If you are someone who lives independently or co-dependently, then I'm sure you have stood at the grocery store cash line up and while getting rung through thought to yourself, "How did I spend so much," or "Man, those fruits and vegetables are super expensive"? If this is something that you've thought, then it is likely that you're fairly conscious of food prices as you've also probably said , "I can buy an entire loaf of bread for the price of that one bell pepper!" If you haven't thought this ever before, then it is likely that you do not grocery shop often, or you are one of the lucky few people that hasn't ever dealt with the effects of food insecurity. Let's face it, buying all fresh fruits and vegetables all the time can be very expensive, especially if you're buying the produce and your family/ household isn't able to consume it before the foods spoil!
While I'd love to tell you that there is a way to eat all the fresh organic foods you love, for a fraction of the price, this is untrue. Globalized consumerism has allowed us to have all of the freshest foods available to us at any given time of the year, which provides us the opportunity to eat healthy, but at a price. But maybe there is another way? Maybe there is another way to still maintain optimal health through dietary intervention, to gain/lose the weight you want, to keep your immune system battling strong, and keep your shelves stocked without paying the steep price of purchasing and disposal of fresh produce. Guess what, there is a solution and it's nothing new!
Frozen and Can-stored Foods!
When we think of frozen or canned foods, a lot of us likely think about properties such as increased shelf life, or cheap produce and as you should! There are so many more benefits to keeping Frozen and Canned foods around in the house.
1. Increased shelf life
2. Savings as compared to similar quantity of fresh produce
3. Year-Round availability of ripe produce with minimal textural difference to its fresh produce counterpart
4. Similar bioavailability of Nutrient Quality
...just to name a few! When looking at the research, specifically looking at the differences in the nutrient quality between the long-term stored foods and the fresh produce there are very promising findings! One of the biggest issues people face with frozen fruits, is that when they go to use them in their baking or in their morning oats, they feel that they are mushier. One study conducted by S. Van Buggenhout et al., where they found that by introducing frozen strawberries to High pressure Induced Thawing (HPIT) otherwise known as a microwave, they were able to slightly break down the cell walls of the originally frozen Strawberry, thus ruining the palatability of the fruit by softening the texture. They did find however that by thawing in room temperature for longer durations, and by consuming frozen, that there were no noted changes in texture or flavour.
The entire purpose intended on consuming more fruits and vegetables is not only to increase the palatability of the foods we consume by adding foreign flavours to our favourite dishes, such as adding mushrooms to your favourite bolognese sauce, but increasing the nutrient density and nutrient quality of your diet! A paper published by the journal of Food Chemistry made a comparison of the nutrient density and quality of Fresh, Frozen and Canned fruits and vegetables, using Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) as a marker. By using Vitamin C as a marker, we are able to see how much of the substance is lost in the process of storing the food and preparing the food for consumption. In an ideal world obviously, we do not want to lose any of the nutrients!
Canned and Dried, Fuller For Longer
Depending on your food styles, you can diversify what and how you eat by consuming things from a canned source or even from the dried food section. Why might we choose to grab food from a can/dried over fresh? Well for starters we're looking at increased shelf life. Additionally there are plenty of foods that you can get that don't have altered tastes due to storage methods, which can help diversify your nutrient intake without busting the wallet. Given this, a lot of canned and dried foods are actually highly satiating food items, which means that when you consume them, whether due to high fibre density, or protein content, they keep you more full for longer during the day, as well as lasting far longer on the shlef without requiring any special storage (no fridge). Furthermore, research has shown that with the exception of lima beans and snap peas, most of the other canned food items (i.e. fruits, vegetables, pulses) actually maintain a large majority of their nutrients if not all of them, even after the canning process. Some examples of great canned and dried options are, but not limited to:
1. Canned pulses -- they make for great source of sustainable protein and carbohydrates while also being high in fibre and many more micronutrients as well. Therefore they have massive benefits on your digestive tract and also fill you up for cheap. You can get a can of beans/ chickpeas for under $1 and it can be used to make a lot of quality food.
2. Dry Pulses -- these are amazing! same rationale as above, however you get WAY more for similar price. For example, a 1kg bag of kidney beans (which you could struggle to use up in 1 month) would only cost $2.99 (at expensive Lower Mainland Vancouver Grocery Stores). The Downfall? Well they usually require much more time and just aren't as convenient as canned pulses (unless you have a pressure cooker/instant pot.
3. Canned Fish -- Makes for a very cheap, very high lean protein source. Very convenient when you're in a pinch and don't have a lot of time. Plus solid source of 'healthy fats' and omega 3's which if you didn't know, have anti-inflammatory properties. Not to mention, fish oils have been shown to potentially help reduce risk of thyroid related diseases and reduce colonic inflammation! Feel good without spending too much, win-win!
4. Dried Fruit-- Great source of convenient fruit/fibre intake. Now when buying trail mixes this could get pricey, BUT if you shop at places like Bulk Barn, or any other bulk food store, you can likely compile your own trail mix along with nuts and seeds for reasonable prices. Convenient for on the go snacks, athletes requiring intra-workout carbohydrates, movie snacks, etc.
5. Dry Rice-- Rice is a great source of plenty of nutrients including magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, thiamine, folic acid and many more. It is a carbohydrate that also is known for being very satiating and very adaptable to many different types of cuisine! The most important part of dry rice that differs from "Ready-to-eat" packages or 2 min microwave packs, is the massive discrepancy in sodium levels and flavour. Honestly, dry rice that takes you 10-15 minutes to make is far lower in sodium (fact) and far tastier in my opinon! Not to mention, it costs roughly $0.25 for a 250g cooked serving of rice. SUPER CHEAP and super easy to make!
I hope some of this can be used to help you plan out how you're going to stock your pantry and better diversify the nutrients available to you in your diet! I will be posting a couple easy to make healthy recipes using a lot of these tips to help them remain in the "budget eats" Category. By all means I hope you reach out and let me know if there is something you have questions about and would like me to go into further detail about!
As usual, below is the listed research from above if you feel like taking a quick read! Most should be available for your perusal if you so choose😁!
Thank you for taking the time to get some Nutrition Education today! Look forward to seeing you soon!