How to Green Your Pantry

Time to make room for healthier options. 

You’ve committed to a healthier lifestyle, buying more fresh produce and switching to organic foods. In the rush to give your diet an eco-makeover, don’t neglect the portion of your kitchen often kept behind closed doors: the pantry. These five simple tips to greening this space will reduce waste, cut clutter, and replace foods harmful to your body—and the planet—with healthier options.

Limit Processed and Packaged Foods
If you grew up eating packaged convenience foods, it may be hard to let them go. But processed foods often contain unhealthy ingredients such as trans fats, which can damage heart health, according to theAmerican Heart Association. Try replacing one type of packaged food at a time, such as chips or cookies, with nourishing whole foods. If you want to ease yourself into it, look for products with no more than five ingredients. As Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food andFood Rulesrecommends, “Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

Swap Plastic for Glass
Plastic food containers are often petroleum-based, says the USDA, and can contain chemicals like bisphenol-A (BPA) or phthalates that have questionable effects on our bodies. Instead, try using glass canisters or large mason jars. These materials aren’t costly—you can pick them up for around $1 each—and they put all of your food on display at a glance so you can see what’s on hand and what needs replenishing.

Buy in Bulk
Beans, grains, and pulses are some nonperishable foods that can stock your kitchen. Together, they provide a highly nutritious source of vegetarian protein. Avoid refined grains like white rice, which are processed to remove the bran or hull, resulting in less fiber and fewer nutrients. Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, amaranth, and oats can help reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease, the AHA says. Buying whole grains in bulk can make them less expensive and cuts down on overall packaging.

Read the rest in our guest post on Audubon Magazine

Image: modern relics

Stephanie Rogers

Stephanie Rogers currently resides in North Carolina where she covers a variety of green topics, from sustainability to food.