Today is all about the kitchen. If your cupboards and pantry are filled with ultra-processed fare, the food industry is holding you hostage. Removing toxic foods (AKA detoxifying your kitchen) allows you to transform your kitchen into a place of wellness. A healthy kitchen provides the foundation for a healthy gut and a healthy you.
If you make your kitchen a safe zone with only nourishing foods rather than harmful foods, you will automatically make the right choices. If you fill it with crap, you will eat crap.
Below are four steps you can easily follow to effectively detoxify your kitchen and restock it with healthy foods.
Step 1: Purge your kitchen.
Schedule one hour on your to-do-list and make it happen. This first step requires some detective work. As you go through your kitchen, read food labels – look for added sugar and other junk ingredients that don’t belong in a healthy kitchen. Get out a large garbage bag and dump the junk. It might take some time, depending on how much hidden junk and toxic food lurk in your cupboard or fridge. Don’t be afraid to purge!
Step 2: Scrutinize labels.
Replace anything that is questionable with real, fresh, or whole foods without labels. A fresh apple doesn’t come with a nutrition label, barcode, or ingredient list.
If you decide to keep foods with labels, be aware of the following:
- Focus on the ingredient list, NOT the “nutrition facts.” Nutrition facts are designed to obscure, obfuscate and obstruct – sounds confusing, doesn’t it? So focus on the ingredients.
- If you don’t recognize a word or can’t pronounce it, then don’t keep it. If you don’t have it in your cupboard and wouldn’t use it in a recipe (for example, maltodextrin) then get rid of it.
- On every ingredient list, the most abundant component is listed first. The others follow in descending order by weight. If sugar or corn syrup is listed first, then it mostly contains sugar or corn syrup.
- Beware of foods with health claims on their label. These claims are usually a marketing ploy to make you think they’re good for you when they’re not. Things like sports beverages, energy bars, and multigrain breads fall into this category.
Step 3: Throw Out These Foods
- Hidden Sugars. Be aware of hidden sugars that lurk in salad dressings, processed foods, drinks, and even “healthy” foods like cereals and wheat. Sugar goes by many aliases and may be called organic cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, cane syrup, high fructose corn syrup, or molasses. There are 257 names for sugar, most made from corn with names that you wouldn’t recognize—like maltodextrin—which make you fat and addicted. Look carefully at condiments (salad dressing, barbecue sauce, or ketchup) which often contain high-fructose corn syrup.
- Bad fats. Don’t be afraid of fat. Fat doesn’t make you fat, but the wrong fats can wreak serious havoc on the body. Toss out any highly refined cooking oils such as corn and soy, fried foods you may have stored in your freezer, and margarine or shortening. These contain dangerous trans fats that create inflammation and cause heart disease. Scour labels for the words “hydrogenated fat” (aka trans fat), which has been declared unsafe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Artificial sweeteners. Throw out foods with artificial sweeteners (aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, sucralose, and sugar alcohols—any word that ends with “ol,” like xylitol or sorbitol). Stevia is a better option, but only use whole plant extract, not PureVia and Truvia, which are made by Pepsi and Coke and are chemical extracts of stevia. A new non-caloric sweetener that comes from antioxidant rich monk fruit can be used in small amounts. Any sweetener can make you hungry, lower your metabolism, create gas, and store belly fat.
- Anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce. If you purchase something with a nutrition label, there should be less than five ingredients on it. If your great grandmother wouldn’t know what it is, then you shouldn’t eat it. Focus on the ingredient list not the nutrition facts.
- Any potentially questionable food or ingredients. Seemingly safe foods like spices and seasonings can contain maltodextrin, autolyzed yeast extract, and even high-fructose corn syrup that have no place in a healthy kitchen.
Step 4: Stock Up on These Foods
Here are the foods you’ll want to load your kitchen with:
- Non-starchy veggies. Eat as many as you like! When possible, choose organic, seasonal, and local produce. Avoid the most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables by consulting the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list (www.ewg.org) and instead choose from the “Clean Fifteen” list featuring the least contaminated options. Just make sure you’re buying unseasoned or unsweetened varieties. Also check out your local farmer’s market or community supported agriculture (CSA). You can find the one closest to you at www.localharvest.org.
- Dry foods. These staple foods usually have a longer shelf life and include raw or lightly roasted nuts, seeds, and legumes.
- Herbs, spices, and seasonings. Always have a range of pantry ingredients, including seasonings and spices, on hand. Buy organic when you can. Because you only use a little of some of these, they tend to last a long time so you get a lot of value from them. Among my favorites include extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and organic seasonings and spices. Just read your labels to ensure they don’t contain hidden sugar, gluten, or other additives.
- Fresh & Organic Proteins. Keep your fridge and freezer stocked with fresh, organic, and local proteins, whenever possible. When selecting beef or meat, choose grass-fed, hormone-free, or organic. Optimal protein choices include:
- Pasture raised chicken and eggs
- Grass-fed meats (beef, lamb, bison, buffalo)
- Wild or sustainably farmed, low-mercury seafood (like sardines, salmon, herring, flounder, clams, crab, oysters, perch, pollock, shrimp, sole, squid, trout, whitefish, etc.). Avoid fish high in mercury such as tuna, swordfish, and Chilean sea bass.
With these strategies, you’re ready to begin detoxifying your kitchen. Your body and especially your gut will be glad you did!