Clean Kitchen. High Performance
Spring is a time to switch gears from the longing looks from the inside of a rain-soaked window to venturing outside to welcome a new season of life, fresh air, and brightened moods. One way to welcome the freshness of the new season while the weather is still changing, is to give your kitchen cupboards, freezer and fridge a mini-makeover. Spring cleaning the foods which have spent a few solid months slowly growing stale in our kitchen can help welcome in new foods and flavors and give a brightening boost to our diet. Follow the ideas below to revamp that kitchen on a day when the spring rain dampens your desire to get outside. You’ll feel refreshed and your body will thank you for putting something nutritious in its chirping beak.
Check the expiration date.
The Cupboard: Canned food items can last quite a long time but it’s always good to give the products a look over to make sure you’re not harboring a can of beans from your first apartment. Check bottled goods like sauces, dressings, or jams to make sure they’re well within their lifetime. Products like bulk nuts, oils, and bulk grains and beans may not be so obvious. Have a sniff of these products and if any of these items smell very strong, musty, or even like a box of crayons, toss them out. Fat oxidation of these products causes a funky smell which is indicative of a product which has not only lost much of its nutritional value, but a product which can do more harm than good if consumed. Herbs and spices can have some profoundly positive effects on our bodies is if they are fresh and well stored. If your oregano smells more like the bottle it came in or if you honestly can’t remember when you bought that cumin, it’s probably best to just get a new batch.
The Fridge: A 36oz bottle of ketchup from 2004? Jam from a neighbor you lived next to 6 years ago? The fridge can be an easier place to spot expired goods, so this shouldn’t take too much time. Be reasonable and toss those goods which are past that date.
When am I going to eat that?
The Cupboard: The ramen in there might not be expired (because how long does that take, really?) but when are you going to eat it? If you ho-hum about when, then just do yourself a favor and replace it with something you’ll be thrilled to put in your tummy. Certainly there are items which are best left for a particular meal, but in general ask yourself this question and see what your honest answer is. Even just refreshing your memory about what you have in the cupboard will help you remember to make and enjoy it.
The Fridge: Have a look through your items and imagine yourself eating everything in there. Does anything stand out as particularly unappetizing? Will another person who lives in your house enjoy it? If not, toss it. Likely that third bottle of ranch dressing has been there awhile, liberate it and make room for something better that you’ll actually eat.
The Freezer: It was recently brought to my attention that a baggie of kale with a date from 7 months ago was left unattended and had succumbed to a freezer burned death. Through the sadness of forgetting it, I tossed it in the trash swearing it wouldn’t happen again. However, it’s completely realistic (however unfortunate) that food gets forgotten about in the freezer. Poke around in there making sure that meats and produce are freezer burn-free, properly sealed and stored. Let’s face it, even though you may feel bad about the letting a piece of meat sit for too long and think if you keep it a while longer you’ll eat it, you probably won’t. Besides, the nutrition, flavor and quality of freezer burned meat is significantly less and not totally worth it.
Restock for Higher Nutrition
Once you’ve properly weeded out the foods you’ve been holding on to, it’s time to restock. Here are some great items that can help you pump your kitchen full of nutrients for the coming season. If you’re lousy with commitment and the idea of buying a two-pound bag of chia seeds makes you nervous, explore the bulk sections at your local grocer to get small portions of foods to try. Whole Foods has a fantastic variety of bulk foods to explore. Storing these foods in airtight containers or mason/canning jars is a great way of preserving their freshness. Don’t forget to label!
- Try a new dry bean or grain. Peruse a cookbook to find a great new recipe which features it. Give quinoa, amaranth, wild or purple rice, lentils, or a fancy-named bean a try!
- Store nuts and seeds in airtight containers to prevent them from spoiling. If you’re an almond-only person, try branching out to pecans, walnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts or try adding in chia seeds or hemp to your diet.
- Restock your canned section with sustainably raised canned fish (link), canned beans, soups, broths, and sauces. Looking for “BPA free” on the can will reduce your exposure to chemicals and free radicals.
- Get creative with your spices and add in one or two you’ve never tried. Garam masala is a great addition and can be added to many meals to enhance both flavor and nutritional content. Other ideas are to try Italian herbs, cumin, turmeric, curry, dried peppers and cinnamon.
- Bulk up your variety of frozen veggies. A giant bag of peas can get boring and go the way of the forgotten frozen kale, but bulking up your freezer with more variety than quantity can improve the likelihood of you enjoying more veggies more frequently. Just make sure to seal them nice and tight when you open them.
- When freezing meats or fish, keep your quantities small to avoid wasting food. Purchase these foods with a meal in mind, maybe even write in on the calendar to make sure the food is used when it’s in peak nutrition and quality.
Granted, you don’t have to do all of this at once, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that if you lighten up your kitchen you’ll free up space for the brighter, better foods of spring. Get creative and enjoy taking a step closer to better nutrition!
By Lindsey Callihan, MS
Dietetic Intern with Momentum Nutrition & Fitness
With support from
Emily Edison, MS, RD
Sports and Wellness Dietitian, Momentum Nutrition & Fitness