What this Dietitian Learned on a Cannery Tour

What this Dietitian Learned on a Cannery Tour

What this Dietitian Learned on a Cannery Tour

By Leslie Schilling, RD 

No foods were quite so delicious to me as a tomato sandwich on the beach with my family in the summertime, or my mom’s baked spaghetti loaded with tomato sauce and canned diced tomatoes. In full disclosure, I’ve always been a tomato lover. So, naturally, I was honored to be invited on a tour visiting family farms that produce around 95% of all the canned tomatoes in the United States. We also visited peach and pear farms and learned how many of these beautiful fruits are picked, transported, and canned, in a matter of hours. Let me tell you what I learned about cans, and about myself.

I had canned food amnesia (and I bet I’m not alone).

To be honest, I’d forgotten about canned produce. Between my formal education as a dietitian and a person who has the privilege to buy fresh produce, canned produce had all but disappeared from my grocery list and kitchen. Seeing the process of produce being picked fresh from the field, carefully prepared, and canned, reminded me that I’ve been missing out on the nutrition that canned foods can provide (and sadly, so were my clients). As a dietitian, my clients deserve recommendations that are both nutrient-rich and cost-effective. This tour helped me remember that cans can deliver quality nutrition and reduce the prep time needed to get busy families around a table together. Regardless of your household food budget, canned produce can play a role in every kitchen. 

Steel cans are recyclable – 100% recyclable

My mind was blown on this one. Did you know that a magnet can retrieve steel cans from a kitchen trash bag that ended up in a landfill? That can you never recycled? I didn’t either. Steel cans are retrieved from either landfills or recycling plants and remade into new cans. This makes steel cans a smart choice for families looking to add nutrition and care for the environment we live in. 

Nutrition sealed in time.

The canning process is one that has been around for more than a hundred years. While the technology involved in monitoring a cannery may look like a spaceship control center, the process remains simple, clean, and effective. As I watched tomatoes being placed into a rolling water bath, flash-steamed, and promptly sealed, it reminded of why my grandmother canned tomatoes right out of the garden. She’d say they’re fresh now, and they’ll be just as fresh when we open them in the winter. 

Not only is the freshness sealed in, the carotenoids that make tomatoes a nutritional powerhouse are amplified. Canned tomatoes are known for their cancer-fighting compound lycopene, which becomes 2.5 times more bioavailable after the canning process. The canning “process” (which is really just steaming or cooking), also brings out valuable nutrients in peaches. Canned peaches have higher levels of vitamin C and folate compared to the fresh fruit. 

Using canned foods can help reduce food waste. 

These days, commercially canned produce must include a best by date,  which is generally 36 months from the date of being sealed. When these canned foods are prepped, ready to open and add to a meal, we can also reduce food waste. Sadly, I’ve thrown away far too many fresh fruits and vegetables that I’ve forgotten or didn’t have time to prepare. Keeping canned produce in mind in our homes may help us add nutritional value and reduce food waste at the same time.

If you forget about the goodness of cans like I did, try to remember the acronym I created to prevent myself from ever experiencing canned food amnesia again. 

S – Sealed at the peak of freshness.

T – Takes less time and money.

I  – Can improve overall nutrition quality.

R – Can reduce food waste in fully recyclable packaging. 

Let’s help families STIR in cost-effective nutrition that’s as fresh as fresh can be. 

Big thanks to Pacific Coast Producers for hosting this amazing opportunity to see the harvest and canning process.

Leslie Schilling

Leslie Schilling

Nutrition Counseling for Families

Leslie Schilling owns a Las Vegas-based coaching practice, specializing in nutrition counseling for families, those of all ages with disordered eating concerns, and professional athletes and performers. In addition to running her practice, Leslie serves as a performance nutrition consultant for Cirque du Soleil® and an eating disorder specialist and supervisory consultant for eating disorder treatment centers in Nevada. With her warm, compassionate, and entertaining personality, Leslie been featured in media outlets like Women’s Health, Self, Pregnancy Magazine, The Yoga Journal, Bicycling, BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, US News & World Report, and on HGTV. You may know her best as the creator of the Born To Eat® approach and co-author of the award-winning book, Born To Eat.

Penne Puttanesca

Penne Puttanesca

Switch up your pasta routine this week with this quick and easy Penne Puttanesca. It’s the perfect meal for any weeknight, and your family is sure to love it!

Recipe by Leslie Schilling, RDN

I’m not Italian, but I aspire to be. This recipe for Penne Puttanesca has been tweaked and, I like to think, perfected over the course of a decade. We even searched for a better one in Italy and couldn’t find it. It’s quick, easy and the robust flavor will knock your socks off!

Puttanesca is a classic Italian sauce consisting of anchovies, tomatoes, olives, and capers, creating the perfect balance of salty and savory. Canned tomatoes are the star of this dish, providing bright color and flavor, as well as being a nutrition powerhouse. Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, a cancer-fighting compound, as well as vitamin C, iron, and potassium. Plus, canned tomatoes actually have a higher lycopene content than fresh, as the cooking and canning process enhances the availability of the nutrient, making it easier for your body to absorb.

Penne Puttanesca

Penne Puttanesca

Penne Puttanesca

Switch up your pasta routine this week with this quick and easy Puttanesca Pasta. It's the perfect meal for any weeknight, and your family is sure to love it!


  • 12-16 oz penne pasta
  • 1/2 c high-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp anchovy paste
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 24-28 oz plum or diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 c pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
  • 2-3 tbsp capers, drained
  • 1/4 c fresh, Italian parsley, chopped


    1. Get your pasta water boiling.
    2. Now start your sauce by putting high-quality extra virgin olive oil in a large sauce pan with red pepper flakes. Heat to medium heat and stir for about 2 minutes to infuse your oil.
    3. Now add chopped garlic, dried oregano and anchovy paste (it’s not overwhelming, I promise). Mix well to get the paste dissolved and now add your tomatoes, along with Kalamata olives and capers. Let simmer for 5 – 10 minutes.
    4. When your pasta is al dente, drain thoroughly. Pour pasta into sauce mixture and parsley. Mix and serve very hot.  


Wowsers–so good! I like to serve with grilled chicken or sautéed shrimp on top. If you’re not feeling like pasta, it’s fantastic as a sauce over grilled chicken, pork or fish.

For other delicious pasta recipes, check out some of our favorites:

Swiss Chard Pecan Lasagna
Pasta with Marinara and Roasted Vegetables
Pasta and Vegetable Stir-Fry