often translates into canned goods. I hate the idea of giving someone who needs nutrition something that is not nutritious! However, you can find non-perishables that are plenty nutritious. Read on…
If I had to go a few weeks without shopping or without power, here are the items my house would supply (many of these products would make great donation items as well):
- Dry beans
- Rice, barley
- Coconut and olive oils
- Canned tomatoes and sauces
- Dried fruit (raisins, etc.)
- Some crackers and canned fruit
We’d be low on animal protein, to be sure, just a few cans of tuna, and vegetables would be certainly low – beans and tomatoes. But we could survive on rice and beans with tomato sauce and tuna sandwiches! Spaghetti with pinto beans, anyone?