12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (2024)

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When it comes to convenient protein sources, canned tuna easily takes the gold. Whether you're making a quick tuna salad, sandwich, or casserole, having canned tuna in your pantry is a staple. But not all canned tuna on the market is created equal, with some of the best brands having much better nutritional values and sustainability practices than other popular options.

We spoke to dietitians and nutrition experts to help you navigate the sea of options, highlighting the best canned tunas for taste, quality, sourcing, and nutritional value. Plus, we'll point out the ones you might want to avoid. Get ready to make informed choices and elevate your tuna game.

Choosing the Best Canned Tuna

When shopping for healthy canned tuna brands, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Tuna Species: Choose based on flavor and texture—white albacore for a milder taste, yellowfin or skipjack for a bolder flavor.
  • Oil vs. Water: Decide if you prefer oil-packed for richness or water-packed for a lighter, lower-calorie option.
  • Sustainability: Look for certifications like MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) or Dolphin-Safe, and prioritize brands using sustainable fishing practices.
  • Quality: Opt for brands with sustainable practices, check the "best by" date, and avoid dented or swollen cans. Look for BPA-free cans.

Light Tuna vs. White Tuna

The terms "white" and "light" refer to different tuna species.

"White" tuna, or albacore, is larger, milder in flavor, and firmer in texture. It's lighter in color and richer in taste, making it ideal for dishes requiring a meatier texture, such as tuna steaks or salads.

Light tuna, usually skipjack or yellowfin, is darker, has a stronger flavor, and softer texture. It's often more affordable and is great for recipes needing a bold tuna taste, such as in sandwiches and casseroles.

Both types are excellent sources of lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and essential vitamins and minerals. Your choice depends on personal preference, recipe use, and budget.

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Oil-Packed vs. Water-Packed

Canned tuna is packaged in one of two ways: in oil or in water.

As the name suggests, oil-packed tuna is canned with vegetable or olive oil. This method helps preserve the tuna's flavor and texture while providing a rich, moist product. Fat-soluble vitamins and the tuna's nutrition are also preserved here. The oil enhances the taste and adds a lusciousness to the fish. However, oil-packed tuna tends to have a higher calorie count.

Water-packed tuna is canned with water, typically with a small amount of salt or broth added for flavor. This method results in a lighter and more natural taste, allowing the singular flavor of the tuna to shine through. Water-packed tuna is often preferred by individuals watching their calorie or fat intake, as it generally has fewer calories and less fat than oil-packed tuna.

When choosing between oil-packed and water-packed tuna, consider your preferences regarding taste, texture, and dietary needs. Oil-packed tuna may be more suitable for recipes that benefit from the richness of the oil, such as pasta dishes or salads, while water-packed tuna can be a healthier option for those looking to reduce their fat intake or enjoy a simple, more straightforward tuna flavor.

Sustainable Fishing Practices

The method of catching tuna is a big deal for sustainability. Pole and line fishing and trolling are two highly sustainable methods that ensure other species don't get caught in the mix. Poll and line means exactly what you think fishing means: one person with a pole. Trolling uses a boat with a few poles. Avoid the general term "line caught," which can mean the company uses other methods that sound safe but are not as sustainable—like long line fishing.

Mercury in Tuna

The mercury content of tuna is a concern, especially for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children. In high amounts in the diet, mercury can adversely affect the nervous system, including brain development in infants and young children.

Different species of tuna contain varying levels of mercury. Generally, larger and longer-lived tuna species, such as albacore, bluefin, and bigeye, tend to accumulate higher levels of mercury in their tissues.

It's important to note that the health benefits of consuming fish, such as the omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, and protein they contain, should also be taken into account.The FDA recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women eat 8 to 12 ounces of lower-mercury fish each week, balancing the nutritional benefits and potential risks.

4 Safest Canned Tuna Brands

    The Healthiest Canned Tuna Brands You Can Buy

    By following these guidelines, you can make the best choices for your health and the environment. Enjoy your next canned tuna dish with confidence with the help of these dietitian-approved brands.

