When we were completing our residencies for our post-graduate nutrition education programs, one of our rotations was a community rotation (many people are surprised to learn that we didn’t only do clinical rotations in a hospital, and in fact, we did food service rotations as well!) One of the community rotations was with Women, Infants and Children (WIC)– the government’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five.
The experience was truly one that was emotional for us as we witnessed how many women were struggling to afford to feed their families. As much as we could tell them to eat healthfully, at the end of the day, they just wanted to have food (any food). As successful as the program was at helping these women to survive, from a nutrition perspective, we have to admit there were MANY improvements that we hoped would be made one day…
So, we were thrilled when earlier this year (late February 2014) the government finalized some major changes – which increase access to fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy –based on the latest nutrition science for WIC participants! Woohoo!
This is the latest revision to this program since 1980! Woah! One of the best revisions we noticed were that now canned fruits and veggies are included! And the great part about this is that the fruit and veggie MUST be listed as the first ingredient in order to be covered and they have to be without added sugar, fats and oils.
We think this option is especially great as many people don’t have access to fresh produce, but can get canned produce. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that canned produce may not just apply to WIC participants, and can actually benefit you too. After all, if you are like many of our clients who do have fresh produce yet come home to find it wilted, then you too may find that if you keep canned produce in your pantry there is still a way for you to get your important produce, despite your veggies going bad in the crisper!
And pssst…research shows that if you can’t grow your own produce and eat it within hours of harvesting, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables can be every bit as good for you as fresh ones, and in some cases even better! Fresh tomatoes have less available lycopene (fights heart disease and cancer) than canned tomatoes or tomato sauce. Canned produce is picked and canned at its peak, so even though the heating process destroys some vitamins, the majority of the nutrients remain and stay in tact. Studies suggest that vegetables such as green beans and spinach lose about 75% of their vitamin C after being stored in the refrigerator for a week. This means that canned or frozen versions of these vegetables may be more nutritious than their fresh counterparts that have been stored for many days.
To help you eat healthfully with canned foods – we have this delish recipe to try – Green Beans & Bacon Salad!
Green Beans & Bacon Salad
2 slices turkey bacon, diced
2 (15 ounce) cans cut green beans, no salt added
1 tbsp. onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Pepper, fresh cracked, to taste
Salt to taste
- Place the bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove bacon and place on a plate lined with paper towel to help drain the extra fat off and blot the top side of the bacon with a towel too to remove some fat.
- Drain the green beans and empty both cans into a saucepan over low heat. Once they begin to simmer add bacon and onion.
- Increase heat to medium-low. Mix in cinnamon and nutmeg into the green beans mixture. The dish is ready once the onions are transparent, yet still slightly firm, about 10 minutes.
- Serve as a delish side dish and Enjoy!!
Nutrition Facts: 60 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 84 mg sodium, 11 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 3 g protein
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