Get Fresh with a Clean Pantry
Want to lose weight or consume an overall healthy diet? Your pantry can either help or hinder your healthy eating goals. In order to stack the odds of being successful in your favor, it is essential to stock your pantry full of healthy, delicious foods. Creating a healthy pantry can be easy. Here are some steps you can take to get started:
Step One: Throw away the empty calories and overly processed foods high in sugar, fat and salt
Foods such as chips, candy, soda, and cookies are considered “empty calories”. They are high in fat and/or sugar and very limited in other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Many of these foods are also considered “trigger” foods for many people. A “trigger” food is considered any food that people find difficult to eat in moderation and contribute to overeating. If you have a hard time getting rid of all the sweets in your pantry then consider keeping some healthier options on hand such as dark chocolate or homemade baked goods and consume these foods in moderation. Make sure to read food labels before buying food for the pantry and buy in bulk when possible. Eliminate any foods with trans fats on the label or hydrogenated oils listed in the ingredients.
Step Two: purchase containers and food jars for easy food storage and organization
Stop by the local home store or supermarket and find some containers with tight fitting lids. These containers can be used to store flour, seeds, nuts and spices and when organized correctly can make them easy to find and use. This will also help your foods stay fresh longer and limit risk of contamination.
Step Three: Buy healthy staple foods that are good to have on hand
Some healthy staple foods include whole grain flour, whole wheat pasta, nuts, seeds, low sodium canned foods, dried beans, healthy oils, canned fruit packed in water or juice, low sodium vegetable soups, canned tuna and salmon, chicken broth and healthy snack items such as dried fruit and whole grain crackers. Keep food items on hand that can be easily made into a healthy meal or snack such as brown rice and beans or tuna fish and crackers.
Step Four: Go beyond the pantry!
Clean out and re-stock the fridge and freezer as well. Stocking the freezer with frozen fruits and vegetables instead of ice cream and frozen meals will ensure that healthy food is always at your fingertips. Make sure that you create a weekly meal plan and shop for fresh produce, lean meats and fish, and low-fat dairy to fill your fridge. Re-organize your fridge so these healthy foods are front and center. Make sure to get rid of outdated foods and remember- if in doubt, throw it out!
Step Five: Organize!
Organize the pantry by category and put similar foods together so that it is easy to find what you are looking for. You may need to purchase some additional organization tools such as baskets or shelf organizers.
Katie Kissane, MS, RD