Spring clean your food habits

Healthier eating starts with spring cleaning your fridge and pantry – and stocking heart smart food choices. Get started with this checklist
Woman shopping for vegetables at farmer's market

It’s spring cleaning time – the perfect occasion to commit to healthier eating.

As you clean out your kitchen, not only do you want to get rid of food that’s mouldy, spoiled or expired; it’s also smart to sort through your pantry staples and weed out the less healthy fare.

Here’s a checklist to help keep your foods fresh and healthy.

In the freezer:
  • Empty your freezer and clean it with soapy water. Examine the products and decide what stays and what goes.
  • Stock the freezer with convenient pre-cut vegetables and fruit – they can stay frozen for about eight months. Best buys have no added oil, butter, sugar, salt or sauce.
  • Though unsightly, freezer burn doesn’t affect the safety of food. It can alter the taste and texture. Use freezer burned ground meat or sausage in dishes that are heavily spiced, like chili.
  • Toss anything that you can’t identify or don’t remember freezing – it’s been there too long!
  • Food that has been defrosted in the microwave should be cooked immediately after thawing.
  • Keep a permanent marker handy to label each freezer bag with the date and contents. Use this guide to know how long to keep it: 

Here are some recipes that freeze well – remember to label them!

In the fridge:

Your dad may look good with a beard, but your beef stir-fry does not. Use your refrigerated leftovers within three or four days; consider freezing unused portions to avoid waste. Here are some other tips:

  • Fruits and vegetables have variable storage times, but spongy, mouldy produce is easy to spot and discard. The best way to keep your produce fresh is to eat lots of it every day! Keep sliced vegetables and fruit on hand as an easy snack to reach for.
  • Bacteria love warmer weather and can grow rapidly at room temperature. Place perishable foods in the refrigerator to reduce spoilage.
  • Check expiry dates and toss items that are past their prime.  Best before dates apply to unopened products only. Once opened, the shelf life of a food may change.  

Throw out any open jars that you have not used in the past six months. The black marker comes in handy here too – when you open a jar, write the date on the lid and follow these freshness rules:

Before you re-stock your fridge:
Replace discarded sauces and dressings with lower sodium options.
Check Nutrition Facts panels and eliminate any processed foods that contain trans fat. 

In the pantry:

Here are some guidelines for your boxed, canned and packaged foods:

  • Low-acid canned food like tuna and most vegetables will keep up to 1 year, as long as the cans have been stored in a cool, dry place and are not dented, leaking, bulging, or rusty. 
  • Canned tomatoes, pineapple or other high-acid foods can be stored for 12 to 18 months.
  • While canned goods have a longer shelf life, it is best to buy them only as you need them and rely on fresh food more often.
  • In general, whole grains have a shorter shelf life than refined grains, but will last longer if refrigerated. Opt for brown rice and whole wheat flour, and keep them in the fridge.
  • Swap whole wheat for white pasta. The shelf-life is the same.