During the lockdown, we’re all cooking and eating more than ever. But it’s easy to forget that what you cook and eat depends on what’s available in your pantry!
The first step towards a healthy diet is to stock your pantry with healthy foods and throw the extra calories, sodium, fat, sugars and preservatives into the bin.
Here is a list of food items that your pantry could do without:
Soda and high calorie sweetened beverages
One of the worst foods in the pantry is sweetened beverages, as these are just empty calories without providing any nutrition. Even diet soft drinks have artificial sweeteners and caffeine which may not be good for us. Instead, opt for natural refreshing drinks like lemon juice, jaljeera, coconut water, green tea or fruit juice. Drink plenty of water, as it is the best drink.
High sugar snacks and cereals
High sugar cereals made with refined sugar and flour contribute no nutrition and do not even satisfy hunger for a long time, as these are high GI. Some sugar-laden cereals are even worse than candies. Loaded with white flour, most often from wheat, corn or rice, and refined sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup, most breakfast cereals are not a good way to start the day. Cookies and candy bars are also high GI carbohydrates and no nutrition, and will provide you with only momentary boosts of energy. Pick cereals and cookies with wholegrains listed as one of the first ingredients and those that are high in fibre.
High fat pre-packaged mixes and meals
These foods are laden with saturated fats, trans-fats or hydrogenated fats. Trans-fats are chemically altered saturated fats that show up on food labels as ‘partially hydrogenated’ or ‘hydrogenated oil’. Hydrogenated fats are created when oil has hydrogen added to it – a process designed to extend the shelf life of the products that contain it. These fats raise levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol while lowering levels of good (HDL) cholesterol, which can lead to heart and other health problems, and have also been associated with some cancers. These are also high in sodium and may cause hypertension. Try to make your own sauces and gravies at home with fresh ingredients, less salt and no preservatives.
Products made from refined flour such as white bread, bagels, pasta, crackers, tortillas and cookies are low in GI and do not make you full. White flour has been ground, processed and stripped off the outer layer of fibre and nutrients. Replace these white flour products with products made with wholegrain flour which contains more nutrients and fibre such as multigrain, soy linseed or pumpkin seed bread, wholewheat bagels and buns and oats. Replace rice with low GI brown rice or basmati rice while stuck at home.
Processed meats are high in saturated fats, calories and sodium. These include sausages, salami and ham. They also contain chemicals that are known to be carcinogenic. Try to avoid processed meats or at least limit your intake and balance by eating more fruits and vegetables. Even better, choose organic meat and unprocessed chicken and turkey, and round it out by eating more fish as a source of protein to get more omega-3 fats.
Open a packet of potato chips and it is gone. This is one food you start to eat and never seem to stop until the whole packet is finished, especially if you are sitting in front of the television or working on a computer. But chips are high in salt, oil and mostly trans-fats. These just add empty calories and provide no nutrition. Instead, try snacking on nuts or unsalted popcorn during the lockdown.
Sometimes you sacrifice a high-calorie meal with a salad, but if it full of high calorie dressings. You are better off having a regular meal. It is sometimes surprising as to the amount of fats and sugars in salad dressings. And generally, fat reduced salad dressings have more sugars than regular salad dressings. Most of the bottled salad dressings are very high in sodium too. Even if a bottled salad dressing is low in sugar, salt and contains no bad fats, most dressings bought at the supermarket contain preservatives, artificial food dyes – and some contain monosodium glutamate.
While you’re stuck at home, clean up and stock your pantry carefully. Your body will thank you!