The new year is a natural time to pause and look ahead. Many of us think about the things we can improve, like our family’s health.
It is important for everyone to have a goal of eating better and exercising, or a combination of both. Meeting that goal can be as simple as taking a family walk, adding another vegetable to the dinner table or switching snacks to include healthier and less costly options.
Changing household habits takes time, so be patient. Take small steps toward your goal and reward your family with new recipes and fun activities to keep everyone on track.
The new year is a great time to look at your kitchen, your dinner table and your family activities with new eyes. In this month’s STIR, we’ve put together some ideas to create a healthier pantry.
10 Ways to Create a Healthier Pantry
Having the right ingredients on hand to create nutritious meals and snacks is key to staying on track for better health in the new year. Here are some helpful ideas to get started:
- Take stock. Remove everything out of the pantry, clean drawers and shelves and take stock of supplies. Check the dates on all food labels and throw away any items that have passed recommended “best by” or “use by” dates. Add any missing items or things that need to be replaced to your shopping list.
- Organize shelves. Pantries work best when they’re full of commonly used ingredients you need for everyday meals. Put like items together to make it easier to follow recipes and to see what items need to be added to your grocery list. For example, set aside a shelf for lunch items, such as low-salt soups, tuna and peanut butter.
- Stock up on commonly-used staples. Are there ingredients you use daily or weekly? Set aside pantry space for those staples. Whole wheat pasta, canned tomatoes and other staples last a long time and can be purchased in bulk when they are on sale, then stored for future use.
- Choose canned goods carefully. Many canned goods contain large amounts of salt and other preservatives. Read labels and choose “no salt added” varieties and rinse canned veggies before use to remove any excess preservatives. Look for fruits canned in 100 percent fruit juice.
- Limit temptations. Gradually reduce items with high sugar, salt and fat content (think cookies, chips, candy, sodas). If you have them, store them in the back of your pantry or up on the highest shelf.
- Get your kids involved. Children are an essential part in your family’s food life. Ask them what healthy foods they would like to find on pantry shelves. If you get them involved in making healthier choices, they are more likely to get on board with new meal plans.
- Share your shopping list. Hang a shopping list in your pantry and make sure everyone uses it. Studies show people who shop with grocery lists tend to buy less and make healthier food choices.
- Stock new non-perishables. Maybe you’ve heard about a new grain everyone is raving about or saw it used in a cooking demonstration at the farmers’ market. Think about how new ingredients can add excitement to your pantry and the family dinner table.
- Veg out. Add a “Meatless Monday” to your weekly menu plan. Keep nuts, beans and pastas on hand so you can try cost-saving, healthier meal options.
- Set up a snack station. It is easy to eat beyond the recommended serving size, especially when food items are marked as low-fat or low-calorie. Have your kids put treats or snacks in serving size containers for easy grab-and-go snacks.