The 3 Best and the 3 Worst Types of Canned Food to Buy

Canned foods can sometimes get a bad rep. And some should get a bad rep, because let’s face it: not everything we eat should be stuffed into a can. Then again, sometimes canned foods are the most efficient way to cook when you’re in a pinch.

Nutrition wise, canned foods can differ, so it’s important to read the labels before buying. It’s especially important to take note of sodium and sugar here, which can be especially high in canned foods. Also take a look at the ingredients: if there’s a list of chemicals you can’t pronounce, fresh is probably better.

Here are some of the foods that are fine to buy canned—and some of the worst:


  1. Vegetables

    Veggies – whether canned, frozen, or fresh – are always going to be good for you. While nothing beats fresh corn or green beans in terms of taste, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying some veggies canned. Most of the time, vegetables are actually canned when they’re at their ripest, so contrary to popular belief, canning them doesn’t make them any less nutritious. They’re also ready to use so it makes cooking so much easier—especially when you use them for things like pasta salads, stir-fries or casseroles. Just be sure to take note of the sodium and buy the brand with the lowest.

  2. Beans

    Black beans, red beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, you name it— no matter what type of legume, they’re totally legit to buy canned. Like veggies, you want to watch out for sodium levels, but other than that, canned beans are great to make quick soups, salads, and chilis. They’re high in fiber and protein, and will help keep you fuller longer, so they’re great for any type of diet.

  3. Tuna

    There’s nothing like a tuna fish sandwich, and canned tuna makes this super easy. Canned tuna also helps you easily whip up things like tuna salads, fish burgers, and more. Plus, if you hate dealing with slimy fish, then buying canned is a great option. This goes for any kind of canned fish—salmon, sardines, etc. Check the ingredients to make sure there aren’t any chemicals added, and of course, be wary of those sodium levels.


  1. Fruit

    Stay away from canned fruits! Just because “fruit” is in the name doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Canned fruits are typically loaded with preservatives, and let’s not even talk about how much added sugars and syrups are in there. And yes, that goes for canned fruits that label their products as “no sugar added,” since they’re likely using artificial sweeteners instead of cane sugar (which is not a fabulous substitute). Fruit is naturally sweetened enough, and you’re much better off with fresh in this case.

  2. Soup

    Most canned soups are sky-high in sodium and salt. Anything less than five percent of the daily value percent on the food label is decent, but most soups have much more than that. Even the “light” brands of soups can be a culprit. For example, Campbell’s Homestyle light New England clam chowder comes in at 790 mg of sodium (plus yucky additives).

  3. Pasta

    Who doesn’t love pasta once in a while? But again, sodium is a huge offender here. Plus pasta typically offers little nutritional value, unless you get the high-in-protein options, which would be your best bet if you’re a pasta person.

Do you ever buy canned foods? If so, what’s your go-to foods to buy canned, and what will you never buy if it isn’t fresh?