#healthiermechallenge Day 1: Healthify your kitchen

Are you all ready for the challenge? Here we go!

For the first day of the challenge, we are going to check our kitchen for unhealthful items.

challenge cover with stroke

A well-stocked healthy pantry is essential for every cook.

It includes:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil (to use with salad dressings)
  • Vinegars: a variety of vinegars to suit your tastes and dishes; balsamic, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar….
  • Dried beans and lentils: can be cooked, portioned and frozen. They last up to 6 months in the freezer.
  • Canned beans:  For those days where we neither have time nor frozen beans in the freezer. Rinse them very well to get rid of the salt and preservatives. (I personally prefer the dried beans which I cook and always have on hand in the freezer)
  • Oatmeal: Don’t get the instant-sweetened variety. They have way more sugar and preservatives than you bargained for
  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios… all add protein and healthy fats to your diets. Make for an excellent snack
  • Seeds: pumpkin, sunflower…
  • Chia seeds, Flaxseed: for the omega-3s, can be added to various dishes and baked goods
  • Peanut butter/ almond butter…: Nut butters should have 1 ingredient and maybe salt or maple syrup. It is very easy to do them at home. If not, choose the ones that have no other ingredients.
  • Dried fruits/raisins/Goji berries: dried apricots, prunes…all provide natural sweetness
  • Whole-wheat pasta: instead of white, adds a nutty flavor and it is much filling than white pasta
  • Brown rice, quinoa, barley, bulgur, freekeh,…
  • Canned tuna, sardines…
  • Zaatar
  • Dried herbs and spices: for all the taste without the added fats and salt

It does not include:

  • Canned tomatoes or canned tomato purees. The acidity in tomatoes causes the BPA lining in cans to leach into the food. BPA has been linked to infertility. Buy BPA-free canned tomatoes (haven’t seen any in Lebanon) or buy the carton-packed ones (Pomi) or the glass-jarred variety.
  • Microwave popcorn: Also the material lining on the bag has been linked to infertility and certain cancers (liver, pancreas…). Buy organic popcorn and pop it the old-fashioned way over your stove top.
  • Any food/drink item that contains:

– Hydrogenated vegetable oil

– Partially- hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans-fats) whether from soybean, cottonseed, soybean…

– High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) (some ketchup, sodas, candy,…)

– Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

– Artificial colorings and flavors ( they are mainly petroleum-based)

– Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) found in many citric-based fruit and soft drinks

  • Artificial sweeteners: Any given day, I would rather have a bit of sugar over any artificial sweetener. Not this week though, we’re cutting off both!
  • I would also avoid ingredients from genetically modified risk crops such as: corn starch/corn flour, canola,…. (If I’m not sure they are not genetically modified, I do not buy them)

GMo risk crops

So now, check your pantry and fridge. Does your pantry have a number of the healthful options? How about the unhealthful items? Check your labels. Does your food contain any of the mentioned ingredients?

Have you tossed away  the soda cans, chips, candy, cookies, packaged croissant, chocolate, some breakfast cereal, salad dressings and maybe ketchup?

I have given up soda and chips over two years ago and I have never felt better. I still enjoy cookies, croissants and ice cream…, but I’d rather know what’s in them and where they’re from. That’s why I am very vigilant when it comes to reading labels, and keen on making my own food.

And since the pantry is my family’s grocery store, I don’t keep such items at home. I don’t want to be tempted to eat mindlessly and out of boredom. If I really feel like having a chocolate bar, I go out and get it. More often than not, I would change my mind and munch on a healthier snack.

What other things you might add to the list of healthy options that I might have missed? and what other ingredients are no-no’s in your kitchen?

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