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Canned foods are certainly convenient—but if you’re trying to follow a healthy diet, not all canned foods are your friend. Canned foods are notorious for hidden hazards that can derail your diet, like high amounts of sodium or added sugar. But there are some good options, if you know how to choose wisely.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to pick nutritious canned foods—and the best ones to try.
Most Nutritious Canned Foods
Kim Bowman, F45 Challenge Nutritionist, MS, CNS, names some of her top picks from the canned food aisle:
Canned Albacore Tuna. “An excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for brain health–it’s a great option to keep in the pantry to give your snacks a protein-boost.”
Canned Beans and Legumes. Bowman says there are plenty of great options here, including garbanzo beans, cannellini beans, red kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans. “Beans are not only an excellent source of plant-based protein, but they are low-glycemic carbohydrates loaded with fiber to help boost feelings of fullness and maintain healthy digestion. Black beans are at the top of the list for vegans and vegetarians looking to up their daily protein intake.”
Canned Diced Tomatoes and Tomato Puree. “Canned diced tomatoes are excellent for meal prepping chilis, stews, and soups; tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene as well as a number of nutrients including vitamin C, fiber, iron, and potassium.”
How to Choose the Best Canned Foods
Here are some things Bowman suggests keeping an eye out for when shopping for canned food:
BPA canned linings. Bowman says BPA (Bisphenol-A) is an industrial chemical often found in the lining of canned items. “However, research has found that high levels of BPA can be consumed with overconsumption of canned food items within the body, which has been linked to a greater risk of heart disease and diabetes.”
Opt for “packed in water” with canned fish like albacore tuna. “Canned fish can either be packed in olive oil or water; however, the healthiest choice is to choose canned albacore packed in water (and instead add your own olive oil while cooking if needed).”
You also want to be alert for common canned food pitfalls like excess sodium, added sugar, and artificial preservatives/ingredients.
One other important thing to consider specifically with regards to canned fish involves the health of our planet as well as our bodies. Take notice of any mention on the label indicating how the fish was caught. Bowman says that “100% Wild Pole & Line” or “Troll-caught” is the highest-rated when it comes to sustainability fishing as it ensures there is little or no unintentional negative impact on other marine life. If sustainability is important to you when choosing seafood, Bowman suggests a helpful resource: “I like to reference Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood watch site. Here, you’ll find the most up-to-date information for those brands that utilize ethical and fair trade seafood practices as how to differentiate between sustainable and unsustainable seafood at the grocery store.”
Here at Parade.com, we’re all about sharing products we love with our audience. When you make a purchase on an item seen on this page, we may earn a commission, however all picks are independently chosen unless otherwise mentioned.
Best Healthy Canned Foods
Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook, says these Bush’s black beans “are a good source of plant-based protein and fiber, as well as potassium, which is a nutrient of concern in the American diet. The sodium content is 210mg per 1/2 cup serving and if you drain and rinse them, you can reduce the sodium further by up to 41%.” Harris-Pincus points out that canned beans are also typically inexpensive and easy to prepare.
Sweet corn is the one vegetable that even most veggie-avoiders like, and this Green Giant variety is bursting with great flavor, at 80 calories and 130mg of sodium per serving.
Vital Choice Sockeye Salmon – starting at $34.99 for 6 cans
This canned salmon from Vital Choice has edible skin & bones and no added salt. Wild sockeye (sometimes also called red salmon) is known for its robust flavor. It’s also good for you—an excellent source of protein, Vitamin D, and Omega-3 oils, and just 40g of sodium.
Enjoy the naturally sweet flavors of cherries, pears, and peaches in this Del Monte mixed fruit assortment, which has no added sugar. Each serving has 40 calories and 5mg of sodium.
These crushed tomatoes from Pastene are made with fresh tomatoes that give them a “just picked from the garden” taste. Each serving has just 20 calories and a minuscule 15mg of sodium.
Related: How to Lower Your Blood Pressure by Skipping the Sneaky Salt in Everyday Foods
Good & Gather Evaporated Milk – $0.99
Evaporated milk is a versatile ingredient used in a wide variety of desserts, dressings, and other recipes. This variety from Good & Gather has 40 calories and 25mg of sodium per serving.
Wild Planet Albacore Wild Tuna No Salt Added – $24 for 4 cans
Seafood (particularly fish) is good for you – and even people who don’t like seafood can manage to enjoy an occasional tuna fish sandwich. Harris-Pincus likes this Wild Planet tuna because “it’s packed and cooked directly in the can to retain the natural juices and heart-healthy omega 3 fats, so no need to drain it to retain moisture and those precious oils.” It has just 85mg of sodium per serving.
Freshé Moroccan Tagine Gourmet Salmon Meal – $39.99 for a 10-pack
This salad topper from Freshé contains a plethora of good-for-you ingredients like salmon, chickpeas, carrots, lemon, and roasted zucchini. The cans are compact but deliver a big boost of protein – 12g per serving. Note that it does contain 380mg of sodium. Freshé also has a range of other varieties that all are packed with delicious, robust flavor.
Dole Crushed Pineapple – $2.49
Packed in 100% pineapple juice, this crushed pineapple from Dole is bursting with natural sweetness and no added sugar. Each serving has 70 calories, 10mg of sodium, and 15g of total sugars.
Bush’s Blue Zones Zesty Black Bean Organic Bowl Topper – $15 for a 4-can sampler pack
Part of the new line of organic, vegan plant-based bowl toppers and soups that Bush’s Beans is launching in conjunction with Blue Zones, this black bean bowl topper has a zesty Tex-Mex sauce and is great on a bed of rice—or anything else that could use some extra flavor. It’s a good source of protein and fiber, and just 90 calories a serving, but 390mg of sodium, so keep an eye on your portion sizes.
Related: 29 Great Canned Salmon Recipes
Don’t let the 11g of saturated fat scare you off—Bowman says plant-based fat like that found in coconut milk is quality saturated fat containing a ton of vitamins and minerals. “It is a great option to boost the richness of smoothies and shakes as it adds a great deal of natural sweetness without adding refined sugar. It’s also excellent for curry-based meals when combined with a variety of spices and herbs. Be sure to opt for an organic source of canned coconut milk as well as one that doesn’t contain added sugar.” Each serving of this coconut milk has 120 calories and 15mg of sodium.
Olives are high in antioxidants, are good for your heart, and offer other health benefits. Each serving of this Pearls product has 20 calories and 70mg of sodium.
Roland Sliced Water Chestnuts – $2.09
Water chestnuts are good for you because they contain antioxidants and provide a decent amount of fiber. These sliced water chestnuts from Roland Foods have a nutty flavor and a firm texture that won’t get soggy even after cooking. Each serving has just 70 calories and 10mg of sodium.
This can of Green Giant green beans has just three simple ingredients: green beans, water, and salt. And don’t let the mention of salt scare you – this is a reduced-sodium option, with a reasonable 150mg per serving.
Red beets are known to have anti-inflammatory benefits and they’re also rich in nutrients. These sliced beets from Wegmans have just 40 calories and 15mg of sodium per serving.
Related: 40 Easy Canned Soup Recipes
This product from Del Monte offers an assortment of healthy veggies, including carrots, corn, and lima beans. Each serving has just 45 calories and 10mg of sodium.
Pinto beans are very good for you, packed with all sorts of nutrients. This Great Value option is inexpensive, too. Each serving is 110 calories and just 20mg of sodium.
Native Forest Organic Mandarins – $3.49
Native Forest grows their mandarin oranges in unspoiled island orchards remote enough to be protected against pollution and toxins. That means you get pure, healthy fruits without anything you want to avoid. Each serving is 50 calories and 5mg of sodium.
This split pea soup has a flavor that’s tasty yet subtle. It has a decent amount of protein and fiber, and each serving has 100 calories and 330mg of sodium.
Good & Gather Organic Pumpkin – $3.39
This product from Good & Gather has only one ingredient: organic pumpkin. Bowman said organic pumpkin is “an excellent canned option for smoothies/shakes and smoothie bowls as well as healthy sweet snacks. Pumpkin is extremely high in Vitamin A, an important antioxidant in the body, as well as fiber which is great for regulating digestion and blood sugar.” Enjoy the many health benefits of nutrient-rich pumpkin at 45 calories and 5mg of sodium per serving.
Enjoy the robust flavor of tomato soup and the quality you expect from Campbell’s at 110 calories and 50mg of sodium per serving.
Chickpeas are packed with vitamins and minerals and are also a good source of protein and fiber. This Great Value selection has 110 calories and 120mg of sodium per serving.
Jackfruit is traditionally used as a staple in many types of curries, but is also popular as a vegetarian-friendly ingredient in an assortment of recipes. It is rich in vitamins and antioxidants. This variety from Roland Foods provides 5g of fiber at 30 calories and 190mg of sodium per serving.
These sweet peas from Great Value have just 60 calories and 15mg of sodium per serving. They are also very inexpensive and versatile – eat them as they are, or incorporate them into a casserole or other meal.
While we can’t guarantee it will give you muscle like Popeye, spinach does offer a wide range of great health benefits. This Del Monte variety has 20 calories and 85mg of sodium per serving.
This canned chicken breast from Swanson is delicious and a great source of protein. Each serving has 80 calories and 250mg of sodium.
Health Valley Organic No Salt Added Vegetable Soup – $35.53 for a 12-pack
Packed with all of the nutrition of 12 vegetables, this Healthy Valley soup has no added salt and is gluten-free. Each serving has 90 calories and 45mg of sodium.
Amy’s Light in Sodium Organic Chili – $35.99 for a 6-pack
Want to enjoy the zesty taste of chili with the convenience of canned food? This organic chili from Amy’s is a good option. “Light in sodium” is a relative term – this chili has 340mg of sodium per serving, which may not sound terrific, but is considerably less than in regular chili.
The fresh, robust flavor of these crushed tomatoes makes it a great choice for making homemade sauces or other tomato-based meals. Each serving has 45 calories and 15mg of sodium.
Commonly used as the main ingredient to make baked beans, the navy bean may not get the glory and attention of some of its siblings in the bean family, but it follows the tradition of being nutritious and healthy. Each serving has 140 calories and only 5mg of sodium.
There’s a lot about this pink salmon from Wild Planet that should make you feel good. It’s sustainably caught in Alaska and non-GMO verified. Plus, it has an impressive 18g of protein and only 90 calories per serving, at a tolerable 200mg of sodium.
Peaches are naturally sweet, so there’s no need for a bunch of unhealthy added sugar. Each serving of these Simple Truth peaches has 60 calories and 10mg of sodium.
The delicious natural sweetness of these Del Monte pears means no added sugars are necessary. Enjoy this delicious treat at just 40 calories and 5mg of sodium.
It doesn’t get much simpler than this—this can contain just two ingredients: potatoes and water. It’s a great option for any recipes that need potatoes. Each serving is just 70 calories and 15mg of sodium.
Patagonia Provisions is dedicated to working with farmers and fishermen who support their mission of regenerative practices that improve the health of the water in that region. They refer to mackerel as “a small fish with the mild taste and meaty texture of a big fish,” and note that this type of fish is a great source of protein and Vitamin B-12. This Spanish Paprika variety is packed with both 20g of protein and robust flavor, but it also has 320mg of sodium. The mussels varieties are the most popular of the company’s tinned seafood products—but they tend to have a significant level of sodium, so it’s important to incorporate them into your menu wisely.
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