Is your spring cleaning well underway? Have you considered adding your kitchen to the list of items to de-clutter and revitalize? If the goal of getting healthier is a constant, ongoing process at your house, a healthy kitchen makeover may be just what your family needs.
For a whole new kitchen that supports and encourages healthy eating and quality family time, follow this three-part plan.
Part 1: Pantry Makeover
Begin your kitchen makeover in the pantry. This is the part of the house where most people store the foods that are packaged and processed and, in many cases, the foods that sabotage health efforts. Yes, you can definitely eat junk food in moderation, but do NOT keep this food in your house. If it is there, you and your kids will eat it. You will eat much healthier by default when you stock your pantry in a way that makes healthy eating easy.
Start your pantry makeover by completely emptying it out. This will not only help you identify the types of food that you have accumulated, but it will also set the stage for getting rid of the unhealthy foods and clutter from the pantry. This is also a great time to do a remodel or reorganization of your pantry to make it more attractive and user-friendly.
Throw away outdated food and packaged food that contains any variation of sugar as the first or second ingredient. Do the same with the high-sodium products—does a single can of soup provide more than half of your daily sodium? Toss it. It is OK to hold on to items that you can’t toss because you need to use them occasionally (say brown sugar or granulated sugar), but when you restock the pantry, store them in harder-to-reach places.
Now, restock with just the good stuff.
- Canned vegetables, beans and fruits. These canned products can be just as healthy as their fresh counterparts if you purchase low-sodium variations for the vegetables and rinse with water before cooking. For fruits, choose canned fruit “in its own juice.”
- Nuts and seeds. Have reduced-salt nuts and seeds on hand to add to meals and salads and for snacking. Walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pistachios and cashews are excellent additions to any pantry. Try to avoid beer nuts, high-salt mixed nuts packages and macadamia nuts.
- Pastas and grains. Make sure to include whole-grain and high-fiber pastas and grains in your pantry. Brown rice, couscous, bulgur, oatmeal, barley, buckwheat and quinoa are just a few examples of health-boosting grains. Try to avoid white pasta and white flour, because the nutritional value is limited.
- Herbs, spices and oils. Your pantry (or cabinet) should contain a mix of spices, dried herbs and oils to help liven up your cooking. Spices and dried herbs generally have a shelf-life of one to two years. Check the flavor and color of spices to see if they are still up to par to meet your cooking needs (old spices won’t be very flavorful, but they also won’t make you sick). Make sure you have plenty of heart-healthy olive oil on hand.
With your pantry makeover, you are now well on your way to making it easier to stick with your family’s health and nutrition goals.
Stay tuned for our next spring cleaning project: the refrigerator.
By Natalie Digate Muth
Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RDNatalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD is the Senior Nutrition Consultant for the American Council on Exercise, a community pediatrician, registered dietitian, mom, and author of “’Eat Your Vegetables!’ and Other Mistakes Parents Make: Redefining How to Raise Healthy Eaters.”