Five Baby Steps to a Healthier Pantry

Calie Shackleford
January 19, 2011

Your pantry: a stockpile of staples and a door to the world of quick and easy meals.  It's the place you turn to save time on busy week nights or early morning rushes to pack school lunches.  Unfortunately, these conveniences we've come to rely on are also wreaking havoc on our health. The good news is a few simple changes can take your pantry from a storeroom for high-fructose corn syrup, chemicals and excessive sodium to a truly helpful, healthy living resource.  Here are five tips to get you started.

Ditch the white flour.  White flour is void of fiber, helpful nutrients and antioxidants.  Look for grain products that say 100% whole and have 2-3 grams of fiber.  Try adding buckwheat, whole wheat, brown rice or almond flour in place of the traditional white stuff.  These varieties make great pancakes, breads, and thickening agents while adding rich new flavors and nutrition to our diets. 

Dump the white sugar.  See a pattern?  Real food isn't white.  Stock your pantry with turbinado, stevia (liquid and powder), sucanat, honey and pure maple syrup and you'll be prepared to add a little sweetness to just about any recipe.  But don't overdo it.  Too much sugar isn't healthy, even in its healthiest form.

Get to know your oils. Toss any packaged foods that include shortening or partially hydrogenated oil of any type.  Replace unhealthy cooking oils like vegetable oil with coconut oil and olive oil.  If you don't like the taste of coconut, opt for the expeller-pressed version, which has the scent and taste of coconut naturally removed.

Read labels. Beware of lengthy labels with hard to pronounce ingredients.  If you don't recognize an ingredient don't buy it.  If it says high-fructose corn syrup - put it down and walk away!  Take a closer look at anything ending in -ose - it's a processed form of sugar.   

Get back to basics. Keep your pantry well-stocked with healthy staples like organic, low-sodium chicken, vegetable and beef broth, BPA free cans of tomato sauce and vegetables, brown rice, pasta and super-foods like beans, nuts and dried fruits.  These foods are great for snacks and can easily be mixed with organic meats and veggies for a fast, healthy meal.    

Remember, three-quarters of the sodium and most of the trans fats and added sugar Americans ingest come from packaged foods lurking in our pantries.  With a few simple changes, you can eliminate the foods secretly sabotaging your health and transform your pantry into a resource for healthy, satisfying meals. 

From the Parents

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