Optavia is a popular diet program that emphasizes eating packaged meals and shakes to help promote weight loss. The diet recommends limiting non-Optavia foods, but does make allowances for some “lean and green” meals using fresh vegetables. However, it’s not always clear whether canned veggies can also fit into an Optavia eating plan.
What is Optavia?
Optavia is a weight loss program developed by the company Medifast. It focuses on eating pre-packaged Optavia fuelings, which include shakes, bars, soups, oatmeal, and more. The idea is that by eating mostly Optavia products, you can control calories and portions more easily.
In addition to the packaged products, Optavia also recommends eating one “lean and green” meal per day. This meal contains 5-7 ounces of lean protein plus three servings of non-starchy vegetables. The vegetables can be fresh, frozen, or canned with no added sauces or sugars.
So while Optavia limits overall vegetable intake, there is room to incorporate veggies in the daily lean and green meal. But it’s not completely clear whether canned varieties are allowed or not.
Benefits of canned vegetables
Canned vegetables offer some benefits that may make them a convenient choice for Optavia dieters:
Long shelf life
Unlike fresh produce, canned vegetables are shelf-stable and safe to eat for 1-2 years when stored properly. This makes them easy to stock up on without worrying about spoilage. Having canned veggies on hand can help Optavia dieters stick to the lean and green guidelines when fresh veggies aren’t available.
Canned vegetables tend to cost less per serving than their fresh or frozen counterparts. Choosing canned veggies can help save money for those following the Optavia program.
Canned vegetables come cleaned, chopped, and pre-cooked. This saves time in meal prepping lean and green meals. Optavia dieters can quickly assemble canned veggies instead of chopping and cooking them from scratch.
Some key nutrients like potassium, folate, and vitamin K are higher in canned veggies compared to frozen or fresh that have been stored for awhile. The canning process helps lock in these heat-sensitive vitamins.
Downsides of canned vegetables
However, there are some drawbacks to canned produce that may make them less than ideal for the Optavia diet:
High sodium content
To help preserve canned vegetables, salt is added during the canning process. This can result in a much higher sodium content than fresh or frozen vegetables. Too much sodium goes against Optavia’s guidelines for lean, low-sodium meals.
Added sugars or syrups
Some canned veggies contain added sugars or are packed in syrups rather than water. Sweetened or syrup-packed options would not align with the Optavia goal of reducing sugars for weight loss. Dieters would need to stick to low-sodium, no added sugar vegetable varieties.
Lower fiber content
The canning process tends to lower the natural fiber content of vegetables. Since Optavia limits overall vegetable intake, this means canned varieties may provide less satiating fiber than their fresh counterparts.
Loss of certain nutrients
Heat and pressure from canning can destroy or leach out certain vitamins and antioxidants like vitamin C and polyphenols. This may reduce the nutritional value compared to fresh veggies.
While they technically fall into the vegetable category, canned veggies are still considered a non-official Optavia product. The company may prefer dieters stick to Optavia-branded fuels and fresh produce for maximum results.
Tips for choosing canned vegetables on Optavia
If you do opt for canned vegetables as part of your daily lean and green meal, here are some tips for making the healthiest choices:
– Seek out no salt added or low sodium vegetable varieties. Rinsing canned veggies before eating can further reduce excess sodium.
– Avoid vegetables packed in syrup, which add unnecessary sugars. Go for options in water or reduced sodium vegetable broth.
– Compare nutrition labels and choose products with higher fiber content per serving.
– Select smaller cans to control portion sizes. Stick to just 3 servings or around one cup per lean and green meal.
– Look for vegetables without added starches, sugars, oils or other thickeners.
– Prioritize vegetables that provide key nutrients like tomatoes, spinach, pumpkin, carrots, and green beans.
– If using higher sodium canned veggies, balance them out by including fresh or frozen produce too.
Optavia-approved canned vegetables
According to Optavia’s guidelines, the following canned vegetables would be appropriate for a lean and green meal:
Look for low sodium or reduced sodium green beans. Rinse before using. Avoid any with added sauces or alfredo-style preparations.
Opt for low sodium or no salt added varieties. Watch out for added sugars or syrups.
Choose no salt added or low sodium diced, crushed, or whole tomatoes in juice or water. Avoid seasoned tomato varieties.
Plain canned mushrooms with low or no added sodium are Optavia-friendly. Skip creamed mushroom soups or prepared mushroom gravies.
Plain low sodium canned beets make a good option. Stay away from pickled beets or sweetened varieties.
Look for low sodium or no salt added canned spinach. Drain and rinse before eating to remove more sodium.
Opt for water-packed artichoke hearts without added seasonings or oils. Leftover liquid may be used in vinaigrettes.
