Fresh, Frozen or Canned, Making Nutritious Choices
Do you lose nutrients when you buy canned instead of fresh fruit or vegetables?

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Fresh, Frozen or Canned, Making Nutritious Choices

By now we all know the drill. To stay healthy and maintain a good weight, it's vital that you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. The current U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends making half your plate fruits and vegetables. This means at every meal and every snack. Most of us need to double the amount of fruits and veggies we eat each day.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are abundant during spring, summer and fall in most climates. It's easier to find a wide selection of nutritious options in your grocery store, at farmers markets and even in your own garden. You can still get your share of fruits and veggies after the garden season. Try canned and frozen produce when fresh isn't as available. Sometimes canned or frozen fruits and veggies may contain more nutrients than do fresh options, especially if those fresh products are out of season locally and have been shipped to your store.

Frozen and canned foods:

  • Are available year round
  • Are convenient and nutritious
  • Are processed at their peak when they are the most nutritious
  • May be more nutritious than fresh

The canning process, which heats the vegetables, can actually increase the nutritional value of certain vegetables, especially tomatoes. When stored properly, most canned and frozen fruit and vegetables remain nutritious for years as long as the container is not damaged and it is stored properly. It is a good idea, however, to make sure you check the expiration dates on canned goods, and rotate newer purchases behind older ones.

Studies have shown very little difference in nutrition in meals made with fresh versus canned and frozen fruits and veggies.

Some canned and frozen products can be higher in sodium or have added sugar or sauce added. Choose low sodium varieties and those packed in their own juices and without sauce. Rinse items when possible to reduce sodium content.

Store canned goods at a moderate temperature (75 degrees Farenheit or less) and once opened, refrigerate any unused portion in a storage container. Do not refrigerate leftovers in the can.

Canned and frozen vegetables and fruits also can be less expensive than fresh. This is especially true when you buy in bulk or choose lower-priced store brands. Larger size frozen packages can be less expensive per ounce. They can be split into smaller sizes or used for several meals. Choose those that have no added sauces or flavorings. These additions can add extra calories and sodium.

Home canning is also gaining in popularity. One in five people home can at least some fruits and vegetables every season. Safety is important when home canning. Our mothers and grandmothers often used a boiling water method for canning. Today experts recommend using a pressure canner to preserve low acid veggies and fruits. This has been found to be the only safe method of protecting against food poisoning from germs, especially botulism. Tomatoes and other high acid foods can be preserved with other methods. Refer to The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning if you are interested is preserving your own food.

So, whatever the type — fresh, pre-washed or pre-cut, frozen, canned or home preserved — there's no excuse. It's easier than ever to eat your fruits and veggies every single day.

By Susan G. Warner, Contributing Writer
Created on 03/06/2008
Updated on 10/02/2013
Sources:
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Kids eat right. Are canned foods nutritious for my family?
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture. Choose My Plate. Healthy eating on a budget. Smart shopping for veggies and fruits.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Food safety. Home canning: Keep your family safe!
  • Fruits and Veggies More Matters. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Key highlights.
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