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The Heart and Stroke Foundation says the most common non-perishable donations are often the least nutritious. ((Jim Young/Reuters))

The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation has developed a Food Bank Wish List, a guide that suggests healthy options people can consider when making donations to food banks.

"We know there's a strong link between healthy eating and risk for heart disease and stroke," said Christine Roherty, the health promotion co-ordinator for the foundation's New Brunswick chapter.

The most common non-perishable donations are often the least nutritious, she said.

"Boxed pastas, or the rice or the pasta side dishes that might be high in sodium, or maybe they're donating foods that are packed in sugar, syrup or that have lots of sodium added to them.

"So there are definitely better choices," she said.

The foundation partnered with the New Brunswick Association of Food Banks to develop the list, said Roherty, who is also a registered dietician.

Protein sources, such as peanut butter and canned fish packed in water make good choices, she said.

"Also too, legumes, beans, peas and lentils — those are great healthy choices that we don't think about when we're necessarily getting foods ready to donate to places like the food bank."

The list also encourages whole grain products, such as granola bars, and oatmeal, as well as fresh items, such as eggs, milk, fruit, vegetables, meat and bread.

"I think unfortunately the reality is that the people who are accessing food banks don't necessarily have a lot of choice when it comes to the foods that they're buying or they're able to buy and so they go to the food bank to kind of supplement what is sort of left over a the end of the month for their food bill," said Roherty.

"So we're hoping that they will eat these foods obviously, or perhaps even try them and realize they're not so bad."