Which is Better: Fresh, Frozen or Canned Produce? Explained by a Dietitian

Fresh, Frozen or Canned Produce? Fresh, Frozen or Canned Produce? Nutrition facts and Nutrition info from a registered dietitian

What should we choose? Fresh, Frozen or Canned Produce? Oftentimes, we assume that fresh fruits and vegetables are “best,” while canned and frozen foods are not as good or lack quality. Let’s dive into each further and see what you think, maybe I’ll change your mind!


Canned foods are not only budget friendly and extremely affordable, they are shelf stable, and will last in your pantry for all the time you need. Plus, they can hold more nutrients. Canned fruits and vegetables are typically canned within hours after picking, ensuring peak freshness and flavor. In order to keep them fresh, it goes through the steps below.

  1. The fruits/vegetables are prepared by washing and peeling/cutting/pitting the produce.
  2. Next they are blanched and filled into the can with water, juice, or a mix of the two.washed, peeled, cut/chopped/pitted prior to canning. 
  3. The cans are sealed in the facility.
  4. Once sealed, the can is heated quickly in order to kill any harmful bacteria or microorganisms. Note: this heating is done scientifically with specific temperatures and times per product.
  5. Lastly, the cans are cooled to room temperature and sent out to a supermarket near you.

You may ask yourself: “But are canned fruits/vegetables good for me?” “Aren’t canned foods processed, and processed foods are bad?”  The canned produce is picked and treated during its peak, which allows for the nutrient content of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients to be at its peak. Whereas fresh fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak, and then lose nutrient content and health values as they go through the processing/delivery period, sit in the grocery store, and then ultimately your fridge until consumed.

Overall, canned foods are a super convenient AND affordable choice. On a budget? Check out the canned fruits and vegetable section of your grocery store and be shocked by the price when compared to fresh and/or organic fruits and veggies. 


Similar to canned foods, frozen produce is picked and treated at its peak. They are typically flash frozen within hours after picking. This peak allows for the nutrient content of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients to be at its prime. Many vegetables are often blanched before freezing to help to retain phytonutrients in the food!

Also similar to canned foods, frozen foods have a MUCH longer shelf life than fresh fruits and vegetables. Now you don’t have to worry about strawberries that turn mushy in just a few days. You can store them in the freezer, utilizing them frozen or defrosting them in the microwave by cooking for 5-10 seconds. Buying frozen fruits/vegetables is also a way to access different kinds of foods that could be out of season, like getting frozen mango in the winter instead of just the summertime. They are not as inexpensive as canned food options, but they are typically still less expensive than fresh. 

Now that you know this, which products are you picking? If I could choose, here are some ways I might incorporate frozen and canned foods into my daily cooking routine.

  • Frozen Edamame: delish in a stir fry, in a bowl as a snack, or on top of a salad.
  • Frozen Spinach: perfect to add greens to a smoothie or put in a pan with other cooked veggies sautéed with meat, rice and soy sauce.
  • Frozen Blueberries: sprinkle on top of a bowl of yogurt and granola, add into a smoothie, or use in a baked blueberry crumble.
  • Canned Beans: combine with rice and cheese in a burrito or add them into a salad.
  • Canned Corn: use in a guacamole recipe or heat up in a homemade vegetable soup.


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