Spring is a great time to do more than just clean the house; it’s also the perfect time to refresh other areas of your life, such as your wardrobe, your fitness routine or even your eating habits. When it comes to your diet, having your pantry and refrigerator in order is an important step toward healthier eating. Cleaning out these areas on a regular basis is particularly important because food can reach its expiration date or spoil. But keeping things in order also encourages better decision making and nutrition. Ready to get started? Follow these steps for a kitchen reset that will help make it easier to eat clean this season.
Step 1: Clean
Working with one area at a time, clean every shelf and drawer of your refrigerator and pantry. Throw away food that is out of date, spoiled or moldy. Clean and sanitize the shelves, then return the items you plan to keep back in place. Consider the healthfulness of the items that you’re keeping. Does the food make you feel energized? Or does it make you feel dull and listless? The types of foods we eat can play a role in how good we feel and the amount of energy we have.
Remember to clean out the contents of your freezer, as well. If you don’t know how old something is or you find yourself wondering whether an item should be kept or thrown away, repeat this mantra: “When in doubt, throw it out!”
Step 2: Replenish
If you opted to discard some of the less-than-healthy foods from your refrigerator or pantry, you’ll need to replace them with healthier items. Take this opportunity to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables that you like to eat, and consider trying a few new ones, too.
Step 3: Redesign
Make the healthy choice the easy choice by re-thinking how you arrange things within your refrigerator and/or pantry.
- As soon as you purchase fruits and vegetables, cut them up, add them to airtight containers and place them in the refrigerator at eye level. Avoid storing them in crisper drawers, as this removes them from sight. Did you know that you are three times more likely to eat the first thing you see in the refrigerator than anything else? If fruits and vegetables are the first things you see, you’ll be much more likely to eat them. And because you’re eating them, you’ll also be cutting down on food spoilage!
- Use the crisper drawer and/or opaque containers for foods that are less healthy. This keeps them out of sight, but doesn’t deprive you. It also ensures that when you do eat these foods, you intended to do so and were not tempted on the way to a different choice.
- Replace sodas and other beverages with fruit-infused water. It’s refreshing and beautiful and just may help you drink more water!
- Use opaque containers for storing less healthy foods in the pantry as well. Store these items on the higher shelves.
- To make healthier choices from the pantry easier, pre-portion munchable snacks such as nuts, crackers, pretzels and popcorn.
Not sure what to replenish your refrigerator and pantry with? Here are some great staples to keep on hand for healthy snacks and easy, balanced meals:
- Baby carrots
- Bell pepper strips
- Canned beans
- Whole grain bread
- Brown rice and/or quinoa
- Nut butters
- Fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit
- Non-fat Yogurt
- Canned tuna
- Frozen lean meat
This article was contributed by Jessica Riggs, MS, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist with The Little Clinic (inside select Kroger locations).For more information about dietitian services, visit www.thelittleclinic.com/dietitians.