    Wild Planet Albacore Wild Tuna

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (1)

    Per 3-ounce serving: 110 calories, 2.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 21 g protein

    Kelsey Kunik, RDN, owner of Graciously Nourished, shares why she recommend this product: "Wild Planet tuna tastes amazing and is lower in mercury than other brands, thanks to the sustainable practices they implement like pole and line fishing and only using specific species and sizes of tuna."

    Similarly, Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook, endorses Wild Planet. She says, "I second Wild Planet Albacore Tuna because the tuna is hand-packed with no water, oil, or filler added and it's cooked inside the can so all of the omega 3 fatty acids are retained with an average of 705 milligrams of EPA/DHA omega-3's per serving! The liquid you see when you open the can is the omega-3s so no draining is needed."

    American Tuna

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (2)

    Per 2-ounce serving: 100 calories, 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 25 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 16 g protein

    Renowned for their pole and line caught products and dedication to ocean conservation, American Tuna has received commendable ratings from Greenpeace. With a traceability system that ensures transparency from sea to can, the brand's origin lies in the collaboration of six pole and line fishing families.

    In addition to their commitment to sustainability, the brand offers a diverse range of flavors, including options like brick-smoked and jalapeño, catering to various culinary preferences. Notably, this brand takes pride in its superior nutritional profile, boasting the highest omega-3 content among other tuna brands.

    Safe Catch Elite Pure Wild Tuna

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (3)

    Per 3-ounce serving: 110 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 24 g protein

    "Safe Catch Elite Wild Tuna tests every tuna that is canned, ensuring that the mercury content is lower than what the FDA deems safe. it is sustainably caught, and it is one of the official tunas of the American Pregnancy Association. The brand claims that Safe Catch Elite is the tuna that is the lowest in mercury compared to other brands available," shares Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD.

    Fishwife Albacore Tuna in Olive Oil

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (4)

    Per can, drained: 190 calories, 13 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 270 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 17 g protein

    Fishwife Albacore Tuna in Olive Oil offers a top-tier tuna experience. The albacore, caught in the Bay of Biscay using hook-and-line methods, is harvested during the prime fishing season from June to August to ensure the best quality. This Marine Stewardship Council-certified tuna is then packed in a traditional Spanish cannery that has been refining its artisanal canning process since 1869. Each tin is hand-packed with Spanish olive oil and a touch of salt, enhancing the tuna's natural flavors and providing a rich, satisfying taste.

    Tonnino Tuna Filets in Spring Water

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (5)

    Per 2-ounce serving: 50 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 14 g protein

    Tonnino Tuna, a premium gourmet offering hailing from Costa Rica, delivers an exceptional experience compared to conventional canned tuna. Presented in beautiful glass jars, it is available in water or olive oil and offers a range of tantalizing flavors like garlic, capers, and jalapeño.

    The brand exclusively sources its tuna from vessels registered with CIATT, a conservation-focused group that ensures the preservation of resources. On-board observers guarantee that no species other than tuna are caught, reflecting the brand's commitment to responsible fishing practices.

    Scout Wild White Albacore Tuna

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (6)

    Per can: 240 calories, 20 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 350 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 15 g protein

    Scout's albacore tuna is wild-caught between Oregon and British Columbia. It is naturally low in mercury, high in protein (30 grams per can), and rich in Omega-3s.

    Scout's now offers a Seafood Snack Kit that simplifies the experience of enjoying premium, sustainable seafood. Each kit pairs yellowfin tuna with a crunchy topper inspired by trending international taste profiles, including Chili Crisp, Chili Jalapeño, and Za'atar. Scout Seafood Snack Kits come complete with a mixing bowl and spork for about 30 grams of protein on the go.

    Ocean Naturals Skipjack Chunk Light Tuna in Water

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (7)

    Per 2-ounce serving: 60 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 180 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 15 g protein

    Recognized with a "green" label rating from Greenpeace, this international tuna company prioritizes responsible fishing practices and maintains a commitment to transparency.

    Ocean Naturals sets an example by clearly indicating the specific fish species used in each product, and their ingredient list remains minimal, consisting only of fish, salt, water, or olive oil. Notably, their skipjack tuna provides an impressive 230 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per serving. Moreover, their light meat tuna solely comprises 100% skipjack, avoiding the use of multiple species to protect those that are endangered.

