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Weight Loss & Diet Plans

Give Your Pantry a Healthy Makeover

Spring Cleaning? Here's What to Toss and What to Buy
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

A well-stocked pantry is a must for busy people; it will save you over and over again when you find yourself in a dinner pinch. And to stack the healthful-eating odds in your favor, it's essential to stock your pantry with great-tasting, healthy choices (the key phrase here is "great-tasting" -- healthy food won't do anyone any good if no one eats it).

Giving your pantry a nutritional makeover is as easy as 1-2-3! Follow our three simple steps to transform your pantry into one that will help you eat light and right.

Step 1: Minimize empty-calorie foods ­ the ones that deliver lots of calories without much nutrition (vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, protein, etc.).

This doesn't necessarily mean eliminating them from your pantry entirely. This might make you want them even more, thus leading you to overeat. You know yourself best: whether "out of sight, out of mind" works for you, or whether you do better in the long run if you have a few token empty-calorie foods around. That way, you know they're there if you truly want them (and are truly hungry) but they're not mainstays of your pantry.

The two infamous types of empty-calorie culprits are:

  • Things with lots of sugar and other caloric sweeteners. Examples: soda and sweetened drinks, cakes, cookies, pastries, pies, candy and chocolate bars, frozen milk desserts, snack cakes, and cereal bars.
  • Things with lots of added fats and oil. Examples: mayonnaise, chips, microwave popping corn, crackers, cookies, pies and pastries, packaged muffins, snack cakes, and mixes.

When possible, switch to alternatives to your empty-calorie favorites that are, well, less "empty." Could you be happy with light mayonnaise instead of regular? Can you drink a diet soda a day instead of a regular, sugar-laden soft drink? Is there a higher-fiber, less-sugary breakfast cereal that suits you?

Step 2: Stock up on great-tasting, more-healthful alternatives for foods you know and love.

For example, there are some reduced-fat chip options that taste terrific. Some are truly low-fat, such as Baked Lays or Guiltless Gourmet brands. Others have a little less, like Reduced-Fat Ruffles. Cape Cod reduced-fat potato chips are less fat AND use canola oil.

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