The Great Pantry Raid: 7 Must-Do Kitchen Staple Makeovers

Posted On Feb 29, 2016 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

The Great Pantry Raid: 7 Must-Do Kitchen Staple Makeovers

It seems like such a simple concept: If you're surrounded by ready-to-eat junk, you're going to eat it. Eventually. Surround yourself with healthy options, and you're more likely to succeed in following a nutritious lifestyle. Where to start though? Your kitchen! I recently took an inventory of my own kitchen (somehow when my husband goes grocery shopping typically forbidden items not on the list enter our household!), combined it with the most popular culprits in my clients' kitchens and came up with the top 7 products to throw out right now. This goes beyond the obvious stuff like candy, cookies, ice cream, chips, and soda.

  1. Salad Dressings - Usually loaded with laundry list of unpronounceable ingredients (and all-too familiar ones like soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup) and packing in as high as 130 calories per 2 tablespoons, I'm vowing to go back to making homemade salad dressings this year.
  2. Boxed pasta dishes - Pasta doesn't have to be banished from your kitchen, but stick with whole-grain or vegetable pastas with marinara rather than boxed instant pasta with creamy sauces to avoid extra fat, sodium, and not much substance. For healthier alternatives, look for pre-cooked microwavable whole grain mixes or make a big batch of rice and quinoa and freeze to always have a side dish on hand.
  3. Crackers - Even most wheat crackers aren't all that nutritious and the ones that are taste like cardboard. Opt for more nutrient-dense crunchy alternatives like lightly salted popcorn, nuts, or fresh veggies.
  4. Dry Cereal - I do keep one high-fiber, low-sugar cereal on stock for my toddler to mix in with her yogurt but she also likes plain oats. Other options are quick-cooking hot cereals without added flavorings or nut and seed mixtures.
  5. Trail Mix or Snack Mixes - Most people don't eat a single serving of trail or snack mix, which is 1/4 cup - 1/3 cup for 120-150 calories! Unless you're an athletic teenager or trying to gain weight, keep these calorie-dense tempters out of your house. Replace with lightly salted popcorn and single servings of nuts.
  6. Creamed Soups - The bane of my existence! Loaded with sodium and fat, creamy soups are a staple for many casserole dishes, but they don't need to be. Simply replace with chicken or vegetable stock or follow this home-made cream of chicken soup recipe.
  7. Granola Bars - Photos of hikers, nuts, fruit, and whole grains make you think granola bars are as healthy as a plate of greens and wild salmon, but food packaging is deceiving. Check the label for added sugars and partially hydrogenated oils, two hard-to-avoid ingredients in the granola/energy bar category. Better yet, make your own!

I challenge you now to review your kitchen cupboards, toss out the junk, and share with us your healthier replacements!

Read this next

Heart Health: Is High Cholesterol as Bad as we Think?