Inexpensive and convenient, canned food often gets panned for its high sodium content (which is true), but there are healthier options available. Here's what to keep in mind when stocking your pantry.

Fruits and Veggies

Canned fruit comes in handy for tossing on salads or as a snack. Choose fruits packed in their own juices, water or 100 percent fruit juice. Even light syrup has tons of sugar, so avoid it.

Typically, canned veggies contain about 15 percent of your daily sodium needs. Look for "no salt added" versions, which contain less than 1 percent of your daily sodium needs.

Canned veggies work well in soups, stews or chili without much fuss or just microwave them for a quick side dish.

Beans and Other Legumes

Beans, peas and lentils can be a savior on a busy weeknight. Versions come with no added sodium just check the labels.

Before using, dump your beans in a strainer and rinse them thoroughly. Toss beans into a salad, soup or mix with rice for a side.

Meats and Fish

When you think of canned meat, Spam probably comes to mind first. Meat in a can may sound tempting (for ease, if not flavor), but with 33 percent of your daily sodium intake in a single 2-ounce serving, it's best to steer clear.

Canned tuna or white-meat chicken are better options. Look for chunk light packed in water (not oil). Many other fish products contain the American Heart Association symbol, which makes choosing the healthier versions easier.

Canned chicken works well in an easy, mayo-free chicken salad or other wrap filling.

Other Canned Foods

Many soups now come in lower-sodium options such as Campbell's, Amy's and Healthy Choice.

They're not entirely sodium-free a serving is still about 20 percent of your daily need; the regular versions typically contain more than 50 percent.

The Bottom Line

Use these products to help make things easier, but don't get too can happy.

Beyond sodium, many canned foods also contain preservatives, chemicals and sometimes added sugar (that dreaded high-fructose corn syrup, even).

Used in conjunction with fresh meats and produce, select canned food can be part of a healthy and well-balanced diet.

Courtesy of Toby Amidor on foodnetwork.com.