Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spring Clean Your Fridge and Pantry

We're on to week 2 of your spring cleaning challenge! Did you take stock of you fridge and pantry last week? {Check back on the list here.}

Even if you dread spring cleaning, surely you can't help but like the feeling you have when you're finished, right? Like a weight has been lifted. Refreshed. Like it's time for a fresh start.

When you're ready to dive in to your cleaning spree, don't forget about your kitchen! Fridge, cabinets, pantry and all. A healthy lifestyle starts with your food environment at home. Create a healthy environment and healthy eating becomes easier!

So here's my step by step approach:

Step 1: Pull all the dry foods out of your pantry and cabinets (wherever you keep them stored).
Step 2: Separate food into three categories:
  1. Healthy foods to keep.
  2. Foods that aren't so healthy. These are foods that should not come back into the house or be kept on hand (cookies, snack cakes, candy, etc). You may choose to either trash them, give them away or gradually eat them until they're gone. But after they're gone they don't come back! 
  3. Foods to throw away because they are expired or nobody wants to eat them.
Step 3: Decide how you'll organize your food when it goes back into the pantry. I like to keep foods in categories, like this:
  • Pastas
  • Rices and other grains, like quinoa and barley
  • Cereals, both cold and hot
  • Beans
  • Vegetables...and so forth
It also helps to have storage bins and racks to group items together so that your pantry stays organized! And I'm a sucker for glass storage vessels too, as you can probably see. I like to buy 'em cheap at IKEA.

Care for  a peek inside a real-life dietitian's pantry? I swear it always looks like this. Here you go:

Step 4: Before you put the food back in, give the shelves a good cleaning. Then place items on shelves according to category. Make a separate space for the items you've decided shouldn't be kept on hand (these are the foods you'll finish, but they won't return on the next grocery trip).

Step 5: Now perform the same steps in your refrigerator and freezer. Decide on "staples" to keep and items to weed out. Give it a good cleaning, categorize items and restock the shelves! Refer back to last week's list for more information about my recommended fridge and freezer "staples." Here's my fridge after picking up this week's co-op (sorry it's not the best pic in the world):

Step 6: If you're really on a roll, now move on to cabinets that hold dishes, utensils, pots and pans, etc. Having the right tools and an organizational system simplifies food preparation.

These are essential kitchen tools I like to keep on hand in my kitchen:

  • Various pots, pans, baking dishes (I prefer mostly stainless steel, rather than non-stick because it lasts longer) and cooking utensils
  • Cast iron skillet
  • A full set of knives (for everyday cutting, paring, chopping, bread, etc.) and a sharpener. Did you know a sharp knife is more efficient and less likely to cause an injury?
  • Food processor
  • Food dehydrator
  • Measuring cups and spoons (a couple sets)
  • Jars for mixing dressings
  • Nesting mixing bowls
  • Handheld mixer
  • Blender
  • Veggie peeler
  • Apple slicer (MAJOR time-saver)
  • Mandoline slicer
  • Herb scissors (makes slicing fresh herbs so simple and fast!)
  • Pizza cutter
  • Whisks, large and small
  • Tongs
  • Plastic spatulas (I use them all the time to sauté)
  • Can openers, hand-held and electric
  • Rolling pin
  • Colanders, large and small
  • Lettuce spinner
  • Lots of glass and BPA-free plastic containers for food storage

Check out the GoodFood Store for some of my favorite products. {If you order from the GoodFood Store, you're supporting the GoodFood blog without any extra cost to you! Orders are placed through Amazon.}

Here's this weekend's challenge: Follow the steps above to clean out your kitchen, then stock it with healthy "staples." Don't know exactly what to buy? If you're looking for specifics, download my "Well Stocked Kitchen" list. It's only 5 bucks and you can print it every week before you go to the grocery. When you finish, share your pictures on my Facebook page!

Next week we'll wrap up my spring cleaning series with tips for pulling together quick, healthy meals from staple items you now have stocked in your pantry and fridge!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

How to Stock Your Fridge and Pantry: The Must-Haves

I'm issuing you a kitchen spring-cleaning challenge!

Over the next three weeks, I'll be leading you through spring cleaning and stocking a healthy kitchen. We'll start with the cleaning next week (so you have a little time to get mentally prepared!). For now, let's talk about healthy foods to keep on hand in your home. Surrounding yourself with healthy food, and very few items that aren't so healthy, will help you make positive food choices.

For starters, watch this brief video of my recent segment on Great Day St. Louis. Then take a look at the lists below for more on the must-haves that should be in your fridge, freezer and pantry.


Let's start with the essentials for your refrigerator. These items should make your grocery list every week:
  • Fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk
  • Fat-free or low-fat yogurt
    • Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt: Use it to mix with fruit or muesli and to replace sour cream
    • Flavored or fruited yogurts, if you would like
  • Reduced-fat cheeses
  • Natural peanut butter and almond butter
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables! Only purchase what you can eat during one week.
  • Lean meats
  • Eggs
  • Lemon and lime juice (great for salad dressings and marinades)
  • Dijon mustard (for spicing up sandwiches and making salad dressing)
  • Butter and non-hydrogenated tub margarine (I pick Land O'Lakes Light Butter or Smart Balance Light)
  • Whole grain breads and tortillas (I keep them in the fridge so they last longer)

