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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Smart Food Swaps

fresh fruit in the first image, an arrow pointing to canned foods in the second image.

This blog post is written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Jessica Schultz. 

During times of crisis and change, some foods may be a little harder to find in the store, and if you are lucky enough to find them, there may be a limit on how much you can purchase. To help with this, use these tips and recipe alternates to limit the amount of essential ingredients you use.


If you haven’t noticed, the meat section at the stores is not as full as it once was. When meat is limited, there are great plant-based options that you can use, including beans and lentils! They are cost-effective and full of protein, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and folate. If using canned beans and lentils, look for “no salt added”, and if you can’t find any lower sodium options, drain and rinse them with water to remove about 30% of the sodium.

Canned meats are also great options, but they too can be high in sodium. Compare labels and choose the one lowest in sodium. When buying canned fish, purchase items that are packed in water or broth instead of oil to help reduce the fat content. Canned meat and fish are good for topping salads, throwing into soups, filling wraps and sandwiches, and even mixing into casseroles.


If you are unsure if you will be able to leave your house for a few weeks, stock up on canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. To help reduce the sugar content, buy fruit packed in water or 100% fruit juice, and drain and rinse after opening. Look for frozen vegetables without added seasonings and sauces. Similar to canned meats and beans, choose low sodium canned vegetables, and don’t forget to drain and rinse.


Taco Pasta Salad (Printable PDF)

1 lb. whole wheat rotini pasta

1 (15 oz.) can no added salt black beans, drained and rinsed  

1 (1.25 oz.) reduced-sodium taco seasoning

1 (15 oz.) can no salt added diced tomatoes, drained  

1 (4 oz.) can diced jalapeno peppers, drained

3 cups Mexican style shredded cheese

3 cups shredded iceberg lettuce

1 ½ cups French dressing

2 cups tortilla chips, crushed

Cook pasta to package directions, omitting any salt, and let cool. In a large bowl, combine beans, taco seasoning, diced tomatoes, diced jalapenos, cheese, and lettuce. Add dressing and stir till combined. Top with crushed chips.

Yield: 12 servings


Nutrition Facts (per serving): 540 calories, 28 grams fat, 650 milligrams sodium, 57 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fiber, 16 grams protein