Sardine tomato soup. Photos by Jar Concengco
Food & Drink Features

The super easy ways to turn your instant noodles and 'de lata' into healthier meals

These convenience food staples can help you stay healthy during the lockdown. Just simply lessen the fat and sodium and add loads of nutrient-rich greens and flavorings. By JAR CONCENGCO
ANCX | May 05 2020

After almost two months of being under the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Luzon, many have found themselves getting a little creative in the kitchen. Some are riding on the latest Dalgona coffee trend and others are baking pan de sal. As commodities become more valuable (as a visit to the supermarket can be an anxiety-filled trip), we look into our pantries and try to make the most of everything.

Tin cans of sardines and packs of noodles are great because of their long shelf life, but are they good for you? Or a better question is (especially for those who don’t have a choice) can they be prepared to be more healthy?

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We’ve whipped up a few dishes using canned fish and meat, packed noodles, adding only what was in our pantry—and might already be in yours, too—and tried to make them more nutritious and healthy for you.

 

Instant Noodles

A pack of instant noodles can be boiled using only half of the flavor packet to lessen the sodium. If you have frozen vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, or peas), you can add them for added calcium, folate, and Vitamin A. If you have fresh vegetables that are almost wilting away in your refrigerator, this is the perfect way to use them. Here, we used bok choy and thin slices of carrot. For extra protein, you can add a poached egg, leftover chicken meat, or use frozen crab sticks. Top it all off with several drops of sesame oil.

Instant noodles with egg and veggies.

Another way to prepare instant noodles is by draining the water just as you would do with pasta. You can create a simple sauce using canned crushed tomatoes, half of the noodle’s flavor packet, and sriracha or any hot sauce. Top this on the noodles with a sprinkle of cheese and serve with some fried vegetable dumplings. You can get these frozen from your supermarket and they can be an easy addition to any of your dishes.

Instant noodles as pasta, topped with tomato and a side of dumplings.

 

Sardines

Sardines are deemed to have far less mercury than other canned fish, making it a healthier choice. It’s a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. To make it healthier, you should drain most of the liquid from the can (which contains most of the sodium). We enjoy eating sardines in a light tomato broth filled with malunggay leaves from the backyard. If you don’t have malunggay, you can include any other herbs you might have on hand such as cilantro, dill, or parsley. Serve this with some crusty bread, and you’ve got a great meal.

Canned sardines with fresh vegetables.

You might also have canned sardines from your past travels. If you’d like to enjoy their tastes as is, you can create simple side dishes instead, such as this easy blanched snow peas with calamansi and sesame oil.

Sardines with snow peas.

 

Canned Tuna

Canned tuna has great quality protein with omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and Vitamin D. If you can get these canned in water or olive oil, it would mean less sodium. It’s a versatile ingredient that can add instant protein to any dish. You can make a sandwich spread with canned tuna by adding mayonnaise, chopped celery for vitamin K and potassium, and onion.

For this dish, we created a spicy pasta sauce with canned tuna, canned crushed tomatoes, cheese, and red pepper flakes over spaghetti.

Tuna spaghetti.

 Also, if you mash tuna with white bread (torn into small pieces), an egg, and finely chopped parsley or other greens that you may have, you can create tuna patties (this is a great way to conceal veggies without the kids finding out).

 

Canned Meat

Canned meat is notorious for the amount of sodium they contain. Try to remove the brine as much as possible before using to reduce sodium intake.

Corned beef can substitute your protein when you make sinigang loaded with vegetables such as water spinach, string beans, radish, eggplant, and taro root. Or you can make a soup with corned beef, cabbage (rich in fiber and Vitamin C), and potatoes (rich in potassium).

Corned beef and cabbage soup.

Luncheon meat can be sliced into cubes and added into vegetable stir-fries. They can also be used in pasta sauces (see the pasta sauce above and substitute the tuna with luncheon meat).

 

Photos by Jar Concengco