Lean protein options to pair with canned vegetables
To complete your lean and green meal, canned veggies should be accompanied by 5-7 ounces of lean protein:
Skinless chicken or turkey breast
Choose boneless, skinless cuts or ground breast meat. Prepare simply by baking, grilling, or sautéing in a small amount of olive oil.
Fish like salmon, cod, or tilapia
Opt for plain preparations like baked, grilled, or blackened seasoning. Avoid breaded or fried fish.
Shellfish such as shrimp, scallops, crab, or lobster
Prepare shellfish simply without heavy sauces or batters. Shrimp and scallops work well grilled or sautéed.
Lean beef cuts like sirloin or 93% lean ground beef
Stick to leaner cuts of beef prepared without added oils or fatty sauces. Steak can be grilled or broiled.
While not a traditional protein, eggs are allowed. Prepare them without added fat by poaching, boiling, or scrambling in cooking spray.
Plant-based proteins like tofu, tempeh, or edamame
Look for plain unflavored varieties without a lot of added sodium or seasonings.
Beans or lentils
Plain canned varieties like black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, or lentils make good plant-based proteins for lean and green meals.
Sample lean and green meals with canned vegetables
Here are a few meal ideas combining approved canned veggies with lean proteins:
Tuna salad stuffed tomatoes
– No salt added canned diced tomatoes
– 5 ounces canned tuna packed in water
– 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
– 1 teaspoon olive oil mayo
– Unlimited herbs and spices
Southwestern chicken skillet
– 3 ounces canned no salt black beans, drained and rinsed
– 5 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast, diced
– 1 cup low sodium corn
– 1/2 cup no salt added canned diced tomatoes
– 1/4 cup chopped onion
– Taco seasoning
– 2 teaspoons olive oil
Citrus spinach shrimp bowls
– 2 cups low sodium canned spinach, drained and rinsed
– 5 ounces peeled raw shrimp
– 1 tablespoon orange juice
– 1 teaspoon lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon olive oil
– Unlimited citrus zest, black pepper, red pepper flakes
Asian salmon & snap peas
– 1 cup low sodium canned snap peas
– 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
– 5 ounces grilled salmon
– Unlimited fresh ginger, crushed garlic, sesame oil
Mediterranean chickpea salad
– 1 cup low sodium canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
– 1/2 cup low sodium canned artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
– 5 ounces grilled chicken breast, chopped
– 2 tablespoons lemon juice
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– Unlimited fresh herbs like parsley or mint
Optavia shakes, bars, soups, and snacks to balance canned vegetable meals
In addition to one lean and green meal, the rest of your daily Optavia fuelings should come from the company’s prepared products. Here are some Optavia items that can help complete your diet when pairing canned veggies:
Optimal Health Strawberry Shake
Chocolate Delight Nutritional Shake
Vanilla Chai Nutritional Shake
Mocha Delight Nutritional Shake
Chocolate Brownie Nutrition Bar
Peanut Butter Granola Nutrition Bar
Chocolate Crisp Nutrition Bar
Oatmeal Raisin Nutrition Bar
Southwest Style Chicken Soup
Broccoli & Cheese Soup
Chicken Noodle Soup
Dark Chocolate Nutrition Bar
Trail Mix Nutrition Bar
Cinnamon Roll Nutrition Bar
Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Square
Potential downsides of canned vegetables on Optavia
While canned vegetables can fit into the Optavia diet, there are some potential downsides to consider:
Fresh veggies offer more filling fiber. With Optavia limiting overall vegetable intake, the lower fiber in canned varieties may leave some people feeling hungry.
It can be tricky to find low sodium canned veggies for Optavia’s guidelines. Even with rinsing, sodium content may still be high.
Not as nutritious
Some vitamin and mineral content degrades during the canning process. Fresh or frozen vegetables may be more nutrient-dense.
Many canned products contain preservatives, thickeners, sweeteners, and other additives you’d avoid on Optavia. This makes it extra important to read labels.
Portion control challenges
It can be easy to overeat if draining and rinsing canned veggies. Measuring servings helps avoid excess portions.
Name brand low sodium and no salt added canned veggies sometimes cost more than regular canned varieties or fresh produce.
Canned vegetables can work within the Optavia program guidelines when chosen carefully and combined with lean proteins. Sticking to low sodium, no sugar added varieties supports Optavia’s goals of reducing calories, carbs, and sodium.
However, most dietitians recommend emphasizing fresh or frozen vegetables as much as possible for their higher nutrient content. Canned produce may be viewed as more of an occasional convenience option rather than a staple. Moderation and variety are key when incorporating any canned vegetables into your Optavia plan.