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Pantry Makeover: Organizing Your Way Through Weight Loss

If your pantry is disorganized and full of foods that aren’t helping you lose weight, it’s time for a change. Use these practical steps to get your pantry organized so all the foods in your pantry help you lose weight and get healthy.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know the food you eat affects your weight. What about the food you have right now in your own pantry? Does it bring you closer to your weight loss goals or farther away? With spring in full bloom, now is a great time to make over your pantry. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you organize your pantry, know what to keep and what to trash, and fill your pantry with weight loss–friendly foods.

1. Take stock of your space

Take a good look at your pantry space, whether you use a couple of kitchen cabinets or have a walk-in pantry. Decide whether you'd like to keep food in boxes or move to baskets, bins, or clear storage containers.

2. Throw away

Look at each food item in your pantry. Obviously, you will want to throw away any expired foods or foods that are well past their prime. When I do this, I often find a stray potato or onion that is trying its best to grow without soil or water. It’s ironic that they grow so well in the pantry and fail in my garden.

3. Put foods into categories

Organize your food items by category. For example, in my pantry, I have the following sections:

  • Grains
  • Canned goods
  • Sauces, dressings, and condiments
  • Oils
  • Baking supplies
  • Quick, healthy snacks

Sorting foods into categories helps me be more efficient at meal planning, lets the kids readily see what snacks are available, and saves me money at the grocery store because I don’t buy food items I already have.

4. Look at each food left in terms of weight loss

All the food left in your pantry should now be within the use-by date and placed in general categories.

Now comes the hard part.

Start a pile of foods that have crept into your pantry that aren’t helping you on your weight loss journey or are just plain bad for your health.

You might put the following types of foods in this “not good for you” pile.

  • Foods with trans fats.
  • Foods high in added sugar like cookies, cereals, chocolate-covered granola bars, fruit canned in syrup, or pastries.
  • Snack foods you know you shouldn’t be eating. You may have to add those chips, pretzels, and high-calorie granola bars to the pile.
  • Junk food. I often stashed candy in the back of the pantry where only I could find it. If you have this habit too, put it in the pile. I know it’s hard to let it go, but it has to be done.

Donate this pile of still good but not good for you food to a local charity or just get rid of it. I have a problem throwing away perfectly good food so I tend to donate it.

5. Make a list of foods to stock up on

Now that you’ve got your pantry cleaned out, organized, and categorized in a way that will help you lose weight, make a list of foods you might be missing.

I like to keep the following foods on hand because they make it easy to toss together a complete meal that is healthy, low in calories, and tasty.

Beans, both canned and dried. I use them in soups, stews, on top of salads, as a dip, in quesadillas, or as a base for a tasty vegetarian burger.

Whole wheat pasta. Unless you are a low carb dieter, whole wheat pasta is a great addition to your diet. It’s filling, very versatile, and has lots of fiber. Just be sure to pay attention to serving sizes.

Rice, couscous, and quinoa. Any of these makes a great side dish and can serve as a main dish if you add protein to it. I like to use the whole grain varieties.

Quick serve snacks. I have six kids still living at home and although I make a lot of their snacks from scratch, I do like to have some they can grab if I’ve run out. I stock up on nuts, dried fruit, unsweetened applesauce, and fruit bars.

Panko bread crumbs. These are great with chicken or pork. I season the bread crumbs with herbs from my garden and a bit of olive oil before popping the chicken in the oven.

High fiber cereals and granola. Some cereal and granola brands have preservatives you may want to avoid, but there are some good organic options that are high in fiber and low in sugar. The caveat for weight loss is that these foods can also be high in calories per serving.

High quality broths. I tend to make my own chicken and vegetable broth and freeze it in 1-cup containers, but there are times I run out. Even my small-town grocery store stocks broth varieties that are low in sodium and organic. I bet yours does as well.

Once you’ve got everything organized, categorized, and well stocked, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Now your pantry supports your weight loss efforts. Just be sure to schedule a pantry refresh every couple of months to ensure it doesn’t get out of control.

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