Have you ever dreamed of having a pantry makeover?
I've always wanted to help someone who follows the Standard American Diet to completely restock their entire pantry with healthier choices. I volunteered on my Facebook feed, just opening the invitation to my friends and acquaintances. I had recently met Spring at our local THM group that I host once a week.
Spring had been trying to lose a few pounds and also help her husband, recently diagnosed with Cancer, to get off sugar. We had only recently met and become friends on Facebook, so God's timing was right and after scheduling and rescheduling our “pantry date” several times we finally were able to get together this week.
I met Spring at her home around 9 am and we began right away talking about how we were going to tackle our task. We were both so excited about getting the junk out and bringing the good stuff in I almost forgot to even take pictures!
I remembered about mid way through the first set of cabinets. We cleared out most of the blends in the spice cabinet before we got started on this one.
One of the main unhealthy ingredients we found was sugar. It was in most of the seasoning blends, but hidden well using one of sugar's many aliases. Unfortunately, the seasoning blends also had plenty of undesirable ingredients like yellow and blue food colorings. Crazy right? Lemon pepper sounds so innocuous but as we found out when we read the ingredients, it was full of things that we simply do not want our children to eat.
A lot of the foods that we tossed were simply convenience foods. The problem with most convenience foods is that they create and imbalance in the body and do not promote health. Ingredients like Carrageenan, Propylene Glycol, High Fructose Corn Syrup and Hydrogenated oils.
Most of the already opened foods we just tossed in the garbage. One item that surprises everyone is “cheese food” or “cheese products” that look like cheese but they are really imposters. We tossed all of those and replaced them with actual cheese. Oh, you didn't know that Kraft Singles are less than 50% cheese? Here's a quick guide:
- Pasteurized process cheese – contains 100% cheese
- Pasteurized process cheese food – contains at least 51% cheese.
- Pasteurized process cheese product – contains less than 51% cheese.
After we had thrown out or donated all of the food we were not keeping, we headed to get our shopping underway! We headed to Costco, Trader Joe's and Kroger. We also stopped at Bed Bath and Beyond to get containers to store the Trim Healthy Mama pantry items in.
By this time, Spring had the hang of flipping the package over to read the ingredient list FIRST before she decided to put anything in her cart. It's frustrating when you look at package after package and find so many unhealthy ingredients hidden behind a “healthy looking” label, but before long this will become second nature. I also explained to her about the time I got duped by a cereal company who used deceptive marketing and product placement to trick me into buying their genetically modified cereal.
I didn't want the children to feel deprived, but we did get rid of the jelly full of high fructose corn syrup and other unhealthy ingredients and we replaced it with this organic fruit spread sweetened with fruit juices from Trader Joe's.
To go with our fruit spread, we grabbed a healthier version of peanut butter. We will be replacing the unhealthy peanut butter full of sugar and hydrogenated oils with this organic peanut butter with Valencia peanuts, this is available at our local Trader Joe's. I suggest Valencia peanut butter because Valencia peanuts seem to be the one variety resistant to mold growth. Mold growth, like Aflatoxins, which is toxic and among the most carcinogenic (having the potential to cause cancer) substances known, which is why I choose not to eat regular peanut butter!
Trader Joe's reduced sodium soy sauce is also traditionally fermented using techniques the Japanese have been using for ages! With soy sauce it is best to avoid chemicals or preservatives as much as possible and go for the labels that contain very basic ingredients.
Instead of spaghetti sauce loaded with tons of ingredients, including canola oil and sugar, we're switching to a delicious yet basic variety of Marinara Sauce with olive oil instead.
Instead of sugar and chemical laden pancake syrup the children can enjoy some delicious honey from Trader Joe's or some of the maple syrup we grabbed at Costco!
Starting over isn't easy. We worked solidly from 9 am to 6 pm. We weren't just shopping, but learning and coming up with a new plan. To be honest, I feel like I need to go back each day to check in on my little family as I feel that I have adopted them into my heart! We still need to dump out that canister of sugar on the bottom shelf, mix up some new seasoning blends, and go over menu plans, but I think she's got this. She's determined and she's motivated!
It takes a lot of courage to 1) discard all the foods you've already paid for and that you KNOW how to prepare to 2) buy basic whole single ingredient foods and 3) start preparing your meals from these whole ingredients (true “from scratch” cooking). Later that day, I was chatting with my father in law who pointed out how many people think they are cooking from scratch because they opened a cake mix and stirred in milk, eggs and oil…
So how and what should we eat?
I think Michael Pollan sums it up well: “Eat food, Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Eat food. The key term here, of course, is “food.” We need to make hard distinctions between real food and “food-like products,” Pollan said. Some guidelines:
- Don't eat food with more than five ingredients, or with ingredients you can't pronounce, or that contain high-fructose corn syrup (which serves as a ‘marker' indicating that the food is highly processed).
- Eat only food that you have cooked, or could cook.
- Eat only food that your great, great grandmother would recognize as food.
- Don't eat alone.
- Don't eat in front of the TV.
- Don't eat seconds.
- Perhaps most importantly, pay more and eat less. “I believe that the better quality food you eat, the less you need to feel satisfied.”
Mostly plants. “It's not that meat will kill you,” he said. “I eat meat. Small amounts of meat have much to recommend them in terms of vitamins, minerals and taste. Most traditional diets – whether Mediterranean, Asian, Indian or Mexican, use meat sparingly, as a flavoring. I think that's an important lesson.”
So remember: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
Later I plan to do a few more pantry makeovers locally. It was a long day, but I really enjoyed helping and I plan to continue checking in on Spring and her family in the weeks to come!