Canned (or tinned) vegetables and fruits may be more readily available than fresh – but are they an acceptable alternative for use in your baby food recipes?
Traditionally, canned produce has had a bad reputation, considered to be high in salt or sugar, nutritionally inadequate and mushy in texture.
But before you dismiss canned food entirely, there are a few positive aspects that might be worth considering!
Most canning plants are situated near to vegetable and fruit production areas. The advantage to this is that little time passes between the harvesting of produce and the start of the canning process.
As we discuss in our article about Making Baby Food With Frozen Vegetables and Fruits, the time between picking the produce and processing it is very relevant to its nutritional value.
Fruits and veggies canned or frozen within hours of being picked will, nutritionally speaking, be at peak condition at the start of processing.
Once the produce reaches the canning plant, it is peeled if necessary, then machine-packed into cans.
The cans are then filled to a pre-determined level with the canning liquid (usually water, brine, syrup or juice) and preheated before they are sealed.
Finally, the sealed cans are heated to various temperatures (depending on the type of produce) and for varying lengths of time. This destroys any pathogens that may lead to food poisoning or organisms that may cause the food to spoil, ensuring that the produce can be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration.
There is no doubt that the cooking of produce involved in the canning process leads to nutrient loss in fruits and veggies.
But the extent of the nutrient loss is a hotly debated topic.
A 1997 study carried out by the University of Illinois Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and a more recent UC Davis Study Published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found the nutritive quality of canned produce to be comparable to that of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables.
Both studies were funded by the Canned Food Alliance, a part of the canning industry (which, of course, may make one a little skeptical of the results).
However, the findings did seem to suggest that, although some vitamin loss occurs during the canning process, there may be some positives to consuming canned produce. This is a view supported by the American Institute for Cancer Research.
The University of Illinois report stated that:
Canned food suddenly sounds a lot more healthy, doesn’t it?
But before you go filling your shopping cart with lots of steel-clad produce, there ARE some negatives to consider, too!
If you do choose to use some canned produce in your baby’s menu, here are some tips to ensure the foods you prepare are as nutritious as possible…
Truly fresh fruits and vegetables are the best choice for your baby. Absolutely fresh produce cannot be beaten for its nutritive qualities, its texture and – of course – its taste.
But when fresh produce is simply not available, frozen – and THEN canned – fruits and veggies would make acceptable alternatives in your baby food recipes… as long as the guidelines above are carefully followed.