Whether or not the weather is on board, springtime is officially here. The season known for “spring cleaning” makes us want to purge our offices, homes and closets of junk. During National Nutrition Month, focus your spring cleaning efforts where it really matters―your pantry. Ditch the heavily-processed packaged foods, refined carbs and sugars in favor of whole, healthy foods to help you and your family stay healthy. Here are some helpful hints on what to keep and what to toss:
- Not all oils are created equal. Seed and vegetable oils are highly processed, refined products that are too rich in Omega-6 fatty acids. If you’re cooking with soybean, canola, sesame or grapeseed oils, toss these in favor of healthier options. Try coconut (the best option), olive or avocado oils as healthier alternatives.
- Foods full of trans fats. Trans fats raise your bad cholesterol levels and can lead to heart disease, diabetes and other diseases. Read the food labels in your pantry and toss items with trans fats or ones that include “partially-hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients list. Popular foods that include this are microwave popcorn, cake mixes and frosting, waffle and pancake mixes and processed meats.
- Cut the sugar. If added sugar is one of the top three ingredients on a food’s ingredient list, throw it out. Added sugar is a big contributor to expanding waistlines and is often packed into “healthy” foods to add flavor when removing fat. Pay special attention to the amount of sugar in breakfast cereals, pastries, flavored oatmeal, fruit snacks, granola bars, fruit juice and dried fruit. According to the American Heart Association, men can have up to 36 grams of sugar per day and women can have up to 25 grams.
- Switch to healthy staples. Every pantry should have whole grains and low-sodium soups so you can throw together a meal in minutes. Toss the traditional cous cous, white rice and white pasta—all of these items have been stripped of nutrition through processing. You can also toss cream-based soups high in sodium and fat. Stock your shelves with wheat pasta, brown rice and low-sodium broths.
This week, clean out your kitchen and you’ll be well on your way to eating a more healthful diet. Stocking up on healthy foods makes eating better easy―if it’s not there, it’s not an option. To learn more about how a healthy diet can reduce your cancer risk, visit www.preventcancer.org.