Today is the first day of spring. Because many of    Spring Cleaning
you are starting your spring cleaning, I want to ask: when was the last time you cleaned out your pantry?

Here are a few tips and tricks to get your kitchen in shape, so you'll be ready to get out and enjoy the sunshine.

Free your cabinets, fridge, and freezer of expired or contaminated food:

Take a first glance and throw out anything that you know is old, smells off, is turning color, etc. Look and smell each open container in the fridge and cabinet. Don't forget: when in doubt, throw it out.

Check the expiration dates on each food. Most food borne illnesses come from bacteria and other pathogens that you cannot see. Not sure how long you can keep a particular item? Type the food into this easy to use Food Keeper from the Food Marketing Institute to find out.

Use ShopWell to scan or search each food to see how well it matches for you. Seeing too many reds? Have food that doesn't match well for you, but is still safe to eat? Donate to a local food pantry. They will be able to portion it out to people who need it. Check here for a list of local food banks.

Mark each package you keep (markers, stickers, and stamps all work) with the date before you put it away. This way you can quickly see how long you've had the package next time you clean out your cabinets.

Restock with healthy options for you:

Take a look through the foods you have and sort them by food group: fruit, vegetables, protein foods, grains, dairy, and "other". Do you have options for each or maybe too many foods in "other"? Make note of the food groups you need to add to (the vegetable group is a common one that people tend to need more of) and search ShopWell to find a few more healthy options for your grocery list.

Many people have a list of similar foods they buy each week. Look at your ShopWell lists and upgrade a few of the foods you eat everyday. Need more whole grains? Try brown rice or a box of whole wheat crackers. Often low on dairy? Bring home some lowfat milk, cheese sticks, and non-fat, unsweeteded yogurt to add to any meal. Whole frozen and canned (rinse well) fruit, vegetables, and beans are great to have on hand for quick and easy meals.

Variety is also important when planning a healthy diet to keep you interested in food and to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need each day. Like brown rice and chicken, but tired of having it day in and day out? Find the food you eat most often on ShopWell and find more healthy options in the similar products section.

Farmers markets are starting up again. They are a great place to be inspired to cook more fruit and vegetables. Try one or two new items each time you go. Here is a list of fruits and vegetables that should be available to your local farmers market very soon.

Don't forget hidden food:

Clean out and restock your hidden foods stashes: your desk at work, your car, or even on your coffee or gas runs can all be full of hidden, calorie filled snacks and treats. Do you have enough healthy snacks and drinks on hand to keep you going through out the day?

Sort through these areas just like your kitchen. Throw away old, open packages, check expiration dates, and scan or search on ShopWell to see how well the food matches for you.

Exchange the candy jar for a fresh fruit and nut bowl. Try the lowfat, no sugar added, or other healthier drinks. (Bottles and cans of flavored seltzer waters and fresh brewed unsweetened tea are great to have on hand.) Have grab and go healthy snacks ready to go for your commute. 

Start a fruit and veggie swap. Each week bring in some whole fruit and veggies and swap with your office mates. See who can make the tastiest roasted broccolli, grilled zucchini or the most inventive way to use the vegetable (avocado for breakfast?) to share the next day.

Need some more ideas? Here's a list of quick and easy office options. 

So what are you waiting for? Make for a healthier, less stressed you this spring: walk into your kitchen and open one cabinet to get started today!

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