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Clean Out Your Pantry, Clean Out Your Life!

Clean Out Your Pantry, Clean Out Your Life!

Guest Blogger and Nutritional Consultant Katherine Pennington of   Be In Balance explains why the state of your pantry is a metaphor for the state of your life;

Have a pantry overstocked with food and unable to see what is there? Perhaps you often feel overburdened with life and need to simplify! Have a pantry with nothing in it but white pasta, canned soup and snacks high in sugar and salt? Perhaps you are not taking care of yourself!

If there is one thing you can do with respect to creating healthier patterns in your life as well as your loved ones is to clean out your pantry! I always tell my clients that the first step to eating healthily is having a well-organized, uncluttered pantry! Not only do you want to make sure that what you have in your pantry is healthy, but you also want to organize it in such a way that you can actually see the healthy food!

One of the services I provide is helping clients clean out their pantry then take them shopping afterwards to restock. If unhealthy food is not in the pantry then it won’t be there to eat! And, if you have an abundance of healthy choices, then you will make better choices overall. Although it is nice to have someone do it for you, you don’t need me to do it for you!

Here are 4 easy steps yourself you can take to clean out your pantry and make major changes in your life!

Step 1: Be Brutal and Throw Out Anything Containing:

1) White (or even brown organic) sugar
American’s consume on average a staggering 142 pounds of sugar per person per year, causing a near epidemic of diabetes and obesity in this country. And, never before have we seen such diseases previously associated with adults showing up in record numbers of children! When we consume sugar, excess sugar is stored in the liver as glycogen and eventually excess amounts are returned to the bloodstream as fatty acids, which ultimately end up as fat. In addition to contributing to diabetes and obesity, consumption of refined sugar has been linked to hypoglycemia, a weakened immune system, yeast infections, hyperactivity, ADHD, mental and emotional disorders and chemical imbalances in the brain.

Many of us are addicted to sugar and we don’t even know it! Sugar addiction can create a spiral effect for your whole day that will cause you to have mood swings, crave carbohydrates and sugar-laden foods, reach for caffeine to give you a boost and overall make bad food choices.

Sugar is lurking where you would least expect to find it. It is in cereals, crackers, bread, and, of course, candy and junk food! It is also in many pasta sauces and salad dressings! Sugar is highly addictive, and manufactures know it so they add it to their products so you will buy more.
And, no! Organic brown sugar is not ok!!! Sugar is sugar is sugar. Sure, the brown sugar is a tad bit better than the white sugar, which has been stripped of all of its enzymes and minerals. But, brown sugar, like white sugar, will still reek havoc on your blood sugar levels. Either way, not good for the waist-line, or your health!

2) High fructose corn syrup
High-fructose corn syrup would be on my list as even worse than sugar! Althoughyou might first assume by its name that high-fructose corn syrup is a natural fructose sweetener that comes from corn nothing could be farther from the truth! High-fructose corn syrup is made by milling corn to produce corn starch, and then processing this corn into glucose and then adding enzymes to it to turn some of the glucose into fructose. The end result is a very highly processed sweetener that is very far from the natural corn from which it came from and little in common with the fructose found in fruit!

Once you read labels, you will notice that high-fructose syrup is sneaky and lurks where you least expect it also! Manufacturers put high-fructose corn syrup it in pasta sauces, jelly, Gatorade, salad dressings, cookies and even many children’s fruit drinks and snacks.I was having breakfast at my mother’s recently when she brought out some “homemade” jam with an old-fashioned label that she received as a gift. We read the label expecting to find sugar but instead we found…yep, high-fructose corn syrup!

Manufacturers of high-fructose corn syrup have spent 30 million dollars on add campaigns trying to convince consumers that HFCS is not unhealthy and does not promote disease. What is undisputable, though , is that most foods containing HFCS are high in calories and low in nutritional value. When we regularly consume these foods, often it results in obesity, diabetes, high-blood pressure and heart disease.

3) Trans Fats (Hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils) and saturated fats!
Consuming foods high in trans fats such as hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils and saturated fats such as butter, margarine, shortening, corn oils, and the like has been shown to contribute to heart disease, high-blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

These unhealthy fats can be found not only in the obvious butter and oils but also in chips, cookies, cereals, breads and just about any highly processed food item. The rule of 3 often takes care of saturated fats and hydrogenated oils but carefully read labels and avoid anything with hydrogenated oils and saturated fats.

