When a trip to the grocery store isn't in the cards, knowing how to transform foods in your pantry can be a lifesaver when feeding your family. From canned chicken to beans, here are our favorite recipes starring canned foods you probably have on hand.

By Juno DeMelo
April 27, 2020
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How many times have you heard that you should be filling your family's plates with fruits and veggies, lean protein, and healthy carbs? That's great advice—but it can be hard to follow when you take into account all the peeling, chopping, and cooking it requires.

Luckily, canned produce, seafood, poultry, and beans can be just as nutritious as fresh. In fact, a study in the journal Nutrients found that people who ate a lot of canned foods had a higher intake of 17 essential nutrients than people who rarely ate canned foods did. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the quantity and quality of minerals, fat-soluble vitamins, protein, fat, and carbohydrates is usually about the same in, say, a can of beets and a tray of roasted beets you pull from the oven. Because the canning process requires high heat, some canned foods may have less water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin B, than fresh ones do. But that same process can actually increase the amount of fat-soluble vitamins, such as lycopene, in certain canned vegetables.

While some canned foods contain added sugar and salt, it's relatively easy to avoid them. Just look for fruits canned in water or juice (versus syrup) and vegetables, seafood, and beans marked "no salt added" or "low sodium." While you're at it, buy canned foods labeled "BPA-free" when possible if you're concerned about your family's exposure to the chemical.

Now that you know what to buy, here's how to cook with it in ways the whole family will like.

One 5-ounce can of chicken is packed with good-for-you protein. Use it in quesadillas, sandwiches, and of course, chicken salad.

Our Recipe Pick: Chicken-Salad Cups

Canned salmon is convenient, affordable—and may actually have more omega-3s and calcium than fresh filets.

Our Recipe Pick: Potato-Salmon Croquettes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency advise eating two to three servings of seafood each week. Canned light tuna has no restrictions, but canned albacore tuna shouldn't be consumed more than once per week because of its mercury content.

Our Recipe Pick: Tuna and White Bean Wraps

Canned green beans mean no rinsing, draining, or trimming. Try subbing them in recipes (like this one) that call for cooked green beans.

Our Recipe Pick: Vegan Green Bean Casserole

Canned corn contains as much fiber as the kind on the cob but costs 25 percent less, according to a Tufts University study.

Our Recipe Pick: Salad Scoops

Peaches are a surprising source of vitamin C. And one study found that the canned kind contain up to four times more vitamin C than fresh peaches.

Our Recipe Pick: No-Bake Peach Crisp

Canned pumpkin is a secret ingredient in healthy baking. Just make sure you buy pure pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie mix, which usually contains added sugar.

Our Recipe Pick: Pumpkin Waffles With Cranberry Honey

Whether you buy them whole, diced, crushed, and/or fire-roasted, tomatoes canned at peak ripeness are almost always a better choice than fresh unless it's summertime.

Our Recipe Pick: White Bean-Tomato Risotto

Beans contain protein, fiber, and folate. Drain and rinse them to reduce the sodium by about 25 percent per serving.

Our Recipe Pick: Mexican Bean Burgers

You can substitute canned sweet potatoes, which provide more than a day's worth of vitamin A per half cup, in almost any recipe calling for cooked sweet potatoes.

Our Recipe Pick: Yam and Jam Muffins

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