If improving your nutrition lifestyle is a goal, one of the most important first steps you can take is to take a long hard look at the contents of your pantry. The reality is, if foods that don’t promote your health are within reach, convenient, and out where you can see them, you’ll eat more of them. So set yourself up for success and give your pantry a revamp!

The goal behind a Wholitarian pantry make-over is pretty simple. Learn to identify foods that are nutrient-dense (so you can choose to add more of them) and which foods are nutrient-poor (so you can choose to remove them). I’m not saying you have to throw out every single item in your kitchen that doesn’t promote your health. But as a general rule, aim to stock your shelves with mostly nutrient-dense, minimally processed, whole foods that are high in micronutrients per calorie.

Wondering where to start? Here’s a list of nutrient-poor foods to consider tossing:

1. Refined white flour and related products. White crackers, white bread and other flour-containing products that are not made with 100% whole wheat or another whole grain create an unfavorable hormonal imbalance in the body. If you aren’t sure whether a product is made with whole grains, take a look at the fiber content on the food label. If the food has less than 3 g of fiber per serving, it’s probably not made primarily with whole grains and you’re better off replacing it with a healthier choice.


2. High-calorie, low-nutrient snack foods like packaged snacks and treats, sugary breakfast cereals, pretzels, potato chips and cheese puffs are easy to overeat and often high in processed carbohydrates, sugar, sodium and unhealthy fats.


3. Products containing hydrogenated oils, or partially hydrogenated oils – these contain trans fats which increase your risk for heart disease. Examples include shortening and some packaged snacks and baked goods. Check the food label if you are unsure whether a product contains trans fats.


4. Refined white sugar and products high in added sugars. Check out the food label – it lists a product’s ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight. So you’ll know that foods are high in sugar if they list sugar, high fructose corn syrup or ingredients ending in –ose (such as dextrose) in the first three ingredients. The new food label also lists the number of grams of added sugars. Examples of products high in added sugars include regular soda, candy, sweetened iced teas, cookies and cakes. Check your condiments too – some brands of catsup and tomato sauce contain a lot of added sugars as well.


5. Consider tossing products with additives, preservatives, artificial coloring, MSG and artificial sweeteners like saccharine and sucralose. As a very general rule of thumb, a product is not a good choice if it has more than 5 ingredients, or a long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce.


6. Foods high in sodium. Some canned soups, pasta sauces and pre-packaged foods are high in sodium and can even contain more than 1000mg of sodium per cup. Keep in mind when you check the food label and evaluate a product that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we eat less than 2300 mg sodium daily as a part of a healthy eating pattern.


If this seems like a lot of work up front, don’t worry. It may take a little extra time to evaluate the foods you buy at first, but over time you’ll quickly get to know the brands you trust and enjoy which will help make stocking your pantry a breeze.

If your shelves are looking pretty empty at this point, good for you. There are so many tasty, convenient foods you can stock up on going forward that will promote your family’s health and quality of life.

My next blog post will give you some fresh ideas about where to start. In the meantime, be sure to join my email list to learn more about how to live a healthier nutrition lifestyle!

Malina Malkani Dietitian


Cheers to your good health,

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