It's Back to the Basics: Americans Find Affordable Foods Already in Pantry

Apr 06, 2009, 09:00 ET from National Fisheries Institute's Tuna Council

National Survey Finds Canned Tuna a Cupboard Staple in Most Households

WASHINGTON, April 6 /PRNewswire/ -- More and more American families are getting back to the basics in a variety of ways, including their choice of foods. But a return to familiar and affordable foods doesn't have to mean sacrificing nutrition or variety.


Sometimes cutting back on grocery bills is as easy as preparing the foods most families keep stocked in the kitchen pantry. According to a recent National Fisheries Institute survey, more than four out of five (86 percent) U.S. adults usually keep cans or pouches of tuna in the house at any given time. More than half (56 percent) of adults have at least three cans or pouches of tuna on hand, and one in four (25 percent) usually keep five or more cans or pouches of tuna at home(1). With tuna already stocked on so many household shelves, families have a versatile lean protein ingredient ready to make a variety of modern-day dishes.

"A return to basic whole foods can be a healthful change in the way families shop," said registered dietitian and seafood blogger, Jennifer McGuire. "In addition to canned fruits and vegetables and whole grains like rice and pasta, I always keep plenty of canned seafood like tuna on hand."

While tuna is well-known for being rich in healthful omega-3s, many Americans may not realize how many other important nutrients are found naturally in tuna. In the survey, 45 percent of adults said that to them, omega-3 fatty acids are the most important nutrient found in tuna. However, only 14 percent of adults said this about lean protein. Other key nutrients such as B vitamins, potassium and magnesium were mentioned by even fewer adults as the most important nutrient found in tuna to them.

"Seafood like tuna is one of the healthiest, yet most under-consumed sources of lean protein," said McGuire. "According to a University of Delaware survey on consumer perceptions about seafood, more than three-fourths of U.S. adults don't eat seafood at least twice per week. Doctors and dietitians like me say that's the goal, so I keep an online journal at to show people just what plenty of seafood looks like in an RD's real-life diet. It's also a great resource for recipe ideas."

Interestingly enough, the National Fisheries Institute survey found one of the most popular ways to eat tuna is with a "crunch." Those who have eaten a tuna fish sandwich say the most common additions to tuna, beyond mayo (73 percent), include onions (41 percent), lettuce (40 percent), celery (27 percent) or pickles (25 percent). Naturally, people's tastes vary. More than one in ten adults who have eaten a tuna fish sandwich put potato chips (12 percent) on tuna sandwiches, and slightly more like mustard (15 percent) with tuna. About 1 percent like to put tuna on their pizza. Whether adding crunch to a tuna sandwich or using tuna as a topping, it's simple to use what is already in the cupboard to make delicious meals.

Additional survey findings include:

  • While about one-fourth (24 percent) of those who eat tuna sandwiches only eat it as sandwiches, three-fourths (76 percent) like to eat tuna in other ways, such as in a salad (28 percent), dip (9 percent) or casserole or pasta dishes (40 percent).
  • One in six (17 percent) adults who have ever eaten a tuna fish sandwich like to eat tuna right out of the can or pouch.
  • More than four out of five (83 percent) adults ever make tuna sandwiches, and among those who do, more than half (57 percent) make at least one each month and more than one in 10 (13 percent) make tuna sandwiches at least once a week.

For a variety of innovative and creative recipes, along with other information related to tuna, visit

About the Study

This Tuna Fish survey was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the National Fisheries Institute. All data collection was done online within the United States between December 19 and December 23, 2008 among 2,144 adults ages 18+, of whom 2,036 have ever eaten a tuna fish sandwich. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Lauren Smaron.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is a global leader in custom market research. With a long and rich history in multimodal research that is powered by our science and technology, we assist clients in achieving business results. Harris Interactive serves clients globally through our North American, European and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms. For more information, please visit

About Jennifer McGuire

Jennifer McGuire, a registered dietitian, seafood expert and passionate foodie, is Manager of Nutrition Communication at the National Fisheries Institute (NFI). In her role, Jennifer McGuire enjoys writing, talking and educating about seafood. Prior to joining NFI, McGuire worked on the Nutrition Communication Team at PMK Public Relations in Alexandria, VA, and the Weight Management Team at The Cooper Institute in Dallas. She has contributed nutrition articles to the 5-A-Day Program as well as Balance, the Tufts Daily nutrition section. McGuire earned her undergraduate degree in Communication from Southwestern University and her Master's of Science (MS) in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University in Boston. McGuire discusses all of her favorite seafood topics on her blog at

About The National Fisheries Institute's Tuna Council

The National Fisheries Institute's (NFI) Tuna Council, previously known as the U.S. Tuna Foundation, is dedicated to educating American families about canned tuna safety, sustainability and nutrition. Visit for additional information.

(1) Charts available for all survey statistics upon request

SOURCE National Fisheries Institute's Tuna Council