If you were to open your cupboards what would be in there? Just for fun let’s take the quiz below to see if your pantry needs a little TLC:
- Can you understand most of the ingredients that make up over 50% of your snacks?
- Is your cupboard space taken up by healthy snacks rather then chips, cookies, cakes and pastries?
- Does your fridge contain a small amount of condiments?
- Are your condiments home made?
- Are your bread products made without fillers and/or preservatives?
- Do you know what a filler or preservative will read like on a food label?
- Are your pantry essentials free of artificial flavours and/or colours?
- Do you see a lot of whole food ingredients in your pantry or on your counter? (brown/wild rice, raw nuts/seeds, whole grain flours, dried fruit without added sugar, crackers made of whole ingredients, home made dips and sauces, fruit, veggies etc.)
- Do you feel good about what you are snacking on?
If you are reading this and have answered ‘NO’ to the majority of these questions our guess is that your cupboards, fridge and counter tops are in need of a little Naughty Nutrition TLC.
If you have answered no to the last question on the list, then you don’t even need to be told that you might not be eating the best you can be. Not feeling good about what you are putting into your body, is a huge red flag, and snacking on junk foods (chips, muffins, cookies, pastries …etc.) is one of the biggest pitfalls.
The question that needs to be asked is: Why snack on those unhealthy foods in the first place?
There are numerous reasons to choose the snacks we do. Convenience and taste top the list. Think about it: it is the afternoon, you’re peckish and want a handful of something to tie you over until dinner. What’s typically the easiest choice? A handful of chips, a couple of cookies, a muffin, a chocolate bar. But here’s the thing: your little handful of chips often times turn into half a bag, and your 2 cookies often turn into 5 or 6. We eat mindlessly; in front of the TV, at our computer or on the go and we often grab cheap and convenient foods. Cheap and convenient often times tastes so great, so it’s an easy choice to make.
The other issue with our snacking, believe it or not, starts all the way back to the choices we have made at the beginning of the day:
- What did you have for breakfast? Did it have sugar in it? Was it non-existent?
- What did you have for lunch? Did it have sugar in it? Was it on white bread? Did it make you feel gross and heavy afterwards?
These choices often shape our snacking choices, because they often mess with our blood sugar. If you eat something high in sugar, your blood sugar will spike quickly and then it will come crashing down-causing you to reach for something high in sugar again to level you out. But this doesn’t level you out, this causes a viscous cycle that is often times hard to break.
So what can you do to get out of this cycle?
The most important thing is to start with the choices we make at home.
First, we need to reassess what’s in our cupboards. Who are we buying for? Why are we buying the things we do? Often times we buy snacks for our kids, or our partner who might have a way better metabolism then we do. We buy because something is on sale. Here’s where we need to address the underlying cause of the issue. Do we need to buy Dunkaroos for our kid because they want to have an afternoon snack? Probably not, an apple with some peanut butter will do just fine. And if we buy Oreo’s because they are on sale, who really benefits from the sale? Do you benefit after you eat a whole box and go back the next day because the ‘sale is still on?’ Probably not.
If we start at home with small changes it is more likely we will take our home habits with us to the outside world where we are bombarded with nasty food choices in pretty packages with fancy nutrition labels and promises.
Some simple at home steps for a healthy pantry:
- Make sure your purchasing choices contain whole foods. This means you can basically read every food that is put on the label. One of the best examples of a product that contains whole ingredients is Peanut butter Larabar: Peanuts, dates and salt. If you aren’t going to make it yourself, then you should at least make sure you know what’s going into it.
- Cook in batches. We don’t really think about this concept when we are cooking our favourite meals, but if you are doing pasta that uses a tomato base, cook a huge batch and freeze half of it. This makes it so much easier to plan your meal next time around.
- Condiments are incredibly easy to make! A simple vinaigrette usually consists of an oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Your salad dressing can taste simple when you have a salad that has a lot of elements to it. If you make a salad dressing it also stays fresh in the fridge for a couple of weeks. So make a lot and keep it in an air-tight container.
- Prep your fruits and veggies at the end of the week for the following one. It’s so easy to justify not snacking on vegetables when you tell yourself they just take too much time to prep. If you have 15 minutes on Sunday to go on Facebook then you have 15 minutes to chop some carrots, peppers and celery. Add some hummus and you have a healthy afternoon snack for the week. Also, make smoothie freezer bags for a quick morning blend.
- Make your own trail mix. Buy raw nuts, seeds and some dehydrated fruits and throw them in a container. It’s really easy and it will keep you full for hours.
- All natural peanut butter makes an amazing snack for so many reasons. A slice of sprouted or whole grain bread, peanut butter and a drizzle of honey (for your sweet tooth fix), peanut butter and apple slices, peanut butter and banana smoothie etc. It’s an amazing food and it keeps you full for long.
- Added sugars add up! It is important to make sure that what you’re buying isn’t processed with a lot of sugar, because if you aren’t paying attention you will slowly and gradually start to find that your cupboards are like a convenience store. For example, store bought morning granola, a fruit yogurt cup snack (usually contains more added sugar than actual fruit!), and store bought pasta or sweet and sour sauce for dinner. Sugary food after sugary food. As much as sugar tastes amazing, in excess it is horrible for you and addictive! Gradually you will find that when you reduce the amount of sugar you’re taking in, your snacks start tasting much better.
Now that you have the first set of tools to re-vamp your pantry, things will come a little bit easier. We hope the next time you go into your kitchen you will look in your cupboards with a whole new perspective so you can feel great about what you are eating.
If you think it’s time to move forward with ‘healthifying’ your cupboards from the inside and out visit Pantry Essentials Part 2: What to Stock Your Cupboards With for Healthy Eating Habits.