“The best way to serve our unique nutritional needs is to empower ourselves with knowledge, listen to our bodies and respond with healthy, nourishing choices.”
~ Terry Walters
With the change in season comes the desire to make goals, make changes, live better and feel healthier. An area we can have a significant impact on is what we choose to nourish ourselves with. With the rising amount and availability of processed and convenience foods, our nutrition has veered too far from the nutrient dense, whole foods. As a result, diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune and mental illnesses are on the rise. Each item of food we choose to eat should serve a single goal of nourishment to our body, allowing the body to live to its healthiest and fullest by providing the very essence for work and play.
Cleaning out the pantry by replacing foods that hinder health with life giving, nutrient rich foods can help you create healthier patterns, feel better and prevent disease.
1. Begin by getting rid of any foods containing:
White and Brown Refined Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup
Canadians consume, on average, 110 grams of sugar a day, which is equivalent to 46 teaspoons. Refined sugar has been overly processed, essentially voiding itself of any nutrients. As a result, consuming refined sugar does not provide any nutrient value to the body and is only a source of empty calories. When sugar is consumed, excess amounts are stored in the liver and eventually are returned to the bloodstream as fatty acids, which ultimately end up as fat. In addition to contributing to diabetes and obesity, consumption of refined sugar has been linked to a weakened immune system, yeast infections, hyperactivity, ADHD, mental and emotional disorders and chemical imbalances in the brain.
Sugar is hiding in many different food items; therefore, when trying to get rid of foods that contain processed sugar, label reading is essential. Sugar can be identified as glucose, sucrose, fructose, sucralose, dextrose, maltose, maltodextrin and high fructose corn syrup, to name a few. Some common food items that sugar can be lurking in are cereals, crackers, bread, candy, pasta sauces, salad dressings and condiments.
Trans Fats and Saturated Fats
Trans fats are synthetically derived fats that are identified as hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, such as margarine, red meat, and shortening. Consuming foods high in trans and saturated fats increase inflammation in the body and are the number one leading cause of heart disease. These unhealthy fats can be found not only in butter and oils, but also in chips, cookies, cereals, breads and just about any highly processed food item.
Oils to have on hand include olive, flax, avocado and sesame oils. Even though it is a saturated fat, coconut oil is also good to have on hand because it can be safely heated at high temperatures.
Food products containing white flour such as pastas, crackers, breads and cereals are simple carbohydrates that adversely affect health. White flour begins as the whole grain; however, through processing it is stripped of its vitamins, minerals, fibre and enzymes, which leaves a product with no nutritional value. As a result, like sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, white flour products elevate blood sugar levels, contributing to diabetes, weight gain, fluctuating energy levels, mood swings and decreased immune system.
Regular Table Salt
Regular table salt is mined from underground salt deposits and more heavily processed to remove minerals and tends to have additives to prevent clumping. Sea salt, on the other hand, is made from evaporated seawater and contains other trace minerals, which offer many health benefits such as thyroid support, muscle and immune health.
Anything That Has More Than 3 Unrecognizable Ingredients
The Rule of 3 is a great way to prevent consuming food items that contain unhealthy ingredients. If you read a label of a food product that has more than 3 ingredients that you do not understand, get rid of or do not purchase it. Get your children involved! They love being detectives and can have a lot of fun with this. Include them while cleaning out and restocking your pantry.
2. Replace the items with healthy options:
Throw Away: White/brown processed sugar; high fructose corn syrup; cookies and snacks sweetened with them, and sweetened peanut butter.
Replace With: Coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, honey and stevia, cookies sweetened with any of this list or evaporated cane juice (Kashi and Made Good are good brands), all natural peanut butter or almond butter.
Throw Away: Margarine and shortening and regular potato chips that are high in unhealthy fats.
Replace With: Olive, flax seed, sesame, coconut and grape seed oil, rice chips, vegetable chips and kale chips.
Throw Away: White flour products including pasta and crackers.
Replace With: Spelt, buckwheat or brown rice pasta, rice chips/crackers, brown rice and quinoa.
Throw Away: Regular table salt and products containing high sodium (canned soup, salad dressings and sauces).
Replace With: Sea salt, homemade salad dressings using olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.
100 Days of Real Food is a great resource for switching from processed to whole foods.
Keeping the goal in mind that each item of food we choose to eat should serve as a source of nutrients to the body can be helpful when making the lifestyle change to clean out your pantry and restock it with healthy foods. The nutrients gained from our food acts as the foundation for the rest of our health. If we provide our body what it needs to function properly, health and vitality will result!