A good rule of them is the only oils you should have in your pantry are olive oil, canola and safflower oil. I also keep pumpkin seed, flax seed, hemp seed and sesame seed oil on hand for salads and other delicious recipes. Even though it is a saturated fat, I also use coconut oil because it is a plant-based oil and it is one of the only oils that can be safely heated at high-temperatures.

4) White flour
Food products containing white flour such as pastas, breads and cereals are simple carbohydrates that do nothing to contribute to your health and, like sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, lead to elevated blood sugar levels and, therefore, weight-gain! White flour starts as a whole grain flour that has been processed and literally been stripped of its vital vitamins, minerals, fiber and enzymes leaving just starch and has no redeeming value nutritionally! You might as well eat straight sugar!

Consuming simple carbohydrates like white flour, bread, pastas and cereals results in weight-gain, a slower metabolism, and contributes to diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

5) Anything that has more than 3 unrecognizable ingredients!
This is a biggie…if you read a label of a food product and do not understand what the ingredients are, they do not belong in your body!!! I usually operate on the rule of 3. If something has more than 3 ingredients, do not buy it! Children absolutely love being detective sleuths and have so much fun with this so make sure you include them when you are cleaning out your pantry and restocking, or buying them a snack after-school!

Step 2: Take Action! Go Shopping and Buy Substitutions.

When I clean out a pantry, I literally have trash bags in one hand and a clip board in the other. When I throw something out, I put a note indicating what we need to buy to replace that item. If you do not work on a system of replacement, I find that people feel “punished” or like they are “on a diet,” and become literally paralyzed not knowing what to eat. Substitute your favorites and usual mealtime staples with healthier options and it will make a big difference in your health and your waist-line! Following are some initial steps to get you started…

Throw out
White or brown sugar

Replace With
Agave nectar, brown rice syrup or unrefined organic cane juice.

Throw out
White flour
White pasta

Replace with
Whole wheat, spelt, buckwheat, kamut, or brown rice pasta (my favorites are Vita Spelt, Eden’s Organic and Ancient Harvest)

Throw out
Cookies laden with sugar
Peanut butter with sugar

See Also

Replace with
Cookies sweetened with unrefined cane juice or agave nectar   (Kashi, Late July, & Back to Nature)
Natural almond butter

Throw out
Regular Potato chips

Replace with
Chips with whole grains (my favorites are FoodShouldTasteGood Multi-Grain Chips, Guiltless Gourmet , Terra, Maine Coast Sea Vegetable “Chips”, Suzie’s Spelt Rice Cakes & Puffed Cakes)

Throw out
Margarine & butter
Regular cooking oils & sprays

Replace with
Earth balance
Olive oil spray, olive oil, coconut butter, unrefined sesame oil, sunflower or safflower oil, flax seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, hemp seed oil, sesame oil.

Throw out
White salt

Replace with
Sea salt

Step 3: Practice Good Pantry Feng Shui
Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese system to improve one’s Chi or energy! Messy closet or pantry? Often, messy life. Once you have made sure you have healthy foods in your pantry, you want to make sure you can actually see all of the wonderful food you have in there! If you can easily see what is in your cupboard then you are more likely to make healthy decisions and not say, “there is nothing in the pantry, lets order in!”

A well-organized pantry is a well-used pantry! I recommend using stackable, vacuum-packed containers (can be purchased at Crate & Barrel or William Sonoma) for storing grains, pastas, cereals and the like. Not only will you be able to see them but they will keep your food fresh for longer. I also recommend that you order your pantry according to the categories. I have a section in my pantry for cereals, another for grains, and another for pasta sauces, salad dressings and other condiments. When you can see what you have it is a lot easier to make good decisions and get inspired when you are cooking!

Step 4: You are the Master of Your Own Domain
Take responsibility for your life and realize that you control your health and that of your family. While, yes, it may be easier to hire someone like me to come clean out your pantry and take you shopping, you can easily do it yourself! If you feel uninspired in the kitchen or open up your pantry and find chaos, make it a priority to make yourself a priority and clean out your pantry! It should take you an hour or two depending on where you are coming from but worth every minute.

Article by Nutritional consultant Katherine Pennington, Be in Balance, offers holistic health and lifestyle counseling in New York for women and men who want to lose weight, gain energy, sleep better, reduce stress, get in shape and achieve a greater sense of well-being, balance and happiness in their lives and those of their families.   For more information, please visit her website at or   send an email to [email protected].   Adapted from Katherine’s monthly article in