Week 2: Purge Your Kitchen

Are you ready to get serious about clean eating?

Then it’s time to get serious about cleaning out the pantry, fridge, and freezer! This week it’s all about removing the foods that don’t make the cut when it comes to clean eating and replacing them with healthier and cleaner options.

First, we’ll purge the kitchen of anything we’d call ‘fake food’—boxes, bags, and packages of industrially-produced food products (you know, anything with impossibly long ingredient lists and even longer shelf lives). We’re calling this your “Operation Kitchen Clean-out.”

If you’re really hesitant about giving these foods the boot, remind yourself that your health is worth it—and take a good look at the following potential health effects of a poor diet:

  • Elevated blood sugar, insulin resistance
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Cognitive disorders, inability to concentrate
  • Excess body weight, unintentional weight loss
  • Cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Infertility, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), low libido, PMS
  • Fatigue, irritability, poor sleep, sleep apnea
  • Headaches
  • Food sensitivities
  • Poor appetite, insatiable appetite
  • Digestive distress
  • Irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s, colitis
  • Acne, eczema

We’ve gotta share a secret with you, though. While we’re all about real food, we’re not always in the kitchen, and we don’t make absolutely everything from scratch. (Shocker, we know).

In fact, if you took a peek behind our pantry doors you’d likely see a bag of tortilla chips, various bottled condiments, chocolate chips, rice noodles, and a package of crackers hanging out with the nuts and dried fruit.

Here’s the thing: Not every packaged or pre-made food is fake. We want you to ditch the highly-processed stuff and incorporate more whole, nourishing foods to reclaim your health one step at a time.

It is possible to find minimally-processed alternatives to the foods you and your family might currently eat without all of the artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives. Basically, you can have your real food cake and eat it too when you’re pressed for time or don’t feel like hitting the kitchen.

You just have to know what to avoid—and that’s what we’re about to share with you! So roll up your sleeves and check out our top 10 tips for purging your pantry, fridge, and freezer.

A Quick Word Before The Purge

Whatever you do, don’t eat this stuff just to use it up! We realize you spent good money on this franken-food, but eating it is not the way to get rid of it. You need to truly get rid of it. Trash it, donate it, light it on fire. We don’t care, just get rid of it. (Ok, maybe don’t light it on fire…but you get the idea!)

Okay, we’re ready to get going! Here’s what to purge:

1. Processed foods with long, complicated ingredients lists.

Real food doesn’t need a label or a long list of ingredients. Instead, choose products with short ingredient lists that include ingredients you can pronounce. Bottom line: If you can’t read it, don’t eat it.

2. Anything that your great-great-grandmother would not recognize as food.

Period.

3. Anything that instructs you to “just add water.”

Think: powdered soup mix, fluorescent orange cheese in a can, flavored oatmeal packets with loads of added sugar, hot cocoa with tiny marshmallows, Ramen noodles…it’s all gotta go.

4. Refined grains.

This includes white flour and its evil sisters, a.k.a. products that contain “refined” grains, such as the “enriched flour” found in white bread, pasta, ready-to-eat cereals, and snack foods.

5. Foods that contain vegetable or refined seed oils in their ingredients (and the oils themselves).

Nix corn, canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed, grapeseed, rice bran, margarine or other “buttery” spreads, shortenings made from any of these oils, or anything that’s labeled “refined,” “hydrogenated,” or “partially-hydrogenated,” as these contain super harmful trans-fats.

6. Foods with processed soy protein and soybean oil.

Don’t think you eat much soy? Read your labels—you’ll be surprised at just how much soy you’re consuming on a regular basis. The addition of soy protein or ‘soy protein isolate’ is a sign of a highly-processed food product that you want to avoid.

7. Refined sugars, naturally-derived sweeteners, and sugar alcohols.

Toss agave, agave nectar, beet sugar, cane sugar, caramel, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextran, dextrose, diastatic malt, diastase, erythritol, ethyl maltol, evaporated cane juice, fructose, glucose, glycerol (glycerin or glycerine), golden sugar, golden syrup, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), hydrogenated starch hydrosylates (HSH), invert sugar/syrup, isomalt, lactitol, levulose, light brown sugar, liquid honey (often with HFCS), maltitol, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, mannitol, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, sucrose, tagatose, treacle, yellow sugar, and xylitol.

This is just a partial list—there are many more out there, so when in doubt, toss it out. If it sounds like the result of a science experiment, it probably is!

8. Artificial sweeteners.

Say goodbye to acsesulfame K (a.k.a. Ace K, ACK, Sweet One, Equal), aspartame (a.k.a. APM, AminoSweet, NatraTaste Blue, Equal, Nutra-Sweet), saccharin (a.k.a. Sweet’N Low, NectaSweet, Sodium Saccharin, Sweet Twin), stevia (a.k.a. Truvia, Sun Crystals), and sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda).

9. Diet shakes, protein shakes and bars and other “meal replacements,” and protein powders with artificial flavors, colors, and loads of added vitamins and minerals.

Plain, naturally-flavored, and organic protein powders can stay.

10. Anything with artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

If it’s a flavor or color not normally found in nature or its shelf life is long enough to survive a round trip to Mars, then it’s not something you should be eating!

We know this is a lot to take in all at once, so take your time and focus on one area of your kitchen at a time. When you’ve tackled the pantry, for example, move on to the fridge. It can be hard to toss ‘perfectly good’ food, but when you’re struggling, ask yourself this: “Is this food perfectly good for me and my health goals?” If you can’t honestly answer “YES,” then it needs to go.