It’s Time to Spring Clean Your Cupboards
By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. 2 Corinthians 7:1
Ahh…spring! It greets us with warm sunshine; tulips and daffodils pushing through the soil; a feeling of hope and happiness; more walkers, bikers, and runners on the trails, streets, and sidewalks; and other things that bring joy to our lives. Many people also identify spring cleaning as something that we do at this time of the year. This year, instead of just the usual spring cleaning, take some time to clean out your kitchen cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer of unhealthy items. This month’s article will include information about what you should remove from your kitchen to make it a healthier place.
In beginning the cleaning process, you might consider starting with one location on the first day and move to the next area on a subsequent day. Of course, you may be someone who just wants to “git ‘er done” and finish it in one day. The best way to accomplish this is the way that works for you. Here are some suggestions about how to go about getting the kitchen clear of unhealthy products.
- Get rid of anything that has ice crystals or looks like it has freezer burn.
- If you can’t identify what is in that freezer bag, get rid of it. (Yes, I have encountered this. I think it may have been leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. I now label and date every bag.)
- Keep the uncooked protein (chicken, beef, pork). It can keep in the freezer for up to nine months.
- Most frozen prepared meals or products are not healthy for you because of sodium and fat content. Consider getting rid of them.
- If the freezer looks bare after clearing it out, it is time to head to the grocery store for things such as frozen vegetables, fruits, and lean meats.
- Check expiration dates on all items in your refrigerator. I found a salad dressing in mine that expired over a year ago!
- Consider getting rid of those condiments that contain a lot of calories and sugar: mayonnaise, sour cream, salad dressings, sweet pickles/relish, jams and jellies, flavored syrups, ketchup, barbeque sauces, some salsas. Look at the label to determine how much sugar is in your refrigerated product. Ketchup, yogurt, and salsa surprised me. If you have a product that has four grams of sugar per serving, that means it has 1 teaspoon of sugar per serving. I currently have some French dressing in my refrigerator that has 10 grams of sugar per two-tablespoon serving—that means 2 ½ teaspoons of sugar per serving! Yikes! That needs to go.
- Rid your refrigerator of sugary drinks—fruit juice, pop, energy drinks. Also, consider getting rid of any alcohol. And that bottle of wine you opened two months ago—that needs to go.
(For more information on refrigerator and freezer storage guidelines go to: https://www.fda.gov/media/74435/download )
- Again, check for expiration dates. Believe it or not, canned goods don’t last forever.
- Toss or donate items that are filled with sodium, sugar, and preservatives. Yes, that is usually the “good” stuff we all love: chips, granola bars, some protein bars, and sugary cereal. Reading the labels will give you a good idea of how much of the unhealthy stuff is in there.
- Look at your spices. Many have expiration dates on them. Although old spices won’t necessarily make you ill or go bad, whole spices tend to lose flavor three-four years after packaging and ground spices usually begin to lose flavor after one to two years. I know that at this moment I have spices in my cupboard that are over three years old.
- Remove what is considered junk food, like candy, chips, or desserts. If you can’t bear to part with them, at least hide them high in your cupboards where you can’t see or reach them easily. Replace them with healthy snacking options like nuts, unsweetened apple sauce, natural nut butters with an ingredient list that includes only nuts, pumpkin seeds, or multigrain crackers. Put these healthy snacks front and center.
- Toss out or donate pre-prepared, highly processed foods like Hamburger Helper, Rice-a-Roni, and sloppy joe mixes. They are full of sodium, fat, and sometimes sugar that you just don’t need.
- Replace that highly processed white bread with a healthier whole-grain product or better yet, a loaf of bread with sprouted grain.
Do you think that you can do all this? Well, I know that I can’t do everything listed. I have gotten rid of some of the items listed above: ketchup, barbecue sauce, jams/jellies, most salad dressings, sugary drinks, granola bars, and all boxed cereals. I admit that I have kept some prepared foods that I know aren’t very good for me. But I do read the labels to find what is the least unhealthy. Start with ridding your cupboard, refrigerator, or freezer of just one thing. The next week get rid of one more thing. As my wise physical trainer tells me: “progress, not perfection”.
Have fun spring cleaning! Be well.