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Spring Cleaning: Healthy Activities, Recipes and a Rezilir Health Pantry Makeover

By Jannell Baez MS, RDN, LD/N

Finding activities that are entertaining and beneficial to our health over the long term can help us make positive changes in our health and lifestyle that we did not make time for in the past. People all over the world are trying to find ways to pass the time while they remain at home.  While staying informed is necessary, it is helpful to find things to do at home to distract us from the reality we are all living in. Here are a few ideas that can help improve the way we care for ourselves and have long-lasting nutritional benefits for you and your family.

Spring Cleaning

Many of us have been reorganizing our closets, cleaning out the garage and doing other tasks around the house that have been put on the back burner. Another place that can benefit from an overhaul is your food pantry and freezer. Many people may have stocked up on shelf-stable food when the pandemic broke in order to quell fears of food scarcity. Unfortunately, many of these non-perishables and shelf-stable foods are terrible for your waistline and your health. Rather than risk temptation by keeping some of these unhealthy foods in the pantry, why not get rid of them? Do it all at once or in baby steps — whichever makes sense for you. Change out the unhealthy items for healthier versions and begin your journey to better health

Rezilir’s Virtual Pantry Spring Cleaning

If you need help in deciding what items need to go, you can make an appointment for a Healthy Pantry Makeover with our guidance . This can be done virtually or in-person if you live locally. We will recommend replacement items used for all of your cooking needs not only for a healthier pantry but most importantly, a healthier YOU.  If you are currently a patient at Rezilir, we will be able to be even more specific to your needs.  Whether Keto, Paleo, a Low-Histamine regimen etc., our team will help you Spring Clean your pantry and recommend alternative goods necessary for your specified plan.

Things you can begin with on your own include throwing out old or expired items. Next target the most processed foods that lack nutrients such as boxed cookies and cakes, cereals, chips, breads and pastries made with white flour, cake and pancake mixes, and pasta that is not whole grain. Read labels of canned foods and toss or donate items that contain 400mg or higher of sodium. Include nuts, legumes, and whole grains in your pantry. Focusing on whole unprocessed foods is a goal we can all strive for during this time to promote a healthy immune system. 

Don’t forget the freezer:  The USDA recommends tossing uncooked roasts, steaks, and chops after 1 year in the freezer, and uncooked ground beef after 4 months. Frozen cooked meats should be thrown out after 3 months. Look at frozen convenience meals and check the sodium content. If it has more than 400mg of sodium per serving it is considered a high sodium food that may contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues. Choose frozen foods that contain less than 400mg sodium per serving and consider choosing one made with organic ingredients if you have to rely on convenience items. Frozen organic vegetables are a great choice because their nutrient content is preserved while frozen. This allows us to always have healthy vegetables on hand when you are unable to make a trip to the grocery store.

Plant a Vegetable or Herb Garden

Starting a garden is a wonderful way to pass the time and provide you and your family healthy, immune system boosting plant foods. When people were first alerted to COVID-19, fear caused people to panic and buy more food than usual resulting in empty shelves at the grocery store. This has resulted in an increase in sales of vegetable producing plants, gardening supplies and seeds as people all over the country start growing their own fruits, vegetables and herbs in order to feel they have some control during a time when they feel food insecurity. 

Include your kids in planting your garden. This gets everyone out into the fresh air and sunshine, which is healing in itself. Exposing your skin to sunlight for 10-15 minutes can produce up to 10,000 IU of Vitamin D  (depending on your skin tone) which is a key nutrient in maintaining your immune system. Children enjoy learning how to plant seeds and watching them grow. Once the plants are ready for harvest, children and adults alike will feel pride and fulfillment in picking, cooking and eating what they have grown!

Choosing vegetables that your children are willing to eat will engage them in caring for the garden but you can also plant a vegetable they do not usually eat in order to encourage them to try something new.  If you do not have a lot of space or want to start small, start with an herb garden. Herbs can be planted indoors in small pots as long as they get sunlight for 6 hours a day. Hydroponic countertop herb garden systems are also popular but can run you anywhere from 50 to over 400 dollars depending on the bells and whistles.  Herbs contain many medicinal properties and can have antimicrobial (Oregano) or detoxification enhancing effect (Cilantro) Some herbs can be used to make teas that have calming effects on the body such as lemon balm or chamomile. The plants we eat are not just energy, they are medicine. Growing your own herbs, vegetables, and fruit allows us to control what chemicals or pesticides contaminate our food. Homegrown produce also provides optimal levels of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (medicinal plant chemicals) because there is a smaller amount of time between harvest and your fork.

Recipes to make with Kids

BLT Cukes

This recipe can be made by younger and older children and is a great way to incorporate vegetables into their diet.  Take it a step further by growing your own tomatoes, lettuce, spinach or cucumbers to show kids how our food is grown and have them invest in the care of the garden.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup finely chopped lettuce
  • ½ cup finely chopped baby spinach
  • 3 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled
  • ¼ cup finely diced tomato
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoon regular or vegan mayonnaise
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large cucumber
  • Minced fresh parsley or green onion optional
  1. Combine lettuce, spinach, bacon, tomato, mayonnaise, pepper and salt in a medium bowl and mix well.
  2. Peel cucumber; trim off ends and cut in half lengthwise. Use spoon to scoop out seeds, discard seeds
  3. Divide bacon mixture between cucumber halves, mounding in the center. Garnish with parsley. Cut into 3-inch pieces.

Mini Beef Tostadas

This recipe is best for older kids and teaches them basic cooking skills like browning ground meat and getting things in and out of an oven safely. It is gluten-free and can be prepared with dairy-free cheese alternative if desired.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound organic grass-fed ground beef
  • 1-2 Tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 can 8oz refried beans
  • 1 can 4 oz chopped green chiles drained (optional)
  • ½ cup gluten free taco sauce
  • 4 dozen round corn tortilla chips
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese or dairy-free cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375ᵒF. Brown beef and onion in a large skillet over medium heat 6-8 minutes, drain fat
  2. Stir in beans, chiles (if desired), and taco sauce; cook and stir about 4 minutes or until bubbly. Spoon 1 heaping Tablespoon of the beef mixture on each tortilla chip. Sprinkle with cheese. Place on baking sheets.

Place in a hot oven and bake for 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. Makes 4 dozen tostadas

Snake Snacks

This is a fun recipe that younger children can make. Teach them that eating fruits like strawberries and bananas can help keep them healthy. Other skills they can learn with this activity include learning to cut the bananas with a knife that is not too sharp and arranging food in a creative way.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 10-14 strawberries

  1.  Cut bananas crosswise into ¼ inch slices. Place in a medium bowl and toss with lemon juice to prevent browning.
  2. Leave 2 medium strawberries whole; cut remaining medium strawberries crosswise into ¼ inch slices. Tip: Try to choose strawberries that are about the same diameter as the banana so that all the fruit slices that make up the body of the snake will be close to the same width.
  3. Place whole strawberries on serving plates for the snakeheads. Alternate banana and strawberry slices behind the heads to form snakes.
  4. Cut four small pieces of banana for eyes; arrange on snakeheads. Place a small piece of strawberry in the center of each eye and use small thin slices of strawberry to make the snake’s tongue

*Recipes adapted from: Recipes For Gluten-Free Kids Fun Eats From Breakfast to Treats; Publications International, Ltd. All recipes are gluten-free and have the option of being dairy-free as well.

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