Spring-cleaning your pantry for better health

Get rid of the old stuff and add some new healthful foods to your larder.

Spring is here. Is it time to clean your pantry?

It’s also a chance to reset your eating habits to get you back on the healthy track, or even better, keep you there! Who doesn’t need a healthy reboot once in awhile? I know I do.

Take advantage of the longer daylight hours and spend some time re-organizing and restocking your pantry to rotate and use those items that have crept to the back of the shelf. It’s a great way of staying efficient in the kitchen while saving time and energy for meal planning and prepping.

Where to start? Here are a few tips for cleaning and stocking a healthy pantry to help you keep your weeknight meals quick to assemble, easy to cook and nutrient-rich.

Check the dates on all canned goods (stored properly) in your pantry. The best-if-used-by date is suggested for best flavor or quality. Even if that date is passed, it’s still safe to eat. I use these items in soups or mixed dishes to use them up. The “use by” date is a different story. Use the product for peak quality by the “use by” date and then throw it out if it is beyond that date.

Is it time to purchase new containers for those pasta, rice and other staple items that keep falling out of the packages? Sealing these items prevents bug infestation & keeps your shelves neat.

If you find some items you truly will not use, drop them off at the nearest food bank.

Stock up on whole grains: quinoa, whole-wheat couscous and pasta, bulgur, barley, whole grain rice and farro.

Inventory your canned tomato products and buy low-salt tomato paste, sauce, diced tomatoes (regular and flavored — I like the fire roasted) to add potent flavor to soups, stews and casseroles in a hurry.

Buy a variety of low-salt canned beans like cannellini, black, pinto and garbanzo, or dried beans (think lentils, red, navy) to add to salads, pilafs, mixed dishes and soups. Or use them as a base in vegetarian or vegan meals.

Always have canned fish like tuna, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines and even oysters to use for quick lunches and snacks that add an anti-inflammatory boost.

Choosing healthy cereals to eat hot or cold (or as a snack) is a great way to start your day. To choose a healthy cereal, use my 5-5-10 rule: Each serving should have less than 10 grams sugar and more than 5 grams of protein and fiber. Also, never be without oats, either steel-cut or rolled.

Keep low-salt chicken, beef and vegetable broths on hand, as well as light coconut milk and clam juice.

Replenish your favorite nut butters made with just nuts and salt.

Kim Larson is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified health and wellness coach and founder of Total Health. Got to www.facebook.com/totalhealthnutrition or www.totalhealthrd.com to learn more. Follow her on Twitter @healthrd.

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