Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Cupboards

Keri Gans
April 25, 2013

While it's still chilly enough here in New York to warrant wool sweaters and boots, I'm simply too bored of these winter clothes to continue wearing them. I'm ready to dress for spring: bright colors, open-toe shoes and all. But spring also prompts the annual organizing of my closets, when I move out the winter sweaters to make room for the spring dresses. This year, I just can't get myself motivated enough to dive into what is usually a very time consuming project.

To clear my mind of clothes and my usual obsession with them, I wandered into the kitchen and let my nutritionist persona take over. I wanted to make some headway with spring cleaning, so I decided that if I'm not going to clean out my closets, then I'd clean out my cupboards. My cupboards are relatively organized and stocked with healthy items year-round, so I figured this would be a rather easy task for me.

However, after digging online and finding this amazing site, Shelf Life Advice, I soon realized that many of my items were probably bought around the same time platform shoes were last in style. Among the herbs and spices, I discovered that I either don't cook enough or forget to use all the amazing varieties I have, so I tossed many of them. I then moved on to the flour and sugar. It's odd that I own this stuff in the first place, considering that I don't bake and haven't breaded anything with regular flour in years, so I tossed them both. Lastly, I analyzed the crackers, many of which had gone stale. So I ditched those too, making the garbage bag fuller and fuller.

But then I started to think: With all my tossing, what should be in my cupboards in the first place? Are the items I stock as healthy as they could be? I've determined that the foods below ought to be cupboard mainstays:

Beans. This is a versatile and nutritious food, and one of the easiest to cook. They're rich in fiber and protein, which helps fill you up at meals.

High-fiber cereal. I believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but you may wind up skipping it if you don't have an easy-to-make option in your cupboard.

Nuts. Who doesn't get hungry in between meals? Portion nuts in plastic snack bags, and store them in your cupboard. You can grab this snack at a moment's notice without the risk of overeating.

Canned tuna. Hungry for lunch, but have nothing fresh to eat in the house? Pull a 3-ounce can of tuna (packed in water) from your cupboard, and enjoy 16 grams of protein and only 70 calories.

Olive oil. Whether broiling, sauteing, grilling or roasting, you need this kitchen basic. I suggest transferring olive oil to a spray bottle; This way, you spritz instead of pour the oil, which will save calories.

What else should be on the shopping list for your cupboard? To name a few, go for: brown rice, balsamic vinegar, whole-wheat couscous, whole-wheat pasta, tomato sauce (with no sugar added), whole grain crackers, canned artichokes, popcorn, low-fat mayonnaise, natural almond or peanut butters and olives (especially if you're a martini lover like me). Many of these products wind up in your refrigerator after opening, but you need to start somewhere.

Here's what to skip while stocking up: cookies, cakes, 100-calorie snack packs, chips (unless they're baked and you can stick with the serving size) and candy. I'm not saying you should never eat these types of products, but keeping them in your cupboard won't help you reach health and weight goals.

Now that my cupboards are in tip-top shape for the spring and summer, what's next? My closets still seem a bit overwhelming, so maybe I'll move on to my refrigerator and freezer. Remember this: Healthy cupboards help keep your waistline in check, which will make buying new spring clothes much more fun.

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian, media personality, spokesperson, and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans's expert nutrition advice has been featured in Glamour, Fitness, Health, Self and Shape, and on national television and radio, including The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, ABC News, Primetime, and Sirius/XM Dr. Radio.