Want to eat healthier? Clean out your pantry
Packaged foods in the cupboards can be the downfall of good intentions. If you want to eat better, it's time to purge the junk.
Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 02:10 PM
One of the main reasons why I am skeptical about New Years' dieting resolutions is that they usually revolve around good intentions. I'm much more interested in making a plan.
Healthy eating and, in fact, any healthier lifestyle choice, is not simply about setting yourself goals; it's about crafting a long-term strategy. That's why, when my clients are looking to change their eating habits, one of the first things I tell them is that it's time to clean the pantry.
Top tips for stocking a healthy pantry
Clean out the junk: It's all very well committing to eating less cookies or enjoying more fruits, but unless you change what's in your cupboards, the chances are you'll find temptation catching up with you sooner or later. So take the time to do a thorough spring cleaning of your pantry. Read food labels, and systematically clean out items that you know are your downfall, and get rid of products that are overly high in sodium, sugar or artificial colorings and preservatives. Soda, ketchup, cookies and high-sugar cereals are all likely culprits for a purge — or at least some serious reflection over how much and how often your family enjoys them. That's not to say you can't leave a few treats — but be honest with yourself, and only allow those treats that you know you can maintain control over.
Restock with healthier foods: At least as important as eliminating junk foods is restocking those cupboards with healthier alternatives. Whole grains, beans and other high-fiber foods, for example, are central to a healthy diet — and they are often easy go-to cupboard staples when the fridge is bare. If you know you like to snack (and who doesn't!), you can also explore healthier snack foods like nuts, whole-grain crackers, vegetable chips, etc. You may even find that your taste buds enjoy the break from plain old potato chips! (My husband is obsessed with these crunchy, spiced chickpeas for example.)
Reorganize and prioritize: We are creatures of habit and convenience. If cooking becomes too much of a hassle, we are that much more likely to order a pizza. So alongside buying healthy ingredients, make sure you also spend time to organize your cupboards so the good stuff is easy to get to.
Start a recipe box: This might seem unrelated to organizing your pantry, but it means little to stock your kitchen with healthy, whole foods if you don't have ideas on how to use them. I like to keep a box full of recipe cards, clippings and food ideas in my kitchen drawer, making sure I have a constant stock of new ideas to come to whenever a food rut hits.
Organize equipment too: For a long time our pressure cooker sat on a top shelf, well out of easy reach — so it's little surprise that we rarely used it. Since digging it out, however, we've discovered that it is indispensable in cooking chickpeas, black beans and other dried legumes without the need for presoaking. Similarly, if your juicer, food processor or slow cooker are crammed together in a chaotic mess, it makes the idea of preparing a fresh, home-cooked meal that much less appealing. So while you are organizing your pantry, take a moment to put your equipment in order too — sharpening your knives and replacing any broken items while you are at it.
Jenni Grover, MS RD LDN, is a registered dietitian and co-founder of Realistic Nutrition Partners in Durham, N.C. She specializes in child, maternal and prenatal nutrition, with a focus on whole foods
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