Written by UConn Dietetics student Kristen Rossi
We all can use an extra serving of fruits and vegetables in our diets! They provide an array of vitamins and minerals and help the body fight against many chronic diseases. However, fresh fruits
and vegetables tend to be expensive and will spoil if they are not used quickly enough. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables can be great alternatives to fresh varieties and can still provide the same nutritional benefits at a lower cost! Frozen and canned produce are picked at peak ripeness and typically frozen within hours, meaning they contain the same amount, sometimes more, of the vitamins and minerals found in fresh produce that perhaps spent days on a refrigerated truck from the West Coast.
Oftentimes, for convenience, you can find varieties of produce that are washed, peeled, and cut before the canning or freezing process, which saves you some prep time when using these foods in recipes!
Here are a few things to look for when choosing frozen or canned produce:
Choose fruits and vegetables in their natural state. The label should say “Ingredients: Green beans” and that’s it. Stay away from frozen packages of vegetables that add cream or cheese sauces. They are typically much higher in sodium and additional ingredients.
Look for words like “no sodium added” or “reduced sodium” on the package. Canned vegetables can also be rinsed off before they are used to help reduce the sodium level. Ideally, you want the ingredients list on the package or can to only list the names of the fruits or vegetables inside. For example, on a can of beans, it should say: “Ingredients: black beans”. Added sauces or dressings can increase the fat (and sodium!) content of these foods.
Juices and Sugar: Watch out for added sugars in canned produce! You can take a look at the nutrition label, which will list how many grams of added sugar are included in the package or can – ideally, it should be zero! However, canned fruits with the words “packed in its own juices”, “unsweetened”, or “packed in 100% fruit juice” on the label have less added sugar than fruits packed in heavy syrup and are also great alternatives to fresh produce.
Overall, you want to make sure you are getting as many fruits and vegetables into your diet as possible. And when it comes down to it, any variety you can purchase is great! When in doubt, go for the “plain” varieties of frozen and canned produce that don’t contain extra sauces, sweeteners, or sodium.
This material is funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
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