A Can of Tomatoes Gets Dinner on the Table!

Printby Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian

We often hear that “fresh is best,” but did you know that canned options are not only convenient, but also offer similar health benefits as fresh fruits and vegetables? While there are hundreds of varieties of canned foods available, today I’d like to applaud canned tomatoes for their versatility. A simple can of tomatoes can help provide you with all the inspiration you need to get a delicious, healthy meal on the dinner table in minutes. Some of my favorite tomato-rich dishes include soups, stews, casseroles, and pasta dishes.

While canned products often have the reputation of being high in sodium, consumers today are offered a variety of low-sodium options, such as reduced sodium canned tomatoes, marinara sauce, tomato sauce, salsa, and tomato soup. So you don’t have to worry about upping your salt intake when you feature tomato-centric dishes on your menu.

Tomato products are also packed in nutrients, such as fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Research also shows that when tomatoes are heated—as they are in canned and processed tomatoes—the powerful antioxidant lycopene is more bioavailable in the body.

You can stock up on tomato products—canned tomatoes, pasta sauce, tomato paste, salsa, tomato juice, tomato soup—to kickstart your meal because they have a long shelf life. Canned tomatoes are also versatile since they fit well in a variety of delicious, ethnic recipes. If you aren’t already incorporating canned tomatoes into your recipes, it’s time to get started with three of my favorite plant-powered recipes.

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

Looking for a recipe to kick off your Cinco de Mayo festivities? Give this delicious Tortilla Soup a try, which features a can of diced tomatoes.

Makes 10, 1-cup servings


Tortilla Strips

Three 6-inch (15 cm) corn tortillas
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon chili powder


4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1 small jalapeño pepper, finely diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 cup (164 g) frozen corn
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
4 cups (948 ml) water
1 tablespoon reduced sodium vegetable broth base
Two 14.5-ounce (411 g) cans diced tomatoes, with liquid
One 15-ounce (425 g) can black beans, with liquid (or 1¾ cups cooked, with ½ cup water)
2/3 cup (37 g) plant-based cheese, optional
2/3 cup (60 g) chopped green onions, white and green parts


    1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C).
    2. Slice the tortillas into thin strips. Place them on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, then sprinkle the chili powder on top. Bake for about 5 to 8 minutes, until brown and crisp. Remove from oven and set aside. Turn off the oven.
    3. Meanwhile, prepare the soup by heating the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes.
    4. Add the garlic, bell pepper, jalapeño, zucchini, corn, crushed red pepper, and cumin and sauté for an additional 5 minutes.
    5. Add the water, broth base, tomatoes, and black beans. Stir well and cover. Simmer over medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
    6. Ladle about 1 cup of soup into soup bowls, and garnish with a few tortilla strips, 1 tablespoon of plant-based cheese, and 1 tablespoon green onions. Serve immediately.
    7. Store leftover soup (without garnishes) in the refrigerator for up to three days. Reheat the soup and garnish with the tortilla strips, cheese, and green onions.Variation:Substitute cooked or canned white beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, or kidney beans for black beans, or use a combination.


Sharon PalmerSharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™, is an award-winning food and nutrition expert, journalist, and editor. She is author of The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Health, Beginning Today (The Experiment, 2012) andPlant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes (The Experiment, 2014). Over 850 of her articles have been published in national publications, includingPrevention, Better Homes and Gardens and Yoga Journal. Sharon also is editor of Environmental Nutrition, nutrition editor of Today’s Dietitian, blogger for The Plant-Powered Blog, and publisher of her monthly The Plant-Powered Newsletter. Her specific expertise is in plant-based nutrition, including flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets. She serves as the consultant dietitian for the Oldways Vegetarian Network, an editor for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s website eatright.org, and judge for the prestigious James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards. Sharon is regularly invited to speak on food and nutrition at a number of events across the country. She is passionate about sharing her enthusiasm for sustainable, delicious, healthy food. Living in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles with her husband and two sons, Sharon enjoys visiting her local farmers market, gardening, and cooking for friends and family.