Healthy Eating is Not a Competitive Sport

Healthy Eating is Not a Competitive Sport
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Thank you to Del Monte Foods for sponsoring this post!

Food is a nagging worry for a lot of people right now.

You may be worrying about how and where to get your food–and worrying that your meals and snacks are looking different than they used to.

You may be eating more comfort foods and falling back on familiar flavors and recipes. You may be eating fewer fresh foods and more convenience foods because you have less access to grocery shopping. And you may be taking steps to cut your food budget because of job insecurity or job loss.

As a dietitian, I’m always happy when people put thought and care into what they eat. But I hate to see people needlessly worrying that their choices aren’t good enough.

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Stressing out about food isn’t healthy

In a recent survey, the Del Monte 2020 State of Healthy Eating in America, adults (especially Millennials) admit to feeling social pressure and anxiety around healthy eating.

I can relate. I’ve felt social pressure to eat as prescribed by social media. I’ve stressed about whether my bowl of oatmeal is beautiful enough to post and whether it required a garnish in order to be photo-ready.

I’ve also experienced anxiety over how much it was all costing. The more I educated myself, the more confident I began to feel about the choices that work for my family’s budget (see How I Stopped Stressing Out About Grocery Shopping). But I remember grocery aisle stress very well.

In Del Monte’s survey, one in three people say they were never taught about healthy eating. If we leave social media to teach it, the messages are very conflicting, frequently inaccurate, and often coming from a place of privilege, where money and resources are not issues (read: Clean Eating is a Privilege, Not Just A Choice).

Peach fruit cup

Case in point: In the survey, two-thirds of people said that packaged foods were never a healthy option compared to fresh. It’s no wonder people feel stress and anxiety around eating!

If you don’t believe anything in a package could be good for you, that creates enormous pressure (and a sizable workload in the kitchen) when everything has to be whole, fresh, and from-scratch.

Here’s what we know: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease and life-threatening incidents like stroke, and may help cut the risk of developing diabetes and certain cancers.

Fruits and vegetables are healthy for you. Stressing over whether the ones you eat are “good enough”? That’s NOT healthy for you.

And I think we can all agree that when it comes to fruits and vegetables, having choices is important–especially right now.

Del Monte canned food

Is fresh food healthier?

Fresh food is viewed as the gold standard, and I advocate for eating plenty of fresh foods myself. But I also buy frozen and canned foods, and I don’t view those as less wholesome.

Why? Consider this:

  • Canned and frozen produce is typically processed shortly after harvest, which means there’s less time for nutrients to degrade (versus fresh, which can sit on shelves at the store and in your fridge for days or even weeks). At Del Monte Foods, 95 percent of the vegetables will travel less than 75 miles to be canned, and they’re picked and packed within hours.
  • Heat processing involved in canning actually increases certain nutrients like lycopene, a disease-fighting compound found in tomatoes, and antioxidants found in peaches.
  • People are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables if they’re easy, convenient, and available. Canned and frozen options make that happen. According to the CDC, 90% of people don’t get enough fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are less likely to be thrown away compared to fresh, and waste is currently one of the biggest threats to the environment from the food supply.
  • Eating vegetables in any form, including canned, is associated with increased intake of potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, and folate, according to a recent scientific review.

Healthy Eating is Not a Competitive Sport: The Facts About Canned FoodClick to Tweet

Child eating fruit cup

How long can you keep shelf-stable produce?

Unopened canned fruits and vegetables will last about 2-3 years (assuming the can isn’t dented or damaged and it’s stored in a cool, dry place). There should be a “Best By” date on all Del Monte canned foods.

After that, it’s still safe to eat but the quality (color, flavor, texture) may not be as good.

Once opened, transfer leftover canned foods into a glass or plastic food container and use within three days.

Del Monte fruit cups will keep, unopened, for 18 months.

What about sodium in canned vegetables?

There is sodium in some canned vegetables. It provides extra flavor and works as a natural preservative.

You can reduce the sodium content by up to 39% by draining the veggies before eating them or adding them to recipes (and even more by rinsing them first). A serving of drained Del Monte carrots has just 7 percent of the Daily Value for sodium.

Or you can choose from the no-salt-added and less salt varieties–there are a bunch.

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What’s the deal with BPA?

BPA, short for Bisphenol-A, is a substance used to line the inside of cans and jar lids. Though the FDA says it’s safe to use in packaging, research has shown it can leak out of packaging and into food. So many companies have revamped their packing materials.

In 2016, Del Monte changed all of the cans for their tomato products, and all of their fruits and vegetables to non-BPA linings except for sauerkraut (this is due to production barriers, but they’re working on it!). Instead, they use linings made from polyester or vinyl materials that are compliant with EPA requirements, don’t contain phthalates, and meet the requirements of California’s Prop 65, a law that singles out chemicals of concern. All of Del Monte’s plastic fruit cups are BPA-free too.

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Let’s do better

I hope you’ll join me in this pledge:

  • Let’s make choices right now that are affordable, doable, and best for our families with confidence, without fear of judgment from others.
  • Let’s rely on the facts instead of claims from unqualified people.
  • Let’s understand that not everyone approaches eating the same way, and that everyone has varying resources, time, and budgets.
  • Let’s assume everyone wants the best for their families. Let’s avoid judging the way other families choose to spend their food dollars.
  • Let’s remember that our words about food–to our children, friends, neighbors, and on social media–have an impact.

Growers of Good

I’m partnering with Del Monte Foods this year because we both share the mission of increasing access to nutritious, delicious, and affordable fruits and vegetables for everyone. For more than 130 years, Del Monte has been providing accessible nutrition in the form of a wide variety of convenient, canned and freshly packaged fruits and vegetables.

Last year they worked with more than 500 family farms to generate more than a half-million ton of vegetables–and some are farms they’ve been working with for more than a century (read about some of those farm families here).

I also appreciate Del Monte’s mission to help educate people about healthy eating. For one, they’re providing recipes on the labels of their canned vegetables for simple, nutritious, and affordable meals, empowering people to cook at home for their families.

They’re also partnering with GrowingGreat, an organization that brings hands-on nutrition education to elementary and middle school children to empower a generation of healthy eaters.





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