It's all very well committing to eating fewer biscuits or enjoying more fruits, but unless you change what's in your cupboards, chances are you'll find temptation catching up with you sooner or later. Take the time to do a thorough spring clean of your pantry and you’ll find settling into a healthier diet regime much easier. Accredited Practising Dietitian Larina Robinson shows us the way…
- Before you restock your cupboards, make sure the area is thoroughly cleaned to prevent bacteria, mould, and creepy crawlies getting into your food and spoiling it.
- Remove everything from the cupboard, and starting from the top shelf, wipe down all the shelves and walls, cleaning off any residues and spillages.
- Dry the space completely and wipe down your jars and containers before placing them back onto the shelves.
Before you put everything back in:
- If you haven’t used it for six months – toss it out.
- Check the labels on the products – are they out of date?
- Get rid of products that are overly high in sodium, added sugar or artificial colourings. Aim for foods with less than 400 mg of sodium per 100g, and products with less than 10 g of sugar per 100 g (20 g if it contains fruit).
- Ditch the soft drinks (including diet!), ready-to-eat meals and packaged baked goods. They are usually laced with a tonne of colours, flavours, and other additives you’d never put in your home cooked meals. Cookies from the supermarket bakery alone have around four times more ingredients than what you’d use in a home baked recipe!
- Have an honest chat with yourself and remove anything that is highly tempting. Only allow treats that you can maintain control over.
- Minimise the amount of ‘white’ refined grains, cereals and sweeteners – these foods are typically processed to remove the nutrient-rich husk or bran, resulting in a higher GI level and a poorer nutrient profile. These include plain white rice, pasta, rice noodles, ramen, white flour and white sugars (castor, icing, table). Opt for whole grain sources of grains e.g. oats, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, spelt and buckwheat, and swap out white sugars for less refined alternatives such as maple syrup, molasses and honey.
- Try to aim for a pantry with the majority of items having only one to three ingredients.
Top pantry staples
If you’re unsure where to start for a nutrient-rich pantry, here are Larina’s top picks for healthy staples.
- Flours, meals and grains: Almond meal, quinoa, oats, brown rice, millet, amaranth, rye, buckwheat, wholemeal flour.
- Fibre boosters: Psyllium husk, wheat germ.
- Flavour bases: Tinned diced tomatoes, tomato paste, sundried tomatoes in olive oil, miso paste.
- Nuts and seeds: Raw unsalted nuts, sesame seeds, tahini, chia seeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
- Natural nut butters: Peanut, almond, ABC (almond, Brazil and cashew).
- Sauces and vinegars: Apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, tamari.
- Low sodium broth or stock.
- Herbs and spices: Cinnamon, Italian herbs, turmeric, cumin, ginger, smoked paprika, garlic, parsley, basil, coriander, mint, thyme, rosemary, pepper.
- Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans.
- Oils: Extra virgin olive oil, olive oil, butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil.
- Sweeteners: Maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, all natural unsweetened apple sauce, molasses.
- Dried fruit: Dates, prunes, raisins, cranberries, figs.
- For baking and cooking: Vanilla extract, cocoa/cacao powder.
- For the fresh food basket : Garlic, onions, sweet potato.
- Tinned tuna