Using frozen and tinned foods can help increase your daily intake of nutritious foods and boost your five a day too. Tinned and frozen fruit and veg can be just as healthy as fresh and roughly the same quantity (80g) counts as a portion towards your five a day.
Most of us should have more fish in our diet, including oily fish such as salmon and sardines. These are particularly high in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to keep your heart healthy and are a good source of vitamin D. Canned oily fish is a great way of getting your one portion of oily fish per week. Aim to choose fish from sustainable sources where possible. You can do this by looking for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified products.
Tinned foods are often thought to be less nutritious than fresh or frozen foods, but research shows that this is not always true, in fact, canning preserves most of a food’s nutrients. Protein, carbohydrates, and fat are unaffected by the process. Most minerals and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K are also retained. However, since canning typically involves high heat, water-soluble vitamins like vitamins C and B can be damaged. These vitamins are sensitive to heat and air in general, so they can also be lost during normal processing, cooking, and storage methods used at home. However, while the canning process may damage certain vitamins, amounts of other healthy compounds may increase. For example, tomatoes release more antioxidants when heated, making canned varieties of these foods an even better source of antioxidants.
6 reasons to use more tinned and frozen foods
- Less waste – simply take out what you need from the freezer and put the rest of the packet back in for another time. Any leftover tinned foods can be placed in a suitable container and kept in the fridge and eaten according to the manufacturer’s guidance.
- Keeps fresher for longer – unlike fresh fruit and veg, their tinned and frozen counterparts keep for much longer. Nutrients don’t degrade as quickly either.
- No preparation required – food items are washed, sliced or peeled ready to be instantly used
- Save money – they are often cheaper compared to fresh, especially if you are buying out of season.
- Access all year round – you’re not limited by the seasons and can have any food at any time of year.
- Convenience – you can buy them when they are on offer and store for long periods of time.
Ways to use frozen and tinned fruit and veg
Most of us are familiar with the usual frozen mixed veg and peas on offer in the freezer section and the tins of mushy peas down the supermarket aisle – but how about trying something a little different
- You can buy frozen summer fruits such as raspberries, pineapples, mangoes and cherries relatively cheaply. These can be added to porridge, pancakes, yoghurt, whizzed into a smoothie or simply eaten as a delicious, healthy pudding.
- Diced onions, sliced mushrooms, sliced leeks, sliced peppers, stir-fry mix, swede and carrot mix and Mediterranean veg are all readily available. Use in dishes just as you would their fresh equivalents, simply follow the cooking instructions on the packet. Using frozen veg is an easy way of bumping up your veg intake in dishes such as chilli con carne, stews and curries. If you sometimes lack the motivation, and time, to cook from scratch and tend to reach for a ready meal or call for a takeaway – this is a great, easy healthier alternative.
- Tinned veg includes leaf spinach, artichokes and green beans.
- When cooking any veg, try to steam or microwave rather than boiling in a lot of water to reduce loss of water-soluble vitamins.
Healthy eating & hygiene tips
- Choose fruit that’s tinned in fruit juice as even those in light syrup contain a lot of sugar.
- Avoid veg tinned in salt water (or brine) – too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which puts you at risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Best to choose fish tinned in spring water or tomato sauce as these are lower in calories.
- Avoid buying or using any tins with large dents, bulges or leaks.
- Store all tinned produce in areas that are cool and dry. Avoid storing these goods in damp places, such as near the stove or sink, garage or basement.
- For acidic foods such as tomatoes, store only up to 18 months. For non-acidic foods such as meats and vegetables, two to five years.
- Wash cans before you open them to avoid contaminating the contents.
- Never refreeze foods that have been thawed.
- Not used a whole tin of fish? Then transfer any leftovers into a container with a lid or a covered bowl and pop into the fridge for up to two days – don’t store it in the open tin as the metal may transfer to the fish.
Rachel Efemey (RD) Advanced Health Improvement Practitioner.
Adapted from Diabetes UK Top tips for using tinned and frozen fruit and veg (n/d) available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/cooking-for-people-with-diabetes/cooking-on-a-budget/top-tips-for-using-tinned-and-frozen-fruit-and-veg); Canned Food: Good or Bad (n/d) available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/canned-food-good-or-bad#benefits; NHS Fish and Shellfish (2018) available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/fish-and-shellfish-nutrition/