Utilize your freezer to stock supplies for quick meals and to save leftovers. Always keep:
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables! (Notice a common theme?) Buy plain frozen types without sauces and added sugars.
  • Lean meats and fish, packed in portion-controlled containers or bags. For example, if you're feeding a family of four, freeze four chicken breasts together in a package so they're easy to thaw.
  • Whole grain products, like bagels, english muffins and waffles (they keep longer in the freezer, but you can toast them quickly in the morning)

The pantry is your powerhouse! There are so many essentials you can keep stocked in your pantry without risking spoilage and wasted money. Pantry staples are also items that can be used in a variety of meals.
  • Whole wheat pastas (pick several different types of noodles: spaghetti, linguini, penne, rotini and lasagna)
  • Brown rice and wild rice
  • Other whole grains: whole wheat cous cous, bulgur, quinoa
  • Whole grain cereals (I like oatmeal, Shredded Wheat, Wheat Chex, Bran Flakes and Grape Nuts best)
  • Whole grain crackers (I like Triscuits and Ak-Mak from Trader Joe's)
  • Low-sodium canned beans (keep different varieties: black, garbanzo, pinto, kidney and cannellini)
  • Canned meats: chicken breast, salmon and tuna
  • Low-sodium canned vegetables, especially tomatoes
  • Canned fruit, packed in juice or water
  • Dried fruits, unsweetened
  • Nuts (choose several: walnuts, almonds, pepitas, peanuts, flax)
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Baking essentials: whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, brown sugar, corn meal

Lastly, the spice cabinet will help you maximize the flavor in all those yummy, healthy foods!
  • Keep many spices on hand. My often-used favorites include: Kosher salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, dill, parsley, basil, oregano, paprika, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Olive oil (extra virgin and infused varieties) and canola oil
  • Vinegars (red wine, rice, white wine, etc.)
  • Baking essentials: baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder

Your first step in this spring cleaning challenge is to take stock of what you have by comparing to the list above. Start thinking about what you're missing and what you currently have that doesn't fit (didn't notice cookies on that list, did you?). Next week we'll work on the cleaning part of the equation, but if you're ready for a head start, download my "Well-Stocked Kitchen" grocery list. It's only $5 from the GoodFood Store and you can print it an unlimited number of times--for all your grocery trips!

Start your kitchen spring-cleaning challenge this weekend and you'll be finished and ready-to-go by the first of May! Watch for part two next week.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What's Really Weighing Us Down?

It's spring! Finally. I just feel happier when the trees start blooming and everything turns green. Minus the tornadoes, storms and power outage last night, of course.

Then my thoughts, as many others' do, turn to the fact that it's almost time for shorts and bikinis. Woah! Yes, I pay attention to my diet and exercise all year long, but there's something about the thought of showing more skin that makes me (and many) think about turning it up a notch. Am I right?

Whether you've got just a little to lose or a long-term goal of dropping a lot, it's imperative to have an understanding of what makes us gain (and lose) weight anyway. And spring, a season of renewal and refreshment, is the perfect time to start! Clean out your kitchen, buy some fresh produce, start a new exercise routine or buy some spring clothes. Start fresh. That's the theme I'll be running with over the next several weeks, while incorporating tips for smart choices and a jump-start on getting fit for summer. It starts with the following infographic about calorie balance.

For due diligence: This infographic was brought to you by Coca-Cola, to who I am a consultant; however I published this post just as I do most anything else--of my own free will. It was not sponsored and I was not compensated. And thanks, Coke, for promoting wellness.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's National Walking Day!

April 3 is the American Heart Association's National Walking Day. This nationwide call-to-action encourages Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle literally one step at a time. 
More Americans are overweight and obese today than ever before. Although there are many factors that influence weight gain, reduced activity level is a major culprit. Yes--we all lead busy lifestyles, but exercise has to be a priority in order to stay healthy! And exercise is not only a means to achieve a healthy weight, it's important for maintaining heart health, healthy digestion, and preventing and controlling diabetes.
Luckily, it is as easy as going for a walk most days of the week. Walking does not require any special skills. It is safe, free, requires no equipment and costs nothing to get started. Plus it's a great way for beginners to start an exercise program safely.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). 30 minutes a day, five times a week is an easy goal to remember. However you will also experience benefits even if you divide your time into two or three segments of 10 -15 minutes each day. 
Here's the math when it comes to walking for weight loss:
  • In each mile you walk, you'll burn about 100 calories (depending on your speed, that might take you 15-20 minutes)
  • If you burn 100 calories each day, you'll lose 10 pounds in a year
  • If you walk 30 minutes each day (2 miles), at a pace of 15 minutes/mile, you'll lose 20 pounds in a year!
  • Combine that with a healthy diet that is slightly reduced in calories and you could be looking at a weight loss of 1/2 to 1 pound per week (25-50 pounds a year). Talk to your Registered Dietitian for your specific calorie needs and a weight loss plan.

Those steps really add up!

So join thousands across the nation and pledge to start a healthier lifestyle as part of this annual event! Grab your sneakers and go for a walk during your lunch break or after work today. Hopefully you'll be able to enjoy some springtime weather. 
Encourage your company to help employees take the first step in becoming more active by participating too. Even after today passes, ask your employer to start a regular walking group at your workplace (or grab some co-workers and form your own). Walking during work is a great way to improve heart health and burn calories while relieving some stress by stepping away from your desk for a while :)
For more information, visit the National Walking Day Website. If you fill out the registration form, you can download the Walking Day toolkit, which includes posters, flyers, a powerpoint presentation and signs that you can use to set up a walking path at your workplace. What a jumpstart!
Do you already have a regular walking program on your own or at your workplace? Tell me about it!
Source: American Heart Association