    365 Everyday Value Albacore Wild Tuna in Water

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (8)

    Per 4-ounce serving: 170 calories, 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 310 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 27 g protein

    With a firm commitment to responsible sourcing, Whole Foods' private label emphasizes strong traceability measures. Notably, Whole Foods holds the distinction of being the first US retailer to pledge the sale of exclusively 100% sustainable-canned tuna. Their albacore tuna in water is a highly recommended choice, especially for those seeking a low-sodium option.

    Trader Joe's Chunk Light Skipjack Tuna

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (9)

    Per pouch: 90 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 22 g protein

    "Trader Joe's Chunk Light Skipjack Tuna is my top choice for an affordable and high-quality tuna option. It mixes seamlessly to make the perfect tuna salad. This option also offers a healthy balance of omega-3s, while being low in mercury and arsenic levels," explains Kristin Draayer, MS, RDN.

    Blue Harbor Fish Co. Wild Albacore

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (10)

    Per 4.6-ounce can: 150 calories, 2 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 360 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 32 g protein

    "I'm a fan of the Blue Harbor Fish Company's albacore tuna in water. This brand ensures they are using sustainable practices. They also use wild-caught over farm-raised tuna, which has more omega-3s. Lastly, they do not have any added salt to the fish," says Nicole Ibarra, RD.

    Chicken of the Sea Chunk Light in Water

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (11)

    Per 5-ounce can: 100 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 320 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 23 g protein

    Chicken of the Sea's website highlights its sustainable fishing commitments, which are now certified through the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The brand does provide a lower-sodium variant if you are mindful of your sodium intake.

    Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD tells us why she enjoys Chicken of the Sea: "It's responsibly sourced, affordable, and has several options. I like that it's available in pouches, and there's no can opener needed at lunch," says Andrews.

    Good & Gather Chunk Light Tuna in Water

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (12)

    Per can: 110 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 360 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 20 g protein

    The Target brand recently switched its sourcing and commitment to sustainable fishing practices. Now recognized by the Marine Sustainability Council, Good & Gather's Chunk Light Tuna boasts the MSC seal-of-approval. However, this particular tuna exhibits significantly higher sodium levels (360 milligrams) compared to the other tunas mentioned in this list.

    The Worst Canned Tuna You Can Buy

    Worst: Bumble Bee Solid White Albacore in Vegetable Oil

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (13)

    Per can: 130 calories, 1 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 320 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 29 g protein

    It's important to be cautious about the brand's claims of responsible fishing. Although they state their products are sustainably sourced, Greenpeace has warned against Bumblebee's deceptive practices. It's worth noting that the CEO previously faced conviction for price fixing, and the company has been accused of potential human rights and animal rights violations.

    Despite their previous reputation, they are working together with the Global Sustainable Seafood Institute to become certifiably sustainable by 2025. This means that they have to meet the external standards set by the Institute to comply with the qualities of a sustainable fishery.

    Worst: Kirkland Albacore Solid White Tuna in Water

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (14)

    Per can: 190 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 340 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 42 g protein

    The tuna brand available at Costco is sourced from albacore tuna caught using destructive longline fishing methods, resulting in a significant bycatch of endangered species. Although Costco previously offered a responsibly caught alternative under its signature brand, it is no longer available.

    Worst: StarKist Chunk Light Tuna

    12 Best Canned Tunas on Grocery Shelves, and 3 To Avoid (15)

    Per can: 70 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 320 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 16 g protein

    Starkist tuna faces criticism for its sustainability practices for several reasons. The primary concern is the brand's fishing method. Starkist has been associated with using methods such as purse seining (or netting) and longline fishing—which involves setting long lines with numerous hooks that can result in high levels of bycatch and is a method that can lead to the unintended fishing of endangered marine life.

    Moreover, Starkist's transparency and traceability of its supply chain are called into question. It lacks comprehensive information about its sourcing and does not hold third-party certifications for sustainable fishing practices, both of which contribute to concerns about the brand's genuine interest in sustainability efforts.

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    This story has been updated to include additional entries, fact-checking, and copy-editing.

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