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Spring Clean Your Pantry

posted Apr 3, 2015, 9:00 AM by
This month's wellness theme is all about Spring Cleaning Your Eating!  Each week, the blog with briefly review how you can spring clean your food environment so that the healthy choice truly is the easy choice.  This week, we're starting with the pantry.  

Try any of these simple swaps and tips for a more healthful dry food storage: 
  • Replace breakfast cereals with whole oats.  Boxed breakfast cereals usually contain a laundry list of ingredients, including added sugars and highly-processed soy proteins. Use oats to make traditional hot cereal, homemade granola, or overnight oats. Oats can also be blended in a food processor to make oat flour for baking.  Other dried grains such as quinoa and barley can prepared and seasoned just like oatmeal.  Don't be afraid to try something new!  If you must choose a boxed breakfast cereal, look for a short ingredients list, <10g of sugar per serving, and >5g fiber per serving. 
  • Replace refined white grains with whole grains
    • Switch out your all purpose flour with unbleached white whole wheat flour.  White whole wheat flour is a whole grain, soft wheat that measures exactly like all purpose flour.  Use white whole wheat flour in all of your favorite recipes for a similar taste and nutrient boost!
    • Nix the white rice and pasta and stock up on brown rice and whole grain pasta. Use exactly like white rice and pasta and enjoy feeling fuller on a smaller serving due to added fiber. You will also reap the benefits of other micronutrients found in the whole grain. 
  • Go natural and raw with nuts and seeds
    • Replace roasted, salted nuts and seeds with raw, unsalted nuts and seeds.  By choosing raw, unsalted varieties you can enjoy the heart healthy fats and essential vitamins and minerals without the extra oils and salt with which they are normally processed.* Nuts and seeds are not only an easy snack for entertaining, but can also be added to your oats, salads, and numerous other dishes for a flavor and nutrient boost. 
    • Choose natural, separating nut butters with few added ingredients.  Nut butters that do not separate usually contain added sugars, salt, hydrogenated oils (trans fats), and other stabilizers.  Natural nut butters provide you with all the goodness of nuts without these unnecessary ingredients.  If you are having trouble getting used to the separating nut butters, try storing them upside down to keep the natural, healthful oils better incorporated throughout the product.* 
  • Be aware of what your fruits and vegetables are packed in
    • Choose dried fruits with no added sugars or oils and canned fruits that are canned in 100% juice or water. 
    • Choose canned beans and vegetables that are lower in sodium and always rinse (exception, canned tomatoes) before continuing to prepare.  
  • Replace bags of microwave popcorn with whole popcorn kernels
    • Popcorn can be made just as quickly on your stove top and then flavored with a variety of herbs and spices. Simply follow the instructions on the container of popcorn kernels and enjoy! Some seasoning suggestions include sea salt, curry powder, cinnamon and honey, cayenne pepper, freshly grated/shredded Parmesan cheese and garlic powder, or even drizzled melted dark chocolate! 
  • Replace pancake and waffle syrup with pure maple syrup or honey
    • Although both still contain sugar, pure maple syrup and honey are more natural ways to sweeten these breakfast items and many many other things! Traditional pancake and waffle syrup usually contains high fructose corn syrup, which is a more processed form of sugar with no health benefits.  Local honey may even help seasonal allergy sufferers. Use maple or honey in your coffee or tea, baked goods, and homemade dressings, sauces, and marinades. 
  • Take advantage of canned fish
    • Choose tuna, sardines, anchovies, and/or salmon canned in water. All of these fish are high in omega 3 fatty acids and can easily be added to casseroles, pasta dishes, or as the protein on a salad.  Canned fish are a budget-friendly and convenient alternative to fresh or frozen fish filets. 
Now that your pantry is stocked with all of the good stuff, check out this month's educational handout for recipes that use some of these ingredients! 

Next week, we'll tackle sprucing up your refrigerator.

*The oils in nuts can go rancid if left out of refrigeration for too long, so if you are not consume nuts and nut butters on a regular basis, consider storing in the refrigerator.