10 Foods to Banish from Your Pantry

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1. The Salt Shaker

OK, you don't have to get rid of your salt shaker altogether. After all, salt does play an essential role in nutrition. However, most Americans consume far more than the recommended daily amount of sodium, which is 2,300 grams for a healthy adult (less than 1 teaspoon of salt). Processed foods are loaded with sodium, and a simple pinch here and there can push anyone over the daily limit. At the very least, get the salt shaker off the dinner table and flavor with dried herbs, pepper and spices.

2. Store-bought cookies

It's far too easy to sit down with a package of store-bought chocolate-chip cookies and mindlessly eat half of the box. Many store-bought cookies are high in trans fat and loaded with sugar, preservatives and empty calories. Serve your family homemade cookies and you'll be able to control the ingredients and cut down on the processed foods your kids eat. Besides, home-baked oatmeal, banana and cranberry cookies are sweet and high in fiber, so they're more satisfying than a store-bought treat.

3. Sweetened cereals

There is much debate about the nutritional merits of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a sweetener added to many beverages and other processed foods, including sweetened cereals. This vilified sweetener has taken a lot of heat in recent years for its potential link to obesity. While the jury is out on what role HFCS plays in the national rate of obesity, it's wise to limit your intake of this sweetener-which is commonly found in high-calorie foods-whenever possible. Scan the ingredient list of your favorite cereals for HFCS and you may be surprised where it lurks. It's not just the marshmallow sugar puffs that hide HFCS, but many supposedly "healthy" grown-up varieties as well.

4. Artificial "juices"

While we're on the topic of HFCS, most manufactured, shelf-stable juices are loaded with corn syrup, which is about as close as they come to containing anything once resembling a fruit or vegetable. You've heard it a hundred times, but it bears repeating; skip the sugary juices and give your kids naturally flavored water or milk, instead.