Declutter your pantry and get ready for spring

    submitted by Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD,

    What better way to celebrate the approach of spring than by sprucing up your kitchen and your diet?

    Below are some tips for how to approach a pantry overhaul this season that will also support healthier eating habits for the whole family.

    1. Take stock of what you have. A good first step of any reorganization is to take inventory of what you have. Clear a space on your kitchen counter and move everything from your pantry so you can view the entire contents of your cupboard.
    2. Check expiration dates. Did you know that nearly all foods have an expiration date? It can be easy to forget about foods that are hidden in the back of the pantry for months (or even years). Discard items that are past their expiration to make room for new items.
    3. See a random canned or boxed food that you don’t know what to do with? Make an area for things you can give away to a local food bank. This is also a great opportunity to donate less nutritious foods that no longer align with your health goals.
    4. Buy foods in bulk. Keeping your pantry stocked with healthy bulk items such as dried whole grains, lentils, split peas, no-salt-added canned beans, canned tomatoes, raw nuts and seeds, oats, and flours, ensures that you always have ingredients on hand to make nutritious, homemade meals. Use clear, airtight containers or Mason jars to store bulk items that are the same.
    5. Use helpful labels. If you are transferring products out of their original packaging, don’t forget to label the container with the item name and expiration date.
    6. Organize with health in mind. Place nutritious snacks at eye level so that everyone sees them right away when opening the pantry. This makes healthy choices more likely.
    7. Create a “grab and go” section. This is a great place for ready-to-eat foods that are convenient for kids to grab after school or on the way to an activity. Selections such as fruit cups in water, granola bars, or whole grain crackers are smart choices. This could even be a space for healthy, homemade snacks like popcorn or trail mix.
    8. Practice the “FIFO” (first in, first out) rule. Whether you are organizing your pantry or refrigerator, whenever new foods are purchased, place them behind same products with closer expiration dates. By rotating products with shorter shelf lives, such as milk, yogurt, fresh produce, etc., you will always have fresh, good-for-you ingredients on hand.