When you do your spring cleaning, do you also purge your pantry? Not just of old, expired food, but of all the foods that aren’t in line with your healthy eating goals?
If you don’t have unhealthy food on hand, you’re less likely to eat junk when you feel like a snack than if you have your choice of chips, cookies, and other processed food that contains more chemicals, salt, and sugar and trans fat than it does nutrients. It takes effort to get in your car and drive to the store to buy junk, and you’re more likely to eat something healthy if that’s all you have.
You don’t want to have to rely on willpower when you get home after a long day of work, are hungry and don’t feel like cooking anything. It’s hard to binge on a bag of cookies if they aren’t there. The best thing to do is to get rid of the junk and replace it with healthier choices.
What Lurks in Your Pantry?
We all know processed food is bad for us, as it’s been stripped of the good stuff and is filled with bad stuff. White flour, white pasta, white bread, sugary cereals, cookies, chips, white rice, and instant oatmeal fall into this category. Whole grains, homemade cookies, long grain and basmati rice, and rolled oats are better for you.
That huge tub of canola oil you thought was such a good buy you couldn’t pass it up isn’t great for your health. Still using margarine? Toss them and replace them with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil.
What’s Really in Your Food
Look at the labels on the boxed, canned, and packaged foods in your pantry. Watch out for ingredients you can’t pronounce and additives such as hydrolyzed protein, flavouring, autolyzed yeast, natural flavours, bouillon or yeast extract. They could contain monosodium glutamate (MSG). If there are more than five listed ingredients, it’s likely not the healthiest choice.
Look for the sugar content and the amount of grams per serving. Four grams is a teaspoon, so keep that in mind. The listed serving size is usually smaller than what you would normally eat. Sugar has many different names, which I wrote about in a previous post.
Store-bought sauces and salad dressings often contain a lot of sugar, and you’re better off making your own.
Whole, real food is preferable to food that comes in boxes, cans, and packages, but if you do buy these products, it’s good to be aware of preservatives that can have negative effects such as disrupting hormones, causing respiratory problems, and can be carcinogenic, such as:
• sodium nitrate
• potassium nitrate
• butylated hydroxyl-anisole (BHA)
• calcium benzoate
• sulphur dioxide
• bisphenol A (BPA) in can linings
Also beware of food colouring used in drinks, candy, ice cream, dairy products, crackers (and many other items) such as:
• yellow No. 5
• red No. 3
• brilliant blue
• sunset yellow
These are just some of many possible preservatives and food colourings you might find in your food.
Spices Don’t Last Forever
Replace spices that are older than six months to a year. If you don’t usually use spices, start off with a few and experiment with them in your cooking. Keep them cool and dry and tightly sealed.
If you’ve finished your spring cleaning and already cleared your pantry of expired foods, go back and look if you can purge the unhealthy foods that haven’t yet expired. If you feel wasteful by throwing food out, give it to a food bank or finish it, and then plan to replace it with healthier options.