It is officially Spring! The days are longer, the trees and shrubs are blooming and putting out new growth and the farmer’s markets are beginning to pop up. Most grocery and home goods stores are overflowing with herbs and seeds to plant and begin your gardening projects. While all this is great outdoors don’t forget to clean up your pantry this spring.
Spring is a good time to go through all your staples in the pantry and plan to use up or discard some of the items. In case you need a boost for the resolutions you made around new year’s this is a good time. Clean up your meals!
Start by going through the expiration or sell by dates on the products in your pantry. If they are past any of these dates on the labels discard them. Don’t forget that the pantry is not the only place to look for staples. The refrigerator will have some products (such as mayonnaise, salad dressings, marinades, or sauces) that deserve a second look. Use your senses of smell and sight. If it doesn’t smell right or has obvious signs of growth (white or colorful), throw it out.
Other than the obvious spoiled foods you may want to consider getting rid of foods that may have a long shelf life but are not good for you. Those chips and crackers may not look or smell bad but are made from refined grains and may contain preservatives. Do you really want to consume those? If the packages are unopened, take them to a food pantry. Check the labels of everything in your pantry (and refrigerator). Here are some ingredients you want to look for: hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil(s), fructose or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), any artificial colors, flavors and any ingredients you cannot pronounce. If the label has any of the above mentioned ingredients, removing those products from your pantry will clean up your diet.
Hydrogenation of oil(s) makes it saturated and thus a naturally unsaturated oil can become unhealthy. Fructose syrup or HFCS has been shown to have impact on several conditions such as risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, increasing your “bad” cholesterol, causing weight gain and even liver damage. Artificial colors and flavors can cause inflammation (the root of many chronic illnesses).
Next, when you go to the store, examine the nutrition facts label for these ingredients before replacing any supplies you want to have on hand. Don’t forget to check those dates either. Next week, we can explore all the different types of dates we see on labels. For now focus on the ingredients and keep your food supply clean.