Spring Into Better Health

(Mayo Clinic News Network/(TNS)) -

With spring often comes spring cleaning — a good time to clean your house inside and out.

However, what about your pantry? How often do you clean your pantry? If you’re trying to lose weight or adopt a healthy lifestyle, consider these questions.

“There are many reasons to consider cleaning out your pantry,” says Amanda Leisenheimer, who is a registered dietitian with Mayo Clinic Health System. “You might have set a resolution to start eating healthier, but still have old temptations waiting for you on the shelf. Removing those temptations from your grasp will help you stay on track with your goals.”

Throw away old, unhealthy enticements and replace with new, healthy options, such as:

  • Low-sodium pretzels
  • Hummus
  • Light popcorn
  • Baked chips
  • Low-sodium nuts, such as peanuts, almonds or walnuts
  • Canned salmon, tuna
  • Canned smoked herring
  • Whole-wheat crackers
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Quinoa
  • Low-sodium beans
  • Kosher salt
  • Low-sodium chicken or beef broth

“Keep in mind herbs and spices can expire and can lose their potency, causing your favorite recipes to have different tastes,” adds Leisenheimer. “Spices and herbs can also be expensive, but you can grow them yourself — even if you do not have a large space to do it.”

Leisenheimer says you can plant herbs and spices in small boxes indoors near windows or outside on a patio. You can fill a small box or leftover pots with soil, and use that to plant the herbs without worrying about weeds taking over. Any vessel will work, so Leisenheimer encourages green thumbs to get creative and use what works best.

“You can use fresh herbs and spices to make any dish more delightful,” says Leisenheimer. “You can also dehydrate the herbs and spices for use in the winter months. The aroma of fresh basil, oregano or chives growing near where you’re cooking will help inspire creative new recipes.”

Refrigerator Edition

Often, food items can expire in the refrigerator or may get stuck in the far back corner, resulting in forgotten, potentially expired items. Sometimes, food spills and sticks cause refrigerators to look more like a science project than a storage place for food.

“First, throw away any food that may be questionable. Most canned items have an expiration date, but if there’s no expiration date, use your best judgment. When in doubt, throw it out,” says Amanda Leisenheimer.

“Cleaning your refrigerator is also a good time to throw away any enticing, unhealthy food, such as whipped cream, chocolate syrup, frosting, salted caramel ice cream topping, full-fat mayonnaise, or whatever your downfall to losing weight might be.”

Cleaning the refrigerator will also prevent bacteria from growing in it, she says. “At this point, it’s also a good time to check the temperature and make sure your refrigerator is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less.”

Use the fruit and vegetable bins for their intended food occupants — fruits and vegetables. Stock up on these items, and make them easy to grab and eat by washing and cutting them into snack-sized portions. Make snacking healthy by taking the effort out of the equation when your cravings hit.

“Consider the colors of your fruits and vegetables, which does matter,” adds Leisenheimer. “More intense color means more nutrients.”

When considering breads, choose whole grains to increase fiber. Opt for condiments like low-fat mayonnaise, yogurt, cheese and milk. Reduced-fat cheese or milk are good second choices. Leave room on the bottom shelf to properly thaw frozen meats. Use a plate under the meat to catch any liquids and avoid contaminating other foods.

“Thawing meat in the refrigerator can take time, so plan ahead,” says Leisenheimer. “Give yourself time to thaw out frozen foods depending on their size. Remember to thaw meat in the refrigerator rather than on the counter to avoid bacteria growth and foodborne illness.”