Food makeover: How to set up your 'real food' kitchen

Use the New Year as an opportunity for a new start in your kitchen.

By , Beyond The Peel

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    Rid your kitchen of processed food to make room for 'real food' such as dried pasta, brown rice, and fresh or frozen vegetables.
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OK, let me just say right off the go that this might not be easy for you if your house is full of processed food. Don’t worry, I’ll break it down into manageable steps. I’ll be your healthy eating guide and help to make this process as simple and painless as possible. There are two ways to set up a whole food kitchen (that’s fancy talk for having a kitchen stocked with real food).

Option 1 – Get It Over With

The first way is like ripping off a band aid. Do it fast in one quick motion, shake it off and move on to the the next step, just getting it all done at once. The pain will pass. This option involves going through your kitchen, taking all the processed food out of the cupboards, out of the fridge and freezer, donating what you can and throwing away everything else in one fell swoop. If this sounds wasteful to you, well so is putting that food into your body. Sound harsh? Well, maybe it is but it’s true. Many of our excuses for making food changes are masks for our addiction to high sugar, high sodium foods, and highly processed foods.  If you choose Option 1, then tick off the 5 steps listed below all in one go.

Recommended: Are you a real foodie? Take our quiz!

Option 2 – Let Me Ease Into This

The second way to give your kitchen a whole foods makeover is to do it in incremental steps. A little more painful if you ask me, but it may seem more manageable if fear or doubt are controlling factors. These might take the form of: “I don’t know how to cook." "I don’t know how to cook from scratch." "I don’t even know where to shop for that kind of food." "I don’t have the time to cook,” etc. Don’t worry, those fears are the same fears that prevent us from change in any area of our lives and they are just that, fears. Totally normal and you can just walk right through them since these are simple skills that anyone can learn. For this method, follow the Band Aid Technique but instead of dealing with the fridge, freezer, and pantry all at once, split it into three steps. Or if that seems too much, make a plan to exchange four processed foods in your house with four non-processed foods every week.

Ready? Good.

Step 1 – Box That Junk

Get some boxes and/or bags. For the donate-able items (items that have not been opened and have not expired) you’ll need one box for frozen food, one for dry goods, and one for refrigerated items. Then you’ll need one box for items that will need to go to the garbage (items that need to go to the garbage often come in a container that is recyclable).

Step 2 – Sort That Junk

Start by sorting through your cupboards and getting rid of any food item that has words on the ingredient list you cannot pronounce or you don’t understand what it is. Here are a few examples of things to throw out: canned soup, canned pasta, Uncle Ben’s dishes, Kraft Dinner, most crackers, chips, jello, pudding packages, cake mixes, and candy bars. You’ll still be left with some non-real foods but the majority of the cupboard should be cleaned out of all the nonsense we shouldn’t be feeding our bodies.

What will still be remaining is white sugar, white flour, brown sugar, and dried pasta. These items will eventually need to be replaced with sprouted spelt or whole grain flours, real organic raw cane sugar (or preferably palm sugar, honey, date sugar, and maple syrup), spelt or kamut dried pasta (don’t worry they’re not that much more than regular pasta and I think they taste better than whole wheat pasta). These you may change slowly over the course of a couple of months as you begin to feel more comfortable or go all out and do it all at once. You choose, but don’t dilly-daddle around. Tell that food, "You're fired."

Step 3 – Cold Junk Goes, Real Food Stays

Next the refrigerator. The biggest offenders here will be BBQ sauce, fake pancake syrup, salad dressings, low-fat flavored yogurts, lunch meat, and stir fry sauces. Some things you’ll want to hold onto, however, are soya or tamari sauce, mustard, mayo (it’s so much better homemade but this might be another one of those transition products), butter, pickles, capers, and hot sauce. Again, rely on reading the labels. Eventually you’ll get really good at reading labels and some of the products you see now will also disappear, being replaced with better choices later. Some of the items you’ll want to stock your fridge with will be full fat yogurt, eggs, organic butter (if possible), cheese, bacon (read the labels to find a good one), fresh veggies and milk, to name a few.

Step 4 – Attacking The Frozen Junk

The freezer, scary things happen in the freezer. Foods that people really don’t want to get rid of live here, that’s why I saved it for last. I wanted to give you a little warm up. Yes the frozen pizza has to go. So do microwave dinners (shutter), frozen perogies, frozen egg rolls or taquitos, ice cream, pizza pockets, and freezies. What should remain are frozen vegetables, frozen berries and meat. This will be a haven for all the yummy food you’ll make in the future. Remember, you can always freeze a portion of your delicious meals, for quick, easy real food dinners.

Step 5 – Bye-Bye Junk Food

Take the boxes of unopened food out of the house and off the property immediately and don’t look back.

Resources to Help You Succeed

You might be thinking, “Now that I have no food left in my house, what do we eat?!”

Not to worry, here are some great sites that promote real food recipes and resources to help you on your way. Some of the websites below have there own cookbooks, resources, and videos. But what they all have in common with this site is tons and tons of absolutely free information and recipes. Who doesn’t love free? Some of these websites are more “hard core” when it comes to real food lifestyles than others, so pick one where you feel comfortable starting and go from there. It will evolve from there. The key is STARTING! The second step is COMMITTING!

If you want a more handheld approach with grocery list and meal plans, you may want to check out my hybrid cookbook/real food makeover The Whole Food Revelation. It’s designed to turn you into a Whole Food Cooking Ninja in less than a month.

There are plenty of resources for grocery lists and meal plans out there, so take a look around. Just make sure they are real food resources and not ones that recommend bottled sauces and breaded food. If they tell you to buy low fat anything, you’re in the wrong place.

What If I Get Off Track?

The hardest part will probably be ridding your cupboards of white sugar and white flour. Don’t worry or beat yourself up. Once the other foods are in place and you’re feeling confident with homemade salad dressing and cooking beans, quinoa, and brown rice, you can move onto these bigger things. Eventually you’ll want to learn how to bake without using white sugar, and you’ll actually find the challenge fun. The same will hold true with white flour.

If you have a bad day and show up at the house with a frozen pizza after a long days work, it’s OK. Start over tomorrow. Examine what went wrong, regroup and you’ll be better prepared to handle the situation next time. After all, we learn through our mistakes, not our successes, and no one is perfect 100 percent of the time.

We’re all in this adventure together. So, let us know how you’re doing on your journey and how far you’ve come by joining the conversation here. Or maybe you’re just starting. What are your motivating factors for change? Don’t be shy, maybe your story will motivate someone else!

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of food bloggers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by The Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own and they are responsible for the content of their blogs and their recipes. All readers are free to make ingredient substitutions to satisfy their dietary preferences, including not using wine (or substituting cooking wine) when a recipe calls for it. To contact us about a blogger, click here.

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