If you’ve kicked your workouts into high gear this New Year, but still aren’t seeing the changes you want, it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. Specifically in your kitchen. Just like it’s good to go through the closet, the garage or the basement every year, it’s equally important to clean out your pantry. And if you’re trying to improve your health and fitness, it’s key to your success. I know it’s tough to throw away what we paid for or to eliminate some favorite comfort foods. But again…if you want to see changes, you’ve got to make the change. So let’s do this together…I’ll meet you in the kitchen:
- Make sure your counters are clean, because we’re cleaning out the cabinets. I mean, really cleaning them Take everything out of your cabinets and place them on your countertops.
- Now, that may have taken some time. Step back and reflect for a minute. Take a look at what you had in your cabinets and try to remember why you bought some of those things. Cookies for the kids that you end up snacking on? Pasta or rice side dishes that make for easy and quick weeknight meals? Leftover candy from the holidays?
- Take out the garbage can and immediately get rid of the obvious. Candy, opened boxes of cookies and sugary cereal. No one needs this stuff. Kids will forget the stuff was in the cabinets…at the very least they’ll get used to new cereal with enough time. Setting them on a track of sugar addiction early one benefits no one, so don’t feel guilty about getting the stuff out of the house.
- Now let’s look at the “food.” Pasta and rice side dishes, though extremely convenient, often have a terrifyingly long list of ingredients. Most of which don’t even resemble a whole food. Pack these up in a grocery bag or box, and plan on dropping them off at your local food bank. We’ll talk later about quick weeknight side dishes.
- Canned vegetables and sauces that are low in sodium can stay…for now. But think about buying fresh veggies and dried beans, and about making your own sauces and salad dressings. A future endeavor…let’s not get too crazy here.
- “Healthy” snacks like popcorn, protein bars, pretzels and crackers? Again, take a look at the ingredient list and nutrition facts. You’re probably looking at 10+ ingredients and a lot of sodium, little fiber and little protein. Decide if these snacks are worth holding on to for the kids. But (and this is a big but), if you’re going to be tempted to snack on them AT ALL, through them away or donate.
- Now tie up that garbage bag and get it out of the house. Bring the foods to donate out to the car for your next trip by the food pantry. Feels better already, right?
- As your putting the “saved” foods back into your cabinets, think about organizing them. Least healthy (i.e. any of those pretzels or crackers) towards the back, with healthier items in easy reach (i.e. nuts and seeds, unflavored oatmeal, natural peanut or other nut butters). Also, keep olive oil and herbs/spices where you can see them…these can be a great way to flavor veggies and side dishes without the 10+, very unnatural and unpronounceable ingredients. And if they’re at eye level every time you open the cabinet, you’ll remember to use them. (Just a note…this doesn’t include salt. That can go in the back J ).
Congratulations! You just took the first, very important step towards improving your nutrition and eating a healthier, less processed diet. Not something a lot of people can do easily, so be proud of what you’ve just done! Stay tuned on the blog for ideas of how to re-stock those cabinets with delicious and healthy foods.