Spring Detox Your Kitchen: 7 Delicious Pantry Swaps for A Healthier Diet
Spring is often thought of as a season of renewal, new beginnings and a time to clear the clutter in your life (they don’t call it “spring-cleaning” for nothin’).
Whether we realize it or not, many of us subscribe to this notion. It’s hard not to when we’re bombarded with marketing messages emphasizing 5 day juice cleanse challenges because “bikini season” is coming.
While this can be motivating for some, I believe it’s far more beneficial to take a less drastic approach. As a certified nutrition + healthy lifestyle coach, I see first hand how big changes and improvements in client’s lives (as well as my own) start with small, conscious decisions that turn into habits, making it sustainable for the long term. So while a juice cleanse can seem like the answer to “getting healthy”… what happens when you finish it (because juice cleansing forever is not an option)? Most clients return back to their previously ingrained habits and ways because they haven’t really learned how to make wise, informed decisions for themselves and take action in their daily lives in realistic ways.
Enter in my new Spring Detox Blog Series: a series designed to inspire you with simple swaps to spring clean your kitchen, home, beauty routine, negative self-talk and lifestyle.
I’m kicking off this week’s series with some simple food swaps you can make in your kitchen to have a cleaner diet and healthier lifestyle. While I encourage you to incorporate ONE new habit/swap into your lifestyle each week, I also want to remind you to be kind to yourself in the process. This isn’t a competition, it’s about focusing on your overall health, which is a long-term game. #progressNOTperfection
Healthy Swap #1 – Coconut//Avocado Oil for Olive, Canola or Vegetable Oil
I know, this one may seem like a shocker (hello Mediterranean diet!) but sadly it’s been suggested that only 2 percent of the world’s olive oil qualifies as extra virgin, 8 percent is “good,” and 9 percent is “decent.” The rest of that 90 percent is referred to as lampante, aka lamp oil, and not suitable for human consumption until refined (umm say what?!)
But extra-virgin unrefined olive oil is STILL a better option than processed vegetable oils like canola, palm, safflower or sunflower oils, which are commonly bleached and processed with chemicals, causing increased inflammation in the body and a myriad of health issues.
Action Step: Your best bet is organic unrefined coconut or avocado oil, which are rich in heart-healthy omega 3’s, anti-inflammatory and have a high smoke point (meaning it doesn’t oxidize like other oils when cooked, which in turn harm’s our bodies cells and creates oxidation). Avocado oil is neutral tasting and great for salad dresses and roasted veggies, while coconut oil tastes amazing in smoothies, soups, curries or blended into coffees.
Healthy Swap #2 Quinoa, Brown Rice or Cauliflower Rice for White Rice
This one probably comes as a no-brainer, as you’ve probably heard by now that whole, gluten-free grains with lots of fiber, like quinoa or brown rice, help to maintain optimal weight while refined grains like white rice, bread, pasta etc. have been linked to weight gain, type two diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Action Step: Sprouted quinoa or brown rice are nutrient-dense and delicious options, but for those of you who suspect you may struggle with inflammation and gastrointestinal problems (like leaky gut syndrome) swap out the rice for cauliflower rice. You can buy it pre-riced at the grocery store (Trader Joe’s has it fresh while other stores carry it in the frozen food section) or buy a whole cauliflower and pulse in a food processor.
Healthy Swap #3 Dark, Organic Chocolate for Candy
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years with no access to news (or netflix documentaries) you’ve heard just how detrimental sugar can be to your health. Not only does it contain ZERO nutritional benefits but it significantly messes with our blood sugar levels, leading to insulin resistance and weight gain as our bodies are forced to store the excess sugar as fat.
Action Step: A much more beneficial way to satisfy your sweet tooth is a a piece of organic, dark (at least 70%) chocolate, which is a superfood loaded with antioxidants and said to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Just read labels carefully as many dark chocolates can still contain lots of sugar or processed oils like soy lecithin (if you don’t know what it is — your body doesn’t either!). My favorite’s are Theo’s Organic Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Bars or Honey Mama’s Raw Cacao Fudge Bars, which are only sweetened with raw honey.
BONUS TIP: Sugar is highly addictive and while you may have the best of intentions, it can be hard to eat just one piece of dark chocolate and not the whole bar. Try breaking up your bars immediately as you get them and put them into individual ziplock baggies. That way you’ll be less inclined to eat the whole bar.
Healthy Swap #4 Dates for All Other Forms of Sugar
Now I know you don’t need yet another reminder about the pitfalls of consuming too much sugar, rather some alternative ideas as it can add so much flavor to dishes. My go-to pantry staple is dates, which unlike sugar are a whole, plant-based food rich in nutrients, vitamins and fiber. They’re still quite high in sugar, making them the sweetest of all fruit (and excellent for sweetening dishes) but a good reminder not to overindulge, as our bodies can’t process that much sugar.
Action Step: Try swapping a date for sugar in your morning coffee (blended), to sweeten baked goods or sauces, sprinkled in smoothies or oatmeal, or simple use as a way to satisfy that unrelenting sweet craving at night.
Healthy Swap #5 Organic, Canned Coconut Milk for Milk, Cream, Coffee Creamer, etc.
So this one borderlines a “fridge swap” because while coconut milk is canned and therefore technically a pantry item, obviously you’d store milk or cream in the fridge. Either way I’m sticking with it 😉
While full-fat, unsweetened dairy can be an option if you digest dairy well, but the cold-hard truth is that many of us simply don’t. Don’t have a clue? Try not eating dairy for a minimum 7 days and see how you feel? Many of my clients report less bloating, skin breakouts, constipation, diarrhea and headaches after cutting dairy out. This is because dairy contains lactose sugars (which many of us don’t produce an enzyme to properly digest) as well as the protein casein which can be highly inflammatory, especially for those with underlying gut problems.
Action Step: Your safest bet? Try swapping out milk or cream for organic canned coconut milk. The coconut milk is rich, flavorful and tastes great in coffees, smoothies, soups, asian dishes, desserts and used as yogurt or whipped cream.
Healthy Swap #6 Apple Cider Vinegar for Balsamic Vinegar
Another bit of a confusing one, as I’m sure at one point we’ve all been told “Oil + Balsamic” is the healthiest salad dressing option out there. While balsamic vinegar isn’t “bad for you” per say, apple cider vinegar is a powerhouse ingredient that works like a clarifying tonic on the body, helping clear up sinus infections, candida, sore throats, and allergies. It’s also a fermented food which means its full of healthy bacteria essential for keeping your gut balanced and healthy.
Action Step: Swap ACV for balsamic vinegar in salad dressings, sauces or to add a hint of acid to any dish. I also fully encourage mixing a tbsp of ACV in a cup of warm water and drinking before meals to promote optimal digestion.
Healthy Swap #7 Hot Sauce for Ketchup
While ketchup is made from tomatoes, typically a tablespoon-size serving has four grams of sugar, which is more sugar than a typical chocolate chip cookie!!!!! While many hot sauces still contain some sugar (try reading labels and see what you find) most contain far less then ketchup and add lots of flavor and spice to dishes.
Action Step: Swap hot sauce (I like Tessa Mae’s) for ketchup in sauces or to add flavor to eggs, asian or Mexican dishes, stews and stir fries.
Now I want to challenge you — What item(s) could you get rid of in your kitchen to spark more joy in your life? I challenge you to swap one item this week. Let me know in the comments below what you’re cleaning out of your pantry (or post to instagram with the hashtag #sofreshnsogreen).