Sometimes the thought of making a home-cooked meal seems exhausting. You open up the cupboard and see an overflowing mess of canned goods, boxes of half-eaten crackers, and packages of noodles that are “who-knows” how old. You, and the rest of the family, are starving so you need to get something edible on the table, and fast! One of two things is likely to happen;
1. You grab the first thing you see, a cup of instant noodles, and call it a meal or
2. You abandon the idea altogether and order takeout. Neither of these options are a great way to keep your body happy and healthy.
Many people shed off their winter woes by engaging in a “spring cleaning” during this time of year. A deep cleaning of your house, cars, drawers, or yard helps to enliven the spirit and simplify your life. These periods of cleansing help to minimize clutter and refocus a person on their true goals, which is why a spring cleaning of the kitchen cupboards can be especially helpful. Getting rid of the things in your cupboard that are unhealthy, expired, unwanted, or even just less desirable can help you simplify your dinner routine. Looking at cupboards stuffed to the brim with packages and cans can make anyone want to give up and run for the takeout menu. It can also hide the delicious ingredients you do want to use!
Here is a five step guide to helping you do a little cleansing of your pantries so that the bad stuff quits being a temptation and the good stuff stays front and center.
1. If it contains high fructose corn syrup, throw it out.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that if an item contains high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) it’s highly processed. You might be surprised to see everything it’s snuck into from jars of marinara sauce, condiments, crackers, even bread! Many of these foods you wouldn’t even think to be a source of sugar in your diet! All this extra sugar adds up and wreaks havoc on your hormones. Instead, buy a jar of local honey or pure maple syrup, natural sweeteners that can be added in small amounts to foods. When you are in control of “what” and “how much” goes into your dishes, your body benefits.
1. Replace everything that isn’t whole grain with healthier options.
Pasta, rice-a-roni, hamburger helper, instant noodles, even some soups can contain a lot of overly processed flours. Instead, stock up on the real thing! Buy bags of oats, whole wheat berries, quinoa, brown rice, farro, spelt, barley, millet, or even whole corn kernels for popping or grounding into cornmeal! Use these whole grain varieties in your cooking, you will love them and so will your heart, brain, and waistline, as they are much better for you!
2. Check expiration dates.
Oftentimes you have a whole cupboard full of foods that are past their prime. Eventually old purchases get buried beneath new purchases and things go bad and are wasted. Get rid of them to de-clutter and make space for better, more wholesome ingredients. Instead, try meal planning. Write out weekly menus so foods don’t go to waste and you know exactly what you have on hand.
3. Swap out processed canned goods for preserved whole foods.
Canned goods are convenient and can be a great way to stock up on healthy foods, if you buy the right kinds! Canned condensed soup, spaghetti-os, salted or sweetened produce, are not the kind of foods you want to have around when you haven’t been to the store in a while and your stomach is rumbling. Instead fill your cupboard with whole foods like low-sodium beans, broth, sugar-free fruit, corn, hominy, tuna, chicken, and other whole foods to use as ingredients to your meals. Tomato products (sugar-free) like tomato juice, paste, or crushed tomatoes are great for homemade tomato sauce, soup, or add to chilli.
4. Save the products with the shortest ingredient list.
If you compare labels, it’s easy to see what the most healthy, natural choice is. Take salad dressing for example, the average shelf stable, store-bought variety has over 10 ingredients including different oils, emulsifiers, gums, preservatives, starches, and artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners. Instead look for products with simple ingredients you can pronounce, or better yet, make your own from scratch using olive oil, vinegar, or lemon juice! As an extra bonus, stock up on healthy herbs and spices that not only add flavor to your meals, but have other health benefits as well such as fighting cancer cells or supporting a healthy liver!
Take some time to go through your cupboard this weekend and don’t be afraid to throw out the things that aren’t serving your body. You will find that meal preparation is much easier when you aren’t overloaded with unhealthy options and that you’re much more motivated to eat clean when your pantry is! For ideas using whole food ingredients from your pantry in healthy and delicious ways, try these recipes!