In our last post in the “Grocery Shopping for Your Health” series, we strolled into the canned foods aisle. We’ll stay there for this post, as we focus on beans and other legumes.
Legumes, such as dried beans, peas and lentils, are packed with fiber, protein, and are nutrient-rich with little fat and no cholesterol. They are economical, and can really stretch your food dollar.
Just like so many other food choices, the array of canned beans is vast. Cannellini, garbanzo, lima, black, navy, kidney and pinto beans are just a few of the varieties you can find in cans or jars (or, in the freezer section).
Beans are versatile in so many ways. Adding beans to your casseroles, salads, soups and other meals packs fiber and nutrients into your diet. And, beans largely have the same nutritional value across varieties.
The can and do, though, differ widely in color, texture, size and flavor. Cannellini, lima and navy beans all have the same general color, for example, but come in different sizes.
That allows you to get creative with your recipes, and try a different bean in your favorite dish. If you’ve run out of garbanzo beans in your pantry for your homemade hummus, for example, try using cannellini or black beans. If your macaroni salad recipe calls for kidney beans but you have black beans in the pantry, try those.
Consider stocking up on canned beans, especially when grocery stores put them on sale. They’re a low-cost, long-lasting (on the shelf, that is), high-impact food, ideal for packing your pantry (again, great for hurricane season).
Cut the sodium level in canned beans by draining and rinsing the beans under cold, running water.
If you like canned beans but need to watch your sodium intake, look for the sodium-reduced cans. Cut sodium levels still more by draining and rinsing the beans under cold running water.
And don’t be afraid to grab a bag of inexpensive dried legumes. They work in any recipe that calls for legumes. They also have no added sodium, which means you, as the cook, control the level just by the amount and type of seasoning you add to your meal.
Of course, dried beans lack a little in convenience. Unlike canned beans, they must be soaked overnight and cooked to use in meals.
When looking for freshness in dried beans, look for beans with a bright color, and make sure the bag has no tears or pinholes.
NEXT: We walk through the nuts and peanuts aisle.