How to get enough nutrients with just tinned food – if you're self-isolating

No one is sure how this coronavirus pandemic is actually going to play out – but it is looking increasingly likely that many of may end up self-isolating for a period of time.

If we all end up in lockdown for ages, one concern might be about shortages of or access to fresh food. It might be that we’re forced to survive on whatever is in our cupboards for a little while. But can you get enough nutrients from tinned and dried food?

We already know that eating healthily is really important during a global health crisis and can bolster your immune system against bugs. So making sure you can eat well, even if you’re relying on tins, is crucial.

Harley Street nutritionist Pascal Nourtier says the practice of putting food in tin cans dates back to the 18th century and, encouragingly, the nutritional qualities of the food are mostly maintained. But there are some things you miss out on when you eat tinned food.

‘There is a loss of thermolabile vitamins with heat,’ Pascal tells These are vitamins that can decompse or change when heated up.

‘There is a loss of nutrients in the water of the can by osmosis phenomenon, therefore, it’s recommended to reheat food in the juice of the box and consume part of it. ‘

What are the benefits of tinned food?

Pascal adds that there are some benefits of eating tinned foods – including the fact that all bacteria and viruses that might have been on the fresh product are actually destroyed. Which is good news if you’re worried about germs.

Pascal says that a good tinned food diet will include lots of different kinds of food groups.

‘The consumption of tinned fish and meat allows a protein intake equivalent to the consumption of fresh products. All the minerals are kept in the tin,’ he explains. 

‘If you were to chose a tin-based died it’s important to combine it with a can of vegetables with each meal to ensure you are also getting fibre and vitamins.’

He says the only vitamin that is difficult to keep in a tin is vitamin C, so he recommends eating well-washed fresh fruit if possible, and taking a good quality vitamin C supplement.

Nutritionist and Author Rhiannon Lambert RNutr says tinned and canned food can be just as nutritious as fresh food, if not more, but it does depend on the item and the way it’s stored.

‘Aim for fruit that is not canned in syrups to avoid unnecessary sugar and always check the nutrition labels for the salt content,’ Rhiannon tells ‘When items are processed, you will find more added ingredients such as sugar or salt to help with the shelf life and the taste.

‘It is entirely possible to meet your nutrition needs not eating fresh food but you need to be organised. I would recommend freezing vegetables such as spinach, kale, peppers, onions and your core staples like bread.’

Rhiannon says keeping your cupboards stocked with cans of fish like sardines is great for a boost of omega 3. She also recommends buying beans, pulses and canned tomatoes as well as plently of tinned fruit and vegetables.

‘Having dry essentials like pasta and rice is always useful and you can easily whip a meal that is healthy and nourishing in no time.’

What are the best nutrient-rich tinned foods to buy?

We are definitely not recommending panic buying, or buying in excessive bulk. But, if you did want to restock your cupboards, or if you have already been advised to work from home or you’re planning an online delivery – these are some of the most nutritious items that you might want to get in.

Here are some of the top recommendations from performance nutritionist Lee, from Essentialise:


A great source of fibre and protein, and good nutrient profile and very versatile, especially when you get sick of pasta and rice

Tinned tomatoes

A cupboard staple that can be used in so many increasingly innovate ways. High in Lycopene, often higher than fresh tomatoes, and high in Vitamins C, E and K.

Kidney beans

Bursting with fibre, a good source of protein, can be added to soups. They have a range of B vitamins in, including a good dose of folate, and are a good source of manganese.

Tinned salmon

Often overlooked in favour of tuna, tinned salmon is a great source of protein and omega 3, as are mackerel and sardines if you like oily fish.

Tinned crab

If your feeling flush, tinned crab is another way to get your protein in while getting a stomach full of vitamins and minerals.


So many uses when your limited, a great nutrient profile and again protein, fibre, and mix of vitamins and add a delicious crunch to certain dishes.

Coconut milk

Tinned it provides a large dose of healthy fat, a milk alternative, perfect for sauces and can be experimented with.

Tinned chilies

Add a kick to your cooking while getting a dose of vitamin C and a mix of antioxidants which prevent cell damage. 

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