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What’s Lurking in Your Pantry?

I was looking around the world wide web trying to find inspiration for my next post. What in the world can I write about…and BAM – National Clean Up Your Pantry Day. Last Tuesday (April 11th) was National Clean Up Your Pantry Day, which is when I started writing this post - but life delayed things a little bit!

Instead of just thinking of this as a way to get rid of expired foods or those that you bought on a whim, use this as an opportunity to change your food focus.

We really do need to look at the foods we keep in our pantry. How many of them are quick convenience foods with a laundry list of laboratory-sounding ingredients? Snack bars, cookies, chips, and gummy snacks vs quinoa, lentils, brown rice, and beans. Hey…I also need some convenience foods, but how much of our diet is processed vs. fresh?

Many of us have busy lives shuffling from one thing to another with very little time to cook a meal. But they say that you make time for what’s important. Maybe it’s just time reprioritize what’s important and take a deeper look at what kinds of foods we buy. Maybe some of these convenience foods are causing health issues for you or your family.

The thing is, if you don’t keep certain foods within easy reach (like cookies, chips, etc.) you won’t be tempted to eat them. That's not to say you can NEVER eat these foods again. It's important to balance them with good, fresh, wholesome foods that nourish your body and gut microbiome. So, if you are trying to avoid simple carbohydrates, processed foods, and other insulin-spiking foods – don’t buy them. Make them a special occasional treat. Consider some alternatives to those foods – like a piece of fruit when you need something sweet.

So, of course when starting any pantry cleaning project, you need to throw out any expired food. If you have any extra pantry foods (that aren’t about to expire), consider donating them to a food pantry. I you have any cans that are starting to bulge – throw them out! Get rid of any highly processed foods. These are foods with ingredients like hydrolyzed proteins, high fructose corn syrup, casein, hydrogenated oil, maltodextrin, whey protein, and soya protein isolate, etc. Get your family involved in the process, too! It's important for kids (and spouses) to understand why certain food choices are better for them than others.

What SHOULD you have in your pantry? Well, that can be a complicated answer because of food allergies and sensitivities but take this list with a grain of Celtic Sea salt and make modifications where you need to.

GRAINS & LEGUMES: Good source of fiber and plant-based protein. Grains and legumes can decrease the risk for inflammation and type 2 diabetes. Legumes are high in potassium, magnesium, fiber, protein, iron, copper, B vitamins, zinc and phosphorus.

· Oats (steel cut or old fashioned)

· Quinoa

· Brown Rice or Wild Rice

· Dry Beans (Chickpeas, Kidney Beans, Black Beans, etc.)

· Lentils

· Pasta (Legume-based, not wheat-based)


· Tomatoes (crushed, diced, paste)

· Marinara sauce

· Canned coconut milk

· Canned pumpkin puree

· Canned tuna

· Vegetable Broth

· Chicken/Turkey Bone Broth

· Shelf-stable non-dairy milk of choice (oat, almond, soy, etc.)

FERMENTED FOODS: Great for gut health and replenishing the good bacteria in your microbiome!

· Sauerkraut

· Kimchi

· Pickles (fermented with lactobacillus)

NUTS/SEEDS/DRY FRUIT: Nuts and seeds can decrease risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. Opt for unsweetened low sodium varieties and watch your portion sizes.

· Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, Brazil nuts, etc.)

· Chia seeds

· Flaxseeds (ground fresh)

· Sunflower seeds

· Pumpkin seeds

· Unsweetened shredded coconut

· Dried fruit (dates, raisins, cranberries, blueberries, etc.)

· Nut/Seed butters (almond, peanut, coconut, sunflower, tahini, etc.)

OIL/FATS/VINEGAR: Apple cider vinegar has been shown to reduce inflammation and helps to control blood sugar levels.

· Ghee (clarified butter – from grass-fed cows is best)

· Oil (coconut, avocado, olive)

· Vinegar (balsamic, apple cider)


· Ketchup (unsweetened)

· Mustard

· Tamari, soy sauce or coconut aminos

· Maple syrup

· Salad dressings (oil & vinegar, etc.)

· Siracha

BAKING SUPPLIES: Limit portions of sweeteners (honey, coconut sugars, etc.). Honey does have anti-microbial properties polyphenols, protein, enzymes, vitamins and minerals, which gives you more bang for your buck vs. refined sugar.

· Grain-free flour (almond, coconut, oat, etc.) - these can also be kept in the freezer to preserve them longer.

· Coconut sugar

· Honey

· Chocolate chips (the darker the better)

· Baking soda/powder

HERBS & SPICES: These add a lot of flavor, polyphenols, bioflavonoids, vitamins and minerals to your food! Experiment with different herbs and spices to add variety to your foods.

· Cinnamon (antioxidant & anti-inflammatory properties)

· Black pepper

· Oregano

· Ginger (great for digestion)

· Parsley (lots of vitamin C!)

· Turmeric (anti-inflammatory)

· Celtic sea salt (does not contain iodine)


· Onions

· Garlic

· Potatoes (white and sweet)

· Winter squash (spaghetti squash, acorn squash, butternut squash)

· Tomatoes (not as long lasting as squash and onions, but should be kept on the counter vs the refrigerator)

While not included in the shelf-stable pantry foods, you can also look at your refrigerator and freezer. Do you buy vegetables with the intent to “eat healthy,” only to let them rot in the produce drawer of your refrigerator? Here’s a tip for eating more fruits and vegetables before they go bad: divvy them up into servings. You can cut them up and put them in glass jars (or bags) so they are easy to grab for a snack or to pack in your lunch.

However, if you still find it hard to eat them up before they spoil, frozen fruits and vegetables sometimes contain more vitamins and minerals than their fresh counterparts. They are picked at just the right ripeness and flash frozen, so they are preserved in that ripe state. Some fresh fruits and vegetables are picked before they are ripe so they can ship long distances. It is best to get your fresh produce from local sources like a farmer’s market whenever possible.


· Eggs

· Veggies (leafy greens, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc.)

· Fruits (citrus, apples, grapes, berries, melon, avocado)

· Meat & seafood (chicken, turkey, salmon, grass-fed red meat)

· Tofu

· Tempeh

· Yogurt (Greek or from grass-fed cows)

· Feta cheese

· Hummus


· Frozen fruit

· Frozen vegetables

· Seafood (shrimp, fish filets, etc.)

Let me also give you some general pointers about portions and ratios of foods. Since many, if not most, Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables in their diet, start there! Eat one more vegetable or fruit per meal than you are currently eating. Work up to half to three-fourths of your plate as fruit or vegetables (more vegetables than fruit whenever possible).

Next, look at your protein. Are you getting enough? A good rule of thumb is to look at your ideal body weight (in pounds) and eat that much protein (in grams). So, if 150 pounds is your ideal body weight, eat 150 GRAMS of protein per day. If your ideal body weight is 120 pounds, eat 120 GRAMS of protein per day. Even if you do not weigh this much, this is the amount of protein you should be consuming. Eating animal meats is the easiest way to achieve this, but if you are vegetarian or vegan, a protein supplement in a shake every day may help you achieve your goal. If you are eating animal protein, red meat and pork should be about the size of a deck of cards. Poultry or fish can be the size of a dollar bill.

Next is the carbohydrates. Try to aim for about ½ to 1 cup of gluten-free whole grains per day which may look similar to the amount of animal-based protein on your plate. Many of your carbohydrates can come from fruits and vegetables or plant-based protein sources like legumes as well.

Clean up your pantry, fridge, and freezer for a healthier approach to eating!

Are you ready to PIVOT to functional health and wellness?

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