Looks nice on the outside — but are the pantries in tip-top shape? Credit: Ben McGuinn
As spring begins to liven up the winter gloom, homes everywhere are getting that seasonal thorough cleaning. This year, don’t just wipe the windows and scrub the shower — start developing better eating habits by adding the pantry to your spring cleaning list.
Registered dietitian Sharon Richter has been assisting New Yorkers with living healthier for 10 years. She says spring is a great time to "clean up" those bad eating habits.
“A lot of time, people don’t realize that food’s expired,” Richter says. “[The pantry] is a great place to kind of refresh, see what’s in there, and make sure that everything is current and that there are healthy options.”
Expired foods are an obvious target for cleaning, but making sure that the other food in the cupboard is healthy can also lead to better eating habits. Removing foods with high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and MSG should also be a spring cleaning goal.
“I always say, look at the ingredients and see what’s in there,” Richter says.
Once those bad foods are gone, healthier options can begin to take their place. Richter recommends foods like whole grain cereals and dried fruit with no added sugar.
"I'm big into the raw nuts," Richter says. "Pistachios are great because they take a long time to eat, instead of just shoving a handful in your mouth."
These foods can also replace those common vending machine items that, while they might get you through the long work day, might not be so healthy. She recommends portion-controlled snacks “so when you open the cabinet, you’ve got something to grab.”
But don't just throw those new foods in the cabinet. Richter says placing those healthier options right up front makes healthy eating easier.
“Have those grab-and-go things right in the forefront,” Richter says. “Put the things that might be a little less healthy, like the cookies, in the back so they’re not what your eye sees.”
Organizing and arranging the cabinet, an important part of spring cleaning, can be a big help in keeping those hands out of the box of cookies.
“Try and categorize things so it’s not such a mess,” Richter says. “Like, put all your cereals together. When it looks more appealing, you’re more likely to go back and use it.”
This can also lead to new ways of snacking.
“You might have forgotten, 'Oh, I have couscous, that’s an option I can make,'" Richter says.
Best of all, starting at the pantry opens up even more avenues of spring cleaning.
“Don’t just go to your cabinets,” Richter says. “Also go to your freezer and look at what’s there. Putting ice cream not in the forefront, maybe having healthier options, getting rid of meats and stuff that has freezer burn [can all help].” For more of Richter’s tips, visit balancebar.com.