Spring is upon us and I know you are anxious to get started on all of that spring cleaning you have to do (wink, wink). Why not get a jump start on spring cleaning by purging all of the unhealthy, processed or even expired food from your pantry? Seems like a GREAT place to start, right?
If you are serious about getting healthy this year, you MUST take a cold, hard look at what is readily available in your home when it comes to food. How you stock your pantry can either set you up for success or sabotage your healthy-eating efforts.
In order to properly purge, we must take a good look at each item and their ingredients lists. I’ve put together a list of the foods to toss or donate, and the staples to stock up on.
TOSS OUT OR DONATE
Expired Goods Healthy or not, expired foods in your pantry may not be safe to eat. Instead of just tossing them into the trash, empty the food contents into a compost bucket or down the drain and recycle the packaging. If you come across an item that’s just recently passed it’s eat-by date, leave it out on the counter instead of putting it back in the pantry and plan a meal to use it up by week’s end.
Items With Trans Fats Look at the list of ingredients. If you see a type of oil preceded by the words “partially hydrogenated,” you’ve got trans fat on your hands. (For example: “partially hydrogenated soybean oil.”) If a product has less than 0.5g per serving, food manufacturers aren’t required to list it on the Nutrition Facts label, but that doesn’t mean the food doesn’t contain it. Some common trans fat-filled foods include: microwave popcorn, shortening, cake mixes and frostings, pancake and waffle mixes, non-dairy creamers, packaged cookies, chips, crackers, processed meat sticks, some canned chilis, packaged puddings, gelatins and SO much more!
Foods Loaded With Added Sugar Foods high in added sugar are also adding to your waistline. Again, look at the ingredient list. If sugar is one of the first few ingredients – GET RID OF IT! Some of the usual culprits include breakfast cereals and pastries, packaged desserts, baking mixes, packaged pudding, granola bars, fruit snacks, canned fruit, and even some dried fruits and packaged nuts. Also, be aware of the way manufacturers label sugar nowadays. They have become quite creative in the naming department. Check out the list of misleading names for sugar, here.
Items That Contain Yellow #5 & #6, Blue #1 & #2, Red #3 & #40 Artificial colors have been linked to cancers, ADD in children and thyroid issues. We see no reason to take a risk—there’s not a pudding, cereal, candy or condiment in the world that’s worth it. Again, be sure to check that ingredient list and purge anything with artificial colors. If it has artificial colors, chances are it has a whole mess of other scientifically engineered ingredients, so it’s in your best interest to get it out of your house ASAP!
Foods With Sodium Nitrite or Sodium Nitrate Under certain conditions, sodium nitrite and nitrate react with amino acids to form cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are used in the manufacture of some cosmetics, pesticides and in most rubber products. YIKES! This is the last thing you need to worry about, so make sure these foods are nowhere to be found in your home. Foods such as, some bacon (I know, I’m sorry), sausage, hot dogs, and cured, canned and packaged meat.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) Studies have shown that MSG injected into mice causes brain-cell damage and to make matters worse, it also blocks the “I’m full” hormone from communicating with the brain and tells your body to pump out insulin, the fat-storage hormone—not good news for those looking to melt their love handles. Some of the main culprits for MSG include, certain chilis, soups, chips and foods with chicken or beef flavoring. (If you need canned soup, make sure to buy organic or make your own.)
Refined Grains Traditional cous cous, white rice, white pasta—all of these grain-based items have been stripped of nutrition through processing and provide little more than refined carbohydrates. Donate these items to a local food pantry or if you prefer to use them up, incorporate them into a meal with plenty of vegetables and legumes and buy better next time.
Salty Snacks, Soups and Sauces Much like desserts, salty foods are okay once in a while. But having a cabinet full of them is asking for trouble—especially if you have high blood pressure or have been told to cut back on sodium. Food manufacturers add salt mainly for two reasons: our tastebuds love the stuff and it acts as a preservative. When it comes to foods like nuts, soups and sauces, opt for the low-sodium version—you can always add a little more if needed, which is still usually less than the amount found in the regular version.
Packaged Drink Mixes Lemonade packets, kool-aid mixes, instant cocoa, and grocery store teas contain things like aspartame, natural flavors (we all know what that means), artificial colors and flavors, added sugars and a whole mess of other ingredients you can’t even pronounce. Replace these sugary beverages with 100% Pure Oolong Tea and not only save your body some calories, but rev up your metabolism, lower your cholesterol, increase your energy and mental clarity, and boost your immune system while you’re at it!
Canned or Dried Beans Beans are incredibly versatile and can give meals and snacks a boost of protein and fiber. With just a handful of additional ingredients beans can be whipped up into spreads or dips, like homemade hummus, a quick vegetarian chili, bean burger patties, soups and more.
Whole Grains Replace your stash of white, refined grains with more nutritious and fiber-rich whole grains. I always have a stash of whole wheat pasta, brown rice, barley, and whole wheat cous cous in my pantry. I also keep healthy breakfast grains like old fashioned or steel cut oats and wheat bran on hand to sprinkle onto yogurt and fresh fruit.
Packaged Protein Canned tuna and salmon are great sources of protein (and calcium too, in salmon’s case) and can quickly be turned into a number of nutritious meals for a busy weeknight dinner or last minute lunches.
Nuts and Seeds Walnuts, almonds, pecans—whatever type of nut you prefer, are all good sources of healthy fats, protein and fiber. Vacuum packed bags will maximize shelf life. When choosing nut or seed butters, keep in mind that the healthiest ones have the fewest ingredients—just nuts and maybe some salt. Because natural nut butters don’t contain shelf-stable trans fats or preservatives, be sure to check the label to see if they should be refrigerated after opening.
Variety of Herbs and Spices Great for enhancing flavor without adding sodium. Lately herbs and spices have also been making headlines for their powerful antioxidant abilities.
Healthy Snacks and Treats Dark chocolate, air-popped popcorn and certain granola bars are more nutritious than cookies and candy. A small square of chocolate can quickly take the edge off of that sweet tooth and the crunchiness and little bit of salt in the air-popped popcorn can satisfy your salt craving. Certain granola bars can make a great snack or a quick grab-and-go breakfast, just look at the ingredient labels and choose ones that provide the most fiber and least amount of sugar and other additives.
100% PURE Oolong Tea So many of the grocery store teas have added fillers and harmful chemicals and pesticides. Stay away from all of these and do your body a favor by drinking pesticide-free, one ingredient, 100% PURE oolong tea. By getting rid of the cheap grocery store teas, you will begin to feel better and more vibrant by adding PURE Oolong Tea into your daily routine. (Learn all about the harmful ingredients in most grocery store teas and popular tea brands.)
When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, you have to be aware of what you are eating to fuel your body. It really makes a difference in your success if the “bad foods” are nowhere to be found when you’re reaching for a snack or coming up with a recipe for dinner. When restocking your pantry, always remember to read the ingredient labels and try to mainly shop for whole foods to keep your diet clean and free from disease-causing additives.
Have you recently purged your pantry? What was the most appalling thing you found? Let me know in the comments below!
Yours in Health & Happiness,