When we think about cleaning up our nutrition, we often focus on what’s in the bowl or on the menu without giving much consideration to what may be lurking in our kitchens. In truth, the kitchen can be an avid supporter or a cruel trickster in our plan for a healthier life. If you’re working to combat unhealthy late night snacking, but maintain a pantry filled with cookies, candies and potato chips, how much more difficult are you making it for yourself? Or, if you’re training for a triathlon but only stock boxes of processed junk and containers of takeout leftovers, how much are you compromising your competition day performance? The contents of your kitchen should be in synergy with the contents of your goals and aspirations- after all, we are what we eat! If you’re looking to make a fresh start in 2014, consider setting aside a day of detox by cleansing your pantry and kitchen of toxins and straight up JUNK. Follow these steps for a grateful body and a healthier home:
Take Inventory: Get clear on exactly what’s lurking in the cabinets, cupboards and fridge by removing every single thing from the shelves and placing it all on an easily accessible surface, like your counters or dining room table.
First, check for expiration dates and toss out all items that are past their prime. Dented cans can indicate botulism, a serious paralytic illness caused by the toxin; when in doubt, throw it out. If you find canned or packaged goods that you don’t think you’ll actually consume, consider donating it to a soup kitchen or handing it over to your neighbor.
Second, take a look at the labels of packaged, canned and refrigerated food items that you’re interested in keeping. Is high fructose corn syrup listed, or is sugar one of the first two ingredients? Do you see any words that you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce, like butylated hydroxyanisole (a popular food preservative that is carcinogenic)? If you don’t know what an ingredient is, do some quick computer research to find out. Does the item contain any trans fats? Trans fats are artery clogging “franken-fats” that raise bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol, and increase the risk of heart disease. Do you really want that in your body?
Reflect: While you’re reviewing each label, think about whether or not a particular food is helping you or harming you. Are bags of potato chips sabotaging your efforts to become a healthier snacker? Are you trying to cut down on your alcohol consumption- but still maintaining a surplus of beer and wine in your home? Are you regularly ingesting processed, toxic, and trans-fat laden junk? It’s important to consider the drawbacks and benefits of every item you have stored in your kitchen so you can make wiser purchasing decisions as you move forward and remove whatever is wreaking havoc in your life.
Purge: Create two clear piles. One of those piles is for food that’s headed straight to the garbage, like rotten produce or expired dairy products and canned goods, and the other is designated for items that you will donate or give away, like unopened packaged goods that no longer serve you or foods you’ll never eat in the first place. Pack and toss immediately; don’t second guess yourself and resist the urge to “save” foods you might enjoy in the future. Go with your gut- it will thank you later!
Set Up a System: Keeping your newly cleansed kitchen organized is a key factor to maintaining its health and ease of use. Where possible, get rid of plastic containers and invest in some sturdy glass canisters to store beans, grains, and seeds. Studies show that plastic, even when unheated, can contaminate food with harmful toxins that mimic estrogen and may even contribute to cancer, obesity and diabetes. Whatever you do, never ever microwave or heat food in a plastic container. Designate half of your refrigerator for lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and pick one day per week to review your produce stock, tossing out anything that’s gone bad. Store your oils in a dark, cool place, away from the stove.
Create a List: Now that you have a detoxified kitchen, be sure to rejuvenate it with important items you may be missing, like a variety of spices, healthy whole grains (brown rice and quinoa are two staples), and healthier alternatives to items like full fat milk, white rice, and vegetable oil (almond milk, red rice and coconut oil are examples). Make a weekly grocery list of items you should have available at all times… and be sure to head to the grocery store with a full stomach in order to avoid any purchases that you might regret later!
Have you detoxified your kitchen for the New Year? Are you planning to, but have questions on how? Leave your comments- I'm always grateful to hear from you!