How to Recognize and Choose Healthy Options at Pantries

Fruits and vegetables provide a variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber needed for one’s health and wellness. Risk factors for heart disease and stroke are preventable by healthy eating, regular exercise, and not smoking. All produce counts, which means that canned and frozen produce are acceptable when you do not have access to fresh varieties. The American Heart Association recommends a typical adult try to eat between four to five servings of both vegetables and fruits every day. [1]

The American Heart Association recommends a healthy dietary pattern that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and limits sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars. [2] When at your local pantry, once you know which healthy foods you are looking for and which foods you want to limit, communicate with your distributors and donors about which foods are most appreciated, and ask if they have the healthy foods you’re looking for and then how you can get them more often. When looking for nutritional items, be specific and ask for heart-healthy alternatives including whole-wheat pasta or low-sodium soup. [3]

Canned as well as frozen fruits and vegetables are a fine alternative to fresh produce, and are convenient and don’t expire quickly. However, sodium is usually added to canned foods to preserve them, and frozen foods can have sauces and seasonings can contain excess salt and add calories. Too much salt in a diet can lead to high blood pressure, one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Look and ask for low-sodium, reduced-sodium or no-salt-added labeled foods. If you are not able to obtain low-sodium items, you can drain and rinse canned veggies to reduce sodium levels. [2]

 

[1] Serving Up Fruits and Veggies

[2] Fresh, Frozen or Canned Fruits and Vegetables: All Can Be Healthy Choices!

[3] Healthy Eating at Food Shelves

 

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