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Got cans? Fine food is at hand

February is National Canned Food Month and a good time to test out the versatility of healthy canned foods while cooking for the family, according to Teresa Henson of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

“Canned foods can help provide the necessary nutrients listed in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 edition,” said Henson, UAPB Extension specialist-program outreach coordinator.

“There are many canned foods available in the grocery store that are healthy and nutritious and can be used to prepare a variety of meals. And there are some canned foods you should avoid — first and foremost, steer clear of dented, rusted or scratched cans,” she said.

Henson said individuals should always read the nutrition facts label on products to find foods that are healthy and cost-effective.

“The label can help you compare the calories, fat, sodium and salt found in a variety of products,” she said. “You can check the serving size and the number of servings found in the product. Remember, when shopping for canned foods, look for products low in sodium or with no salt added.”

To ensure freshness of canned food, Henson recommends that individuals pay attention to the following dates listed on the can:

Sell-by date. This tells a store how long to keep the canned product on display for sale. Buy the product before this date to have enough time to use the food at its best quality.

Best-by date. This is the date recommended for the best flavor or quality.

Use-by date. This is the last date recommended for use of the product.

Closed or coded dates. These are the packing numbers used by the manufacturer to rotate the stock and pinpoint the product in case of a recall.

“To save canned foods and prevent spoilage, it’s best to use the ‘first-in, first-out’ rule,” Henson said. “The method ensures older canned and dried food products are used before recently-purchased products. It’s a good idea to write the date on the product to help maintain a rotation.”

Henson reminds individuals to check canned products regularly during visits to the pantry for signs of spoilage. Throw out canned foods that are cracked, leaking or bulging.

“Thanks to the convenience of canned foods, fruits and vegetables can always be ‘in season’ in your household,” Henson said. “Keep canned tomatoes, beans, fruits and vegetables on hand so you can always be prepared to cook convenient, healthy meals for the family. It’s also a good idea to stock up on canned soups, broths and chili, as these can be prepared with fresh vegetables, grains or protein as part of a healthy meal.”

Henson recommends individuals try the U.S. Department of Agriculture SNAP-Ed Connection recipe for zesty tomato soup.

“This tasty, easy-to-make dish is perfect for the fall and winter,” she said.

Zesty Tomato Soup

Ingredients

1 can (14.5 ounces) no-salt added diced tomatoes

1 cup roasted red peppers, drained

1 cup evaporated milk, fat-free

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh basil, rinsed and chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried)

Instructions

1. Combine tomatoes and red peppers in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.

2. Put tomato mixture in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

3. Add evaporated milk, garlic powder, and pepper. Return to a boil, reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Add basil and serve.

The recipe makes four servings. Source: https://www.uaex.uada.edu/life-skills-wellness/food-nutrition/eating-well/healthy-recipes.aspx.

— Will Hehemann is a writer/editor with the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.

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