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Is It Time for a Pantry Makeover?

How to makeover your pantry

Fall is on its way, and brings with it cooler weather, warmer clothes, and all things orange, red, and brown. Fall is also notorious for convincing us to indulge in heavier meals, potentially packing on the pounds that spring sends us scrambling to lose. This fall, break the cycle with these healthy pantry makeover tips!

  • Whole grains. Get rid of white rice, white pasta, and white bread. Replace them with 100% whole-grain bread, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, quinoa, millet, amaranth, and barley. Whole grains are high in fiber, and good sources of vitamin E. These grains are great in soups, salads, casseroles, and alone as side dishes. If you need more ideas on what to do with these, try searching your favorite recipe site!
  • Snacks. For mid-afternoon noshing sessions, stock reduced-fat, low-sodium popcorn, 100% fruit leather snacks, unsalted nuts, dried fruit, or 100% fruit and nut bars, like Larabar. Ditch those potato or tortilla chips, fruit roll-ups, pastries or snack cakes, or high-sugar granola bars. Avoid the two-o’clock slump!
  • Oil. Look for heart healthy oils on your next shopping trip. Try olive, canola, peanut, sunflower, or sesame oil instead of vegetable oil. These oils are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that can actually help lower your cholesterol!  And they taste great, too!  All oils are high in calories, though, so moderation is the key here.
  • Cereals. Cereal can be a great way to start the day right. But some cold cereals pack as much as 20 grams of sugar per serving!  That’s not even a “kids’” cereal!  And those just-add-water hot cereals don’t fare much better, with up to 13 grams or more sugar per packet. So you don’t start your day with a sugar coma, look for cereals that have 6 grams or less sugar per serving. Opt for regular Cheerios, Rice Chex, Corn Flakes, or Total. If you like a hot cereal, buy the regular or quick cooking variety and make it yourself without so much sugar.
  • Canned soup. Soup can be a convenient and easy lunch, but many varieties have more salt than you’re supposed to consume in an entire day in just one can!  Even lower sodium varieties can pack more salt than you want. To get to the end of the day salt-positive, try buying sodium free canned beans and making your own soup using water or a homemade stock. Add your own vegetables — canned (low-sodium) or frozen work great — and a whole grain like barley, and you’ve got a healthy, balanced meal in not time. You can add a little of your own salt at the end. You’ll still add far less than those canned soups have!
  • Baking. Baking is a part of the fall and winter for most all of us. And while there may not be a way to make most baked goods truly healthy, there are some steps we can take to lessen the effect on our waistband. Stock whole-wheat pastry flour and substitute up to half the all-purpose flour with it. Try reducing the sugar in your recipe — most recipes can be reduced by ⅓ to ½ without a noticeable difference. Try substituting canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling), applesauce, or plain Greek yogurt for part of or all of the oil in a recipe. Also, check the ingredients on all pantry items like Bisquick, Crisco, and any other pre-made convenience items you have. Look for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. That’s trans fat. Look for alternative products in the store that are free of hydrogenated oils.
  • Salt. While a little salt is fine, most of us consume way too much. Cut down on your usage by opting for salt-free herb blends at the store, or make your own unique blends. These are great when roasting poultry or fish!

The first step should always be throwing away any expired items. Stocking a healthy pantry can be overwhelming and difficult at first. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to simply replace foods with healthier versions as you use them up. That way, you’re not trying to replace everything at once, and you don’t have to throw away the food you already have!

What tips and tricks do you have to stay healthy during the long winter months?