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7 tinned foods no slimmer should ever be without

Rachael Anne Hill
25 October 2011

Tinned foods are often seen as the poor relation when compared to their fresh or frozen equivalents but the truth is their ease and convenience not only makes them a busy dieter's best friend, they are a great source of nutrients too.  That's because the foods are cooked in the can once it is sealed which not only locks in essential vitamins and minerals but also gives them a long shelf life without the need for lots of added preservatives.  So next time you're pressed for time, don't be tempted by a diet busting ready meal or take out.  Simply stock up on some of these store cupboard essentials and you'll never be more than a few minutes away from a healthy, waistline friendly meal ……

1. Tinned lentils
Lentils pack an almighty nutritional punch as they are not only a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fibre helping to keep your heart healthy they are also great at helping to keep blood sugars stable and food cravings at bay.  Half a can of green lentils provides good to excellent amounts of six important minerals too including two B-vitamins and a healthy dose of hunger zapping protein—all with virtually no fat and only 90 calories.

How to eat them
Use them instead of mashed potato.  They are great at absorbing flavours and contain less than half the calories and a fraction of the fat that potatoes mashed with butter or cream may have.  Try adding freshly chopped parsley, some natural yogurt and a squeeze of lemon and serve alongside a fillet of your favourite fish.  Alternatively, add them to curries, soups and stews or for a really delicious, hearty salad that travels well (as an alternative to lunchtime sandwiches) and can be made in moments mix a can of drained green lentils with some chopped cucumber, celery, tomatoes and either tinned tuna or smoked mackerel and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

[Relevant: Top 5 foods that are high in nutrition but low in cost]

2. Tinned salmon
It might not be your automatic choice when you think of salmon but the tinned variety can be an excellent option in certain recipes because it is packed with the bones intact, meaning more calcium for you.  Of course, it's also cheaper than the fresh stuff.

How to eat it
Add it to fish pies or make salmon fishcakes by mixing it with mashed potato, finely chopped spring onions, diced peppers, fresh parsley and an egg yolk.  Brush lightly with oil then bake in a hot oven until crisp then serve drizzled with a little sweet chili dressing and large green salad.  Alternatively, mix it up with cooked  potatoes, quartered tomatoes, pitted black olives, cooked green beans, and soft-boiled eggs then dress with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

3. Tinned tomatoes
Tinned tomatoes are extremely versatile and form the basis of numerous delicious, healthy meals.  They are also an excellent source of lycopene, the antioxidant component of the tomato believed to have a protective effect against a number of cancers.

How to eat them

Make a delicious, low fat, homemade tomato soup in minutes.  Simply sauté an onion with some crushed garlic until soft.  Add tinned tomatoes, a generous splash of red wine vinegar and heat through.  Finish with a handful of fresh basil (or use a little pesto) and a splash of milk.  Blend until smooth.  Alternatively, just serve on wholegrain toast for a quick, healthy and filling breakfast or lunch.

4. Tinned mackerel
If you prefer non-smoked mackerel go for it.  It is a healthier option as it doesn't contain any of the nitrates associated with smoked foods.  However, smoked mackerel, in my opinion, is just so much more delicious and can be used in so many ways.  It is also a relatively inexpensive source of protein plus, of course, a great way of packing in those all important omega-3 fatty acids.

How to eat it
Mix in a bowl with some chopped fresh parsley and a splash of balsamic vinegar and serve hot on top of a hot baked potato.  Add to rice dishes for a quick and easy kedgeree or make a smoked mackerel paste by blitzing with cottage cheese, low-fat natural yogurt, cracked black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Use as a sandwich filling or a topping on oatcakes or crackers for a really nutritious snack.

5. Tinned pineapple

Tinned pineapple is low in calories, an excellent source of immune boosting vitamin C and just two rings, 12 chunks or 3 tablespoons of crushed, tinned pineapple counts as one of your 5-a-day.  Always choose pineapple tinned in natural juices rather than in sugar laden syrups.

How to eat it
Don't just save it for dessert.  Add it to curries, use as toppings on pizzas or dice it up with some fresh mango, finely chopped chilli, spring onions, lime juice and fresh mint to make a delicious salsa that makes a perfect accompaniment to a salmon fillet or a fresh tuna steak.  Alternatively, whizz two table spoons of crushed, tinned pineapple in a blender with a tablespoons of ground almonds, a ripe banana and a cup of frozen raspberries for a super filling, taste bud tingling smoothie that will double equally as well as a breakfast or dessert.

6. Baked beans
Half a can of baked beans provides a fifth of the RDA for magnesium, iron and folic acid, 1/7th of the RDA for calcium and over a third of your recommended fibre intake  - all for just 175 calories.  They are also a good source of protein and are low in fat.

How to eat them
Add in a little paprika and serve on a hot baked sweet potato topped with some grilled, crispy bacon.  Alternatively, add them to a chilli or ratatouille in place of kidney beans.

7. Tinned sardines
Sardines are a great choice of fish because they are sustainable and inexpensive, and contain high amounts of vitamin B12 which promotes heart health.  They are also packed full of essential fatty acids which also help to protect against heart disease and Alzheimer's.

How to eat them

Mash with a little parsley, tomato puree and vinegar then grill on wholegrain toast topped with sliced or cherry tomatoes.  Alternatively sauté some onions in a pan with some white wine and garlic and fresh parsley.  Add a tin of drained sardines, heat through and serve over spaghetti.

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