Now that the Great Kitchen Clean-Out is complete, you are one step closer to Letting Go of Gluten and Sugar and Grabbing Hold of Health. Your cupboards and refrigerator are likely bare. It’s time to fill them with healthy, whole foods that can be eaten alone or combined to create flavorful and nourishing meals.
One of the first questions you will face when shopping is, “What do I need to buy organic?”. The Environmental Working Group has created Dirty DozenTM and Clean FifteenTM lists that are ranked according to their exposure to pesticides.1,2 They even have a free app so you can have the lists at your fingertips when shopping.
Try to stick with items in their natural forms, not canned or processed. Just because you are buying a whole food item, like nuts, do not assume it hasn’t been processed. Read the label. You will be surprised how many nuts are coated in added oils and preservatives to enhance shelf life. The same can be said for meats. If you stick with organic cuts of meat you are usually safest. To truly know what you are getting, visit a local butcher and buy fresh meat that was raised on grass in a local field, not corn and soy in a feedlot, and has not been treated with chemicals to keep it pink for several days.
Also, fresh spices are most chefs’ recommendation for cooking because they best enhance the flavors of food. However, for most people, keeping a cabinet stocked with dried spices is more affordable and convenient. I try to use fresh when possible, but rely on dried organic spices from the USA most of the time. Buying organic ensures they are free from pesticides and that they have not been irradiated. Irradiation changes the chemical composition of a spice, which can decrease the vitamin and enzyme levels. Purchasing USA grown and packaged spices helps ensure safe food handling practices are being followed, as not all countries have the same standards. You may be able to save money by purchasing spices in the bulk section at your natural foods store. We often use a small amount of many of our spices, and the bulk section allows you to purchase a smaller portion. Another great tip is to buy whole spices when possible. The flavor of ground spices lasts about a year, but whole spices stay flavorful for 3 to 5 years usually. You will need a grinder though for whole spices, and a mortar and pestle or dedicated coffee grinder will work great for this purpose. Finally, the flavor of spices is diminished by heat and humidity, so keeping spices in a cool cupboard away from the stove and dishwasher is best.
Download my list of kitchen-staples that I keep stocked in my own home. If I have these ingredients available, I am able to make healthy and tasty food for my family.
Written by Marci L. Hardy, PhD
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- The Environmental Working Group. EWG’s 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php. Accessed on October 14, 2016.
- The Environmental Working Group. Clean Fifteen. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean_fifteen_list.php. Accessed on October 14, 2016.