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Give your cupboard a healthy makeover

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

A well-stocked cupboard is a must for busy people. It will save you over and over again when you find yourself in a pinch when it’s time to prepare dinner. To stack the healthy-eating odds in your favour, it's essential to stock your cupboards with great-tasting, healthy choices. Tthe key phrase here is 'great-tasting' - healthy food won't do anyone any good if no one eats it.

Giving your cupboard a nutritional makeover is as easy as 1-2-3! Follow our three simple steps to transform your store cupboard into one that will help you eat light and right.

Step 1

Minimise empty- calorie foods - the ones that deliver lots of calories without much nutrition.

This doesn't necessarily mean eliminating them from your cupboard entirely. This might make you want them even more, thus leading you to overeat. You know yourself best: whether 'out of sight, out of mind' works for you, or whether you do better in the long run if you have a few token indulgence foods around. That way, you know they're there if you truly want them - and are truly hungry - but they're not mainstays of your cupboard.

The two infamous types of empty-calorie culprits are:

  • Things with lots of sugar and other caloric sweeteners. Examples: fizzy and sweetened drinks, cakes, biscuits, tarts, sweets and chocolate, ice cream and ice lollies, snack cakes and cereal bars.
  • Things with lots of added fats and oil. Examples: mayonnaise, crisps, microwave popping corn, crackers, biscuits, tarts and snack cakes, and tinned soups.

When possible, replace your empty-calorie favourites with alternatives that are, well, less empty. Could you be happy with light mayonnaise instead of regular? Can you drink a diet fizzy drink a day instead of a regular, sugar-laden fizzy drink? Is there a higher-fibre, less-sugary breakfast cereal that suits you?

Step 2

Stock up on great-tasting, more-healthy alternatives for foods you know and love.

For example, there are some lower-fat crisp options. Some are truly low-fat, such as those that are baked; others have a little less, such as those that use newer, lighter oils.

Here are a few other healthy choices you might want to have in your cupboard, some for snacking and others for preparing meals:

  • Tinned, fat-free beans.
  • Tinned diced tomatoes and tomato puree and bottled pasta sauce (lower- sodium versions are best).
  • Brown rice (it comes in regular or quicker par-boiled versions).
  • Quick or old-fashioned porridge oats. You can buy packets of microwave or instant oatmeal, some of which have added nutrients.
  • Wholegrain breakfast cereals. These should have a wholegrain listed as the first ingredient, at least 4g of fibre per serving, and not too much fat or sugar. Sultana Bran is a great option, with 13g of fibre, 2g fat and 33g of sugar per 100g (whole grain is the first ingredient on the label; wheat bran is the third. Sultanas are the second ingredient listed, sugar is fourth).
  • Plain popcorn kernels to pop yourself in vegetable oil.
  • Tinned soups with more fibre (5g or more per serving) and less fat and sodium than most.
  • Wholemeal flour. Substitute this for half the white flour in recipes to increase fibre and nutrients without a big difference in flavour or texture.
  • Sweeteners. These artificial sweeteners can replace half of the sugar in most bakery recipes, to cut calories without a noticeable difference in flavour or texture. Other sweeteners let you cut the amount of sugar you use in half.
  • Salt-free seasoning blends (and individual herbs and spices). These are a convenient way to add flavour fast when you're trying to cook without a lot of added sodium. Keep all your spices and dried herbs in a cool, dry place to maintain freshness.
  • A can of spray oil to help reduce the amount you use in cooking.
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