An inevitable part of any pantry overhaul is deciding what to keep and what to toss. Gone are stale, half-eaten package of crackers you forgot to seal up, or the sticky jumble of lollipops on the bottom of the candy bin. Lately, though, I’ve developed some criteria that go beyond the typical: tossing what is spoiled, unwanted, and unloved. I am starting to toss out the unhealthy. In a perfect world, I keep as much junk as I can from entering my pantry to begin with, but forbidden items tend to slip in,  like the pancake syrup my husband insists on, or the hordes of candy that seem to reproduce when I am not looking. So here, a list of common pantry staples, and simple, healthy updates that will leave your pantry lean and “clean.” And most of them are painless.

TOSS: Conventional Soda.

I know, I know. I love it too, on occasion, but if you don’t have it, you can’t drink it.

BUY: Dry Soda.

This all-natural alternative features addictive flavors, like Wild Lime, Cucumber, and Lavender, that are sophisticated enough to pair with a gourmet meal. Each bottle has less than 70 calories and only 4 ingredients, including the minimum amount of pure cane sugar. Plus, the design is so gorgeous you’ll be proud to make mocktails with these at your next soiree.

TOSS: Ordinary Pancake Mix.

Boxed pancake mixes are, at best, expensive timesavers, and at worst, unhealthy and loaded with junk.

BUY: Kodiak Cakes Flapjack & Waffle Mix

My husband puts up with a lot of my kitchen shenanigans, including trying to pass off tofu crumbles as ground beef in tacos (cutting out red meat here and there is never a bad thing!) and refusing to buy his butter spread because it’s not, well, butter. But he has recently drawn the line at whole grain pancake mixes. I have tried many, many versions, most of them awful, as this earlier blog clearly illustrates. My top pick for a from-scratch whole grain pancake is the rather time-intensive recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook, but I was still looking for a pantry staple for those days (usually weekdays) when I want to whip up a quick, hot breakfast for the girls in a minimal amount of time. Kodiak Cakes‘ mix is the best I’ve found. This whole wheat mix takes seconds make (you just add water!) and turns out light, fluffy pancakes that the girls and I love. Kevin would still prefer the white-flour kind, but hey, you can’t please everyone. : ) At least he gets to top them with Aunt Jemima. (The girls and I stick to pure maple syrup or organic honey).

TOSS: Minute Rice

White rice is bad enough, but super-duper-processed white rice is just wrong. When I do buy white rice, as a treat, or to make the Thai sweet sticky rice with magno that I adore, I buy the organic kind. Not health food, exactly, but not horrible.


BUY: Brown rice

Day in and day out, brown rice is my go-to grain. Yes, it takes a little more time, which is why I like to make one big pot on Sunday or Monday and use it throughout the week. And when you make it with stock, or with herbs, or season it, is is really, really yummy. Leftovers, mixed with organic sweetened condensed milk on the stovetop, just until warm, make an amazing rice pudding. In a pinch, I will occasionally pick up those microwaveable rice packs, but most of them contain additives.

TOSS: Sugary cereals.

cascadian farms


BUY: Healthier alternatives.

There is no reason to buy sickly sweet kids’ cereals when so many lesser evils exist. Eva loves Whole Foods organic cornflakes topped with sliced bananas, and Lola’s favorite is Puffin Puffs from Barbara’s Bakery. It has less than 7g of sugar and prebiotic fiber, and it’s yummy. Other favorites: Erewhon Brown Rice Crisps, Cascadian Farm Clifford Crunch, and Cascadian Farm Fruitful O’s.

TOSS: Junky Candy

BUY: Organic options

Yes, I know that conventional candy will make its way into your house. It seems to come from every conceivable source – birthday parties, school, even the pediatrician’s office. It just shouldn’t come from you, especially not when there are so many seriously yummy alternatives that are far healthier. Our staples include Green & Black Organic Chocolate Bars, Yummy Earth Organic Gummy Bears and Lollipops, Sunspire Sundrops, and candy bars from Unreal.

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