The Ultimate Guide to Purging Your Pantry (when starting a healthy lifestyle)

We know that our weight loss journey won’t be all gourmet delicacies and moonlight strolls…and that those who end up reaching their potential as lean, strong, and healthy individuals worked their butts off (mind the pun!) to get to that point.


But when you’re committed to starting your weight loss journey and then face the intimidating maze of a pantry and fridge full of nutritiously inferior “healthy” products or downright bad-for-you options, you end up frustrated, scared of wasting time, and paralyzed by the fear of being stuck.


In this post, I’ll take you on a practical and insightful walk-through so you too could end up with a pantry and mindset prepped to support you in your journey to an effortless relationship with food and fat loss.


What follows is a complete list of items that form part of most modern homes today, but need to be eliminated with care and precision from your house and diet, if you are to achieve your weight loss and wellness goals.


A few centuries ago, most of these items wouldn’t even have been recognized as food, never mind