Lucy Jones

Making the most of mealtimes with simple canned fish ideas!

By registered dietician and TV presenter, lucy jones

Do you eat 2 portions of fish a week?

Official guidelines tell us that a healthy balanced diet should include at least two portions of fish a week, including 1 of oily fish1

This is because fish and shellfish are good sources of lots of different nutrients. 


Oily fish – such as mackerel and salmon – is also particularly high in long-chain omega 3 fatty acids1, and eating the recommended 250mg a day can help keep your heart working normally2.

Most of us should have more fish in our diet, including more oily fish. A national survey from Public Health for England showed that most of us (including all age groups) eat much less than the recommended one portion of oily fish a week3. For example, the average adult eats only 54g per week (52g for men and 54g for women), or just over a third of a portion3.

Eating more fish isn’t just about getting enough omega 3 fatty acids though, it can also boost the amount of all-important protein in our diets4 – which can help to maintain strong bones and muscles6 – and replacing red meat with tuna in brine or springwater can help reduce our intake of saturated fat.

According to Public Health for England, most of us don’t realise that we’re eating far too much saturated fat – men have a particularly high intake thanks to eating too much red and processed meat3. Eating too much saturated fat can increase our cholesterol levels and our risk of suffering heart attacks and strokes5.

Using dishes with tuna in brine or springwater to replace some of our more traditional meals like sausage and mash, spaghetti bolognaise, or even chilli con carne, can help us to reduce how much red meat we eat which could also help to reduce our intakes of fat and saturated fat. Canned tuna in brine or springwater typically contains just 0.1g saturated fat.

I talk to lots of people about why they don’t eat enough fish and find that many don’t like preparing or cooking it, and avoid it for that reason. Canned fish is already cooked and prepared so can be eaten straight from the can, minimising the mess and the time needed to prepare.

This makes it an excellent source of ‘fast’ food – for example, just add your favourite canned fish to seeded toast and sliced tomatoes for a more balanced meal in seconds. In addition to being speedy, affordable and nutritious, canned fish is versatile and can be used in a huge variety of dishes.

Our favourites at home include jacket potato with tuna and salad, tuna pasta bake, and mackerel paté on toast, whilst my boys go crazy for homemade salmon burgers and salmon fishcakes.

Canning is a safe method of preserving food7, which makes canned fish a fantastic end-of-week savior when the fridge is looking a bit bare, and it doesn’t mean that the lack of a supermarket shop compromises your family’s diet.

Did you know that canned fish has a typical shelf life of between 3 and 5 years, much longer than frozen fish8? This is because the canning process kills off bugs that cause food to spoil and also creates a vacuum, which limits the nutrients being oxidized and lost9. The food stays safe for a long time, which helps minimise waste and means it’s there when you need it.

Whether it’s salmon, mackerel or tuna, add your favourite to some canned tomatoes, dried pasta or rice, and sprinkle in some dried herbs and some frozen veg for a delicious oven-baked family meal.

There is no better time to start introducing more fish into your family’s diets than now. Pop a few cans of fish like mackerel, salmon or tuna into your trolley this week.

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Lucy Jones
So good. So simple.