I know most people think of January as the time to start fresh, but for me, it’s always spring. As soon as the weather warms up and the days get longer, I get energized and motivated to make everything around me look and feel new, fresh and clean. You know, the saying – out with the old, and in with the new.
Spring-cleaning usually means raking the yard and washing windows, but let’s not forget about the kitchen. This is a perfect time of year to do a deep clean of the pantry shelves and refrigerator. Toss the old and expired things lurking way in the back of the shelves, or the mostly empty condiments on the refrigerator door. Scrub it all down, and when you’re ready to replace everything, take a good, hard look at the food labels, and make sure things are worth keeping.
So many of the foods that we eat are full of additives and preservatives, not to mention huge amounts of fat, salt and sugar. So how about you pitch all of the fake foods, and replace them with healthier options? Are you in? Here’s a list of things that should go, and some healthier replacements to get you started.
Pitch it: Fruited and Light Yogurts
Replace it with: Plain Greek yogurt sweetened with a teaspoon of honey or all fruit jam.
Here’s why: If you’re not on the Greek yogurt bandwagon yet, it’s time to jump on. Sure, at first glance, the “light” yogurts look like a good deal. You’ll eat fewer calories, right? But you’re also getting much less food with those tiny little 4, 5 or 6 ounce cups. You’re also treating yourself to a good dose of artificial sweeteners, colors, preservatives, thickeners, stabilizers, and lots of things you can’t pronounce. AND you’ll still be hungry afterward.
A full 8 ounces of plain fat free Greek yogurt, sweetened with some fresh fruit and jam or honey if you like, will fill you up for less than 200 calories, and hold you for a few hours.
Pitch it: Cold Cereal
Replace it with: Oatmeal with fruit and nuts (and maybe some Greek yogurt)
Here’s why: It’s not that cold cereal is a bad choice, especially if it’s a high fiber cereal, but oatmeal is a better choice. Much cold cereal is highly processed and full of sugar, even if it doesn’t taste sweet. Did you ever wonder why you might feel hungrier mid morning after eating cereal for breakfast? It’s because its’ so low in protein and fiber that it’s digested really quickly. Bonus – it spikes your blood sugar, and then you crash and burn.
Oatmeal is one of the best sources of soluble fiber – the kind that fills you up, slows down your digestion, stabilizes your blood sugar, and holds you for a few hours. Add extra protein to really help fill you, by making it with fat free milk and adding a handful of nuts and a scoop of Greek yogurt. I promise you won’t get hungry anytime soon. If you don’t like the thought of hot oatmeal in the summer, try making overnight oats. I really love Carrot Cake Overnight Oats, and Pina Colada Overnight Oats for a summer breakfast.
Pitch it: Jarred Pasta Sauce
Replace it with: Homemade quick sauce made from 2 cloves fresh minced garlic sautéed in olive oil and mixed with a can of Muir Glen crushed tomatoes and some salt. Add Italian seasoning mix if you like, but it’s not even necessary.
Here’s why: You probably don’t think about spaghetti sauce as a source of sugar, but most jarred sauces have almost a tablespoon of sugar in each serving. And lots of salt, and dehydrated onions, garlic and other vegetable-like things. Fresh sauce takes literally 5 minutes to make and tastes so much better. Save any extra, and use it instead of jarred pizza sauce.
Pitch it: Packaged Rice or Noodle Mixes
Replace it with: A whole grain like farro, quinoa, freekeh or wheat berries
Here’s why: Almost all of those meal starters, or prepared side dishes are so full of sodium, your arteries quiver at the site of them. Like all other prepared foods they also contain a laundry list of ingredients that we can’t pronounce and are often banned in other countries. Why not put a teaspoon of chopped garlic in a pan, and toast up some whole grains along with it. Add water or broth, and in 15 minutes you have a tasty home made, high fiber, high protein, and healthy side dish. Bonus – the whole grains freeze really well once they’re cooked, unlike the packaged mixes which will turn to mush. Cook them once, and you’ll have them for the week.
Pitch: Granola bars or snack bars
Replace it with: A real snack
Here’s why: I’m sorry, but bars are not snacks. Even if you’re stuck in the car on the side of the road and starving, there are better options. Whether it’s a granola bar, high fiber bar, protein bar, or any other type of bar, it’s got lots of sugar, more fat than you need, and a long list of artificial ingredients. If you really want a bar, make your own, and add lots of healthier ingredients. Instead of a bar, make a big bag of trail mix with dried fruit, nuts, seeds, some dark chocolate chips, and some toasted oats. Portion it out into Ziploc bags, and you’re good to go with a healthier option. Sprinkle it over some Greek yogurt, and you have a mini-meal.
So take a good look at your pantry staples, and if you see a long list of ingredients and most of them are not familiar to you, pitch it. Not sure what to replace it with? Ask me! Send me an email or leave me a comment and I’ll give you a suggestion.
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