Here’s a little-known secret: There’s a connection between your health, your weight and the food you store on your pantry shelves. Cookies, nutritionally-void crackers, cans of junky soup, the white flour that’s sitting on the shelf for months unused — it’s the same thing as storing stuff under your bed. You may not see it all the time, but you know it’s there.
• It creates stress.
• It creates obsessive thinking (“Oh, there’s cookies in the cabinet.”)
• It creates mental clutter every time you open the cabinet (I’ve really gotta clean out this cabinet.”
At Blum Center for Health we feel strongly that your pantry is the foundation of healthy eating. So strongly, in fact, that we conduct a free workshop every month simply titled, Pantry Makeover, where participants make their own “pantry plan.”
Here’s 8 things you can do to transform your pantry shelves:
1. Discard obvious “junk” food. Unless it’s something you love and incorporate into your diet with healthy choices, Get. Rid. Of. It. Otherwise it’s only taking up space in your cabinets and in your head. You know it’s there, your head knows it’s there and every time there’s a trigger you have to fight the impulse. Why do that to yourself?
2. Discard the not-so-obvious junk food. Look at everything that comes in a package or can. Don’t be fooled by clever marketing phrases like “all natural” or “whole grains” or “100% healthy.” There’s so much leeway in these claims. The goal is to get consumers to purchase the product, not to improve their health.
3. Look at the ingredient list: Are the top ingredients truly whole grain? You might be buying “gluten-free” goodies but closer examination of the ingredients might tell you it’s junk food.
4. If sugar is one of the first three ingredients, consider it a dessert. That includes honey, molasses, agave, or any other of the “healthy” sugars. It’s all sugar.
5. Check out how many grams of fiber it has. While some products boost the fiber content by adding cellulose (not necessarily the best thing), it is an indication of the integrity of the product.
6. Look for artificial food coloring such as red dye 40, yellow 5 and green 3.
7. Does it have artificial sweeteners like aspartame, Splenda or xylitol? Dump it.
8. Does it contain trans fats, also called hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil or shortening? Get rid of it.
Extra Credit: As you clean out your pantry, make a list of items you need to replace and you will have it handy come shopping day.
About Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the manager of health coaching and lifestyle programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.