The best-laid health plans can be derailed by a pantry that isn’t stocked in favor of your health goals. You know the type of pantry I mean: full of chips, Ramen noodles, cookies, sugary breakfast cereals… yep.
Ruthlessly clean out your pantry
Go shelf by shelf and read labels, noting which foods are full of undecipherable ingredient names or are sky high in salt (chips), sugar (soda, sweetened drinks, candy), and fat (cookies, packaged muffins, cake mixes).
I know; you’ll have to say a fond farewell to many of your comfort foods, but if your goal truly is to be healthier and happier in 2018, it’s a no-brainer to say bye-bye to your darlings. Some of the culprits you’ll want to part company with:
- White rice, white flour, and white sugar
- Salty, fried, snack foods like potato chips and corn chips
- Canola and other unhealthy vegetable oils
- Sugary cereals
- Canned soups, especially the creamy/salty ones.
Ditch them without mercy. You can thank me later. 😉
Choose your new pantry food judiciously
As you face an almost empty pantry, rethink what ought to take up residence there. Start by stocking up on the following five categories of foods:
Fruits and veggies
Some fresh produce can remain unrefrigerated (potatoes, bananas, apples, some varieties of squash, onions and garlic). Purchase just enough of your favorites so that you’re not under pressure to use them before they go bad. Less-perishable fruit like raisins, Medjool dates, dried cranberries, and apricots are also very welcome.
Beans, peas, and lentils are great sources of protein, fiber, and potassium. Get adventurous and try adzuki, mung, cannellini, pinto, and broad beans, as well as congo peas, black-eyed peas, and all colors of lentils. If you have to buy canned beans, please choose BPA-free cans or organic items. Extra points for you if you buy dry beans in bulk and soak them overnight before preparing them.
How about a walk on the wild side with some wild rice? Instead of the go-to white rice, which often has been stripped of its key nutrients, wild rice, brown rice, basmati rice, jasmine rice, quinoa, rolled oats, kasha, and millet are great gluten-free carbohydrate choices. Same with flour: you can use whole grain or nut flours just as successfully as their white counterpart.
Seeds and nuts
Eaten as snacks–ideally raw–seeds and nuts are excellent sources of protein and a host of micronutrients. Stock up on nut milks, butters and spreads, but please check the labels of nut butters to make sure they aren’t high in food preservatives, salt, sugar, and trans fat. You can also toast pumpkin and sesame seeds and a variety of nuts and use them to garnish salads.
Seasonings and cooking liquids/oils
Low-sodium vegetable and chicken broth, wine, beer, vinegars (white, balsamic, white wine, rice wine), liquid aminos, apple cider vinegar (ACV), dijon mustard, Herbamare, and nutritional yeast are tasty additions to your cooking repertoire. Welcome extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and ghee. Give table salt and MSG-heavy seasonings the heave-ho, and enjoy more Celtic or Himalayan salt, dried herbs and spices, and salt-free seasonings.
Apply the less/more rule to your pantry
Your pantry rehab will benefit as you crowd out less healthy choices and add in more nutritious, filling foods.
- Less canned food; more food in bags, pouches, and boxes.
- Less focus on the pretty label on the front of an item; more focus on the ingredient list and nutrition facts on the back.
- Less highly refined and salty foods; more whole foods that are naturally salt-lite or salt-free.
- Less artificial flavors and sweeteners with unpronounceable ingredients, more five-ingredients-or-less items.
- Less sugar and salty seasonings; more natural spices and healthy condiments.
- Less plastic packaging; more nuts and grains stored in glass containers.
Adopt Traffic Light Eating, pantry style
Dr. Bill Sears of the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute created the Traffic Light Eating concept, which uses the analogy of traffic lights to assess the value of a specific food item. The concept can also be applied to the foods we put in our pantry. So, “green light” foods like fruits and vegetables are low-calorie, nutritious whole foods, and we can fill the pantry with as much of them as we like. “Yellow light” foods, such as whole grain pasta and rice, nuts and seeds, and olive and coconut oils, are okay in moderation, so they shouldn’t dominate your pantry. “Red light” foods like cookies, candy, chips, and white bread are a no-no if we’re serious about eating well.
Stock up on these healthy pantry staples
- dried beans and lentils
- canned no-salt-added beans
- whole grains
- whole grain pasta
- rolled and/or steel-cut oats
- canned no-salt-added diced tomatoes
- low-sodium vegetable broth
- unsweetened almond milk
- no-salt-added almond butter
- raw almonds, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds
- dried apricots, dates and raisins
- Dijon mustard
- apple cider vinegar
- nutritional yeast
Where are you at with your pantry rehab? Which food items will be the hardest for you to part with?