CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
I'm interested in preparing healthy meals for my family. Problem is, every time I find a recipe I want to fix, it has some ingredients I don't have. It would be nice to know the kinds of foods I should have on hand so I don't have to make a trip to the store. Shopping list, please? -- Janet
Great question and excellent point as our pantry dictates our diet to a large extent. Stock it with unhealthy items, and it will show up in your food and on your hips. Fill it with healthy foods, and you'll probably shave fat- and salt-laden calories from every dish. At the same time, you'll be fueling your body with nutrient-dense foods that will taste great and energize your family.
The first and most important step in your pantry makeover is the demolition. Be prepared for lots of loud noise -- usually from the family screaming not to throw that away!
Unfortunately, the purging is necessary. To have room for the good, you must get rid of the bad. And it's a proven fact that if it's on your shelves, you will eat it. Expect familiar foods to be leaving, and the replacements to be a bit unusual, but if you want to build a healthy kitchen, super foods have to be the structural foundation.
In deciding what to toss, read the labels. If it has the words "hydrogenated" or "high fructose corn syrup," it's a no-brainer -- toss it out. If it's made of refined sugar or flour, it needs to go. If it's white, throw it out -- white flour, white sugar, white rice, cornstarch, along with chips and crackers made from these white ingredients. Because they have been refined, these foods have been stripped of nutrients and fiber. Rid the shelves of other unhealthy foods such as corn oil and blended oils, shortening, pre-packaged foods and sugary snacks and cereals.
It's a good bet that anything in a box is processed, which is another word for unhealthy. While you're checking labels, go ahead and throw out any foods that are past their expiration date. You'd be surprised how many of those are lurking in the cabinets.
Now that you have clean shelves -- hopefully you did clean the shelves after your purged them -- restock with the following foods found in most supermarkets.
Your pantry makeover shopping list includes nonperishable items. The staples/nonrefrigerated foods are a great investment in your health and energy level.