Give your pantry a once-over and rid it of unhealthy choices, then fill it with smarter picks.
Find yourself in spring-cleaning mode? Want to tidy up your food intake? No matter what you may have heard, a detox diet is not the way to do it. Your liver and kidneys are already designed to eliminate toxins. Doing a detoxification cleanse can make you sick with cramping and nausea, and even upset your metabolism with an imbalance of electrolytes or renal dysfunction.
In fact, we think a much better way to detox is to clean your cupboards and purify your pantry!
For tips, we turned to Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of Ottawa’s Bariatric Medical Institute and author of The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work.
1. Toss the trans fat
Read your labels and get your trash can ready. Trans fatty acids raise levels of dangerous cholesterol while lowering the good, delivering a one-two punch to your circulatory system. If a product’s serving size contains less than half a gram of trans fat, the label might declare zero, so you also need to check ingredient listings for the telltale “partially hydrogenated oil.” Unfortunately, not all foods you eat, like cafeteria croissants, even come with a label. “Commercial and fried baked goods are things we should be minimizing in our diet anyhow,” says Freedhoff.
2. Stash fewer saturated fats, more unsaturated fats
Fat isn’t across-the-board bad. In fact, 25 to 35 per cent of your calories should be in the form of fat. But keep your saturated fats at less than 10 per cent. While you’re sweeping those away, stock up on more sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
3. Wipe out ultra-processed products
If it’s made from something that’s made from something, get rid of it. Chances are those cookies and frozen pizzas contain a lot more salt, sugar, fat and calories than you need. We’re often pulled in by health claims on the package, but remember that even if something contains less fat or more fibre than a similar product, it still might not be good for you. Freedhoff’s simple tip: “Stay away from jars and boxes of food and focus on foods you’ve transformed from fresh, whole ingredients.”
4. Stop buying beverages for their health benefits
If you’re loading up on milk or fruit juices because you think they’re healthy, think again.
“If you want to consume dairy or fruit, you should chew it,” says Freedhoff. “Liquid calories don’t fill us up. There are no health benefits that outweigh the negative impact of their caloric contribution to us.” That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever sip anything but calorie-free water. After all, we all enjoy an orange juice once in a while or a latte – or, for that matter, a robust gamay noir. Freedhoff’s suggestion: when it comes to non-water beverages, “Drink the smallest amount you need to like your life.”
4. Trim back restaurant meals
Restaurant food is another source of hidden sodium and sugar, and typically contains many more calories than you’d expect.
“You can’t look at a menu item and know what’s in it,” says Freedhoff. For sure, some restaurants are taking a healthier approach, like posting calorie counts on menus, cooking with better oils, and offering whole-grain breads and pastas. But they don’t get a free pass. “I think restaurants are a wonderful treat, and we should include them in our lives,” Freedhoff says, “but we use them far more often than we once did, and far more often than is helpful.”
A version of this story was published online on Feb. 22, 2016