by The FIRM nutrition expert Sara Ryba, R.D., C.D.N.
Spring has sprung! So let’s use this change in seasons to motivate us to clean out our kitchens — and our nutrition plans while we’re at it.
I, like many of you, have a hard time staying consistently disciplined when it comes to my family’s food and nutrition habits. Whether it’s a busy work week, a family birthday or simply entertaining friends, my kitchen seems to accumulate food items that may not be the healthiest. Since I hate to waste food, I tend to hold on to foods that would probably be better off thrown out or given away. Given this habit of mine, I try to clean out my refrigerator, freezer and pantry at least twice a year, and spring is the perfect time to do it.
Join me and take a look through your kitchen archives. I bet you’ll find a lot of items that no longer need to take up valuable real estate in your refrigerator or kitchen cabinets. Below you will find my road map to cleansing your kitchen, which will most likely result in a nutrition upgrade for you and your family.
1. Curate your cabinets
Pull out all of your cereals, pastas, jarred goods, grains, beverages, snacks, etc. Begin by checking all expiration dates. If it’s past, throw it out! (I once found meal worms in an old bag of flour — gross!) Then begin to sort by health value. Take notice of the items that have slipped back into your kitchen while you weren’t paying attention. In my house, I found Halloween candy from last October, loads of white pasta that my husband bought “on sale” and sugared cereal that my children coerced me into buying. Decide to throw out these items, give them away or make a mental note to finish them and replace them with healthier items.
2. Revamp your refrigerator
I happen to be pretty compulsive when it comes to cleaning out my refrigerator. I don’t let leftovers linger and am always checking the dates on my dairy. If you are not one of those people, go ahead and ditch all expired dairy and leftovers that are no longer appealing or fresh. Browse through your produce drawers and throw out anything that is “turning.” If your produce drawers are empty, make a mental note to stock up on nutritious fruits and vegetables, especially those with longer shelf lives, such as apples, pears, carrots and broccoli.
Next take a gander at your refrigerator door. This is where my murkiest food items reside. I’ve been known to find salad dressings that are years old, marinades that were used once and forgotten about, jars of tomato sauce with mold and barbeque sauce that has such a thick sticky film on it that I can’t even get it open. Use your best judgment to assess which items are still good and which are begging for the trash. Then make a mental note to refill with healthy salad dressings and low-cal condiments and marinades.
3. Free your freezer
Some odd things can be found lurking in my freezer … cupcakes from a birthday four months ago, bread from my last dinner party or hot dogs from last summer. It can get ugly! I most often end up throwing out old bread, cakes, muffins and vegetables. I then try to organize by date, putting the oldest items in my immediate view for imminent consumption. I also try to clear some room for bags of frozen veggies — which I adore, specifically broccoli florets, corn niblets, green beans and spinach.
Now I realize that the project I just described may sound overwhelming. I mean, who even has time to go food shopping these days? I don’t! However, I will say that this project is worth scheduling into your weekend. It is therapeutic and usually brings my head back into that healthy place that I like to be in. So please, give it a shot and let us know what you find.