Choosing Canned Foods: Nutrition Meets Convenience  

By Klair Urbin – Gleaners Nutrition Education Team 

There is a common misconception that canned food is always less healthy than fresh fruits and vegetables. This comes from the fact that many canned goods may have extra salt or sugar added to them. But did you know that some canned choices can provide greater nutrition while being inexpensive and convenient? You just need to know the hacks for making healthy choices when selecting canned goods. Let us help you out! 

Rinsing Canned Produce 

Even when low-sodium and low-sugar options aren’t available, you can still improve the nutrition of your canned goods by rinsing. Studies have shown a significant reduction in sodium and sugar from the simple practice of rinsing:  

  • Draining and rinsing canned vegetables can decrease sodium by up to 23% 1 
  • Draining and rinsing beans can decrease sodium by 43% 2 
  • Completely draining both heavy and light syrup will reduce added sugars. 

How to Rinse 

  1. Drain contents of can with strainer 
  1. Wash with cold water for 30 secs 
  1. Shake over sink to dry  
  1. Your produce is ready to use! 

Making Canned Foods Work for You 

Here are some different ideas to inspire you to use canned produce and boost your nutrition with all the ease of opening a can! 


  • Add fruits packed in 100% juice to smoothies – juice and all! 
  • Try canned fruit at breakfast – an easy way to add color, flavor and sweetness to cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, and yogurt parfaits 
  • Bake desserts with canned fruit when items like peaches and pears are out of season. 


  • For a nutritious boost, add canned veggies to soups and stews 
  • Toss crisp canned veggies like corn into a salsa 
  • Add canned beans to a meat dish like tacos or dirty rice – adding an extra lean protein and stretching your budget 

Sources: 1. USDA 2. Jones, J.B., and J.R. Mount. (2009). Sodium Reduction in Canned Bean Varieties by Draining and Rinsing. 209. Institute of Food Technologists Conference Poster. Anaheim, California.