SHOPPING

Your guide to choosing canned fish

Reviewed by our expert panel
A selection of canned fish

There’s plenty of canned fish in the supermarket sea! HFG reels in the most nutritious choices.

Cans of tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel are convenient, inexpensive pantry staples that are great for including in lunchboxes or turning into quick dinners. Popular among gym buffs, hungry uni students and time-poor adults, canned fish is packed with quality protein. But some choices are better than others.

What’s on the line?

Traditional canned fish

There’s a lot of choice when it comes to canned fish. Tuna, salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, trout… the list continues. You’ll find most of these fish varieties available in spring water or oil, as well as in flavours ranging from traditional lemon pepper or tomato and onion, to the more exotic choices such as laksa or puttanesca. Plain varieties tend to be the most nutritious options as they usually contain the least sodium. If you’re after flavour, just drain the can and add your own extra-virgin olive oil, herbs and spices.

Tuna meal pouches, boxes and bowls

Relatively new to the supermarket scene are meal pouches, boxes and bowls made with canned tuna. They’re typically made with grains like pasta, rice or quinoa, along with mixed vegetables and a sauce to tie it all together. Some varieties also contain the nutritious addition of legumes, such as lentils, edamame beans and chickpeas. Although handy, these canned tuna meals can send your intake of sodium soaring, with some popular brands containing almost 50 per cent of the recommended daily maximum in a single serve.

Tuna and cracker kits

Snack packs of flavoured tuna and crackers are generally lower in sodium than other tuna-based meals, so can be a healthier option if you’re busy on the run. On the downside, they often have refined, melt-in-your-mouth crackers, so again, you’re better off with a DIY snack made with fibre-rich wholegrain crackers.

Key nutrients

Omega-3 fats

The Heart Foundation advises eating 250 to 500mg of anti-inflammatory marine omega-3 fats a day for good heart health. Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and some types of canned tuna, can contribute to this daily requirement. Compare brands using the nutrition information found on the back of cans and opt for those with the highest EPA and DHA quantity per 100g.

Protein

How much hunger-busting protein in canned fish varies depending on the amount of fish in a can. Flavourings and added ingredients usually mean less fish per can, so less protein. The fish content is listed as a percentage of the product, so check nutrition labels and choose cans with the highest percentage.

Did you know?

Canned fish can contain tiny edible bones – an excellent source of bone-strengthening calcium.

First published: Sep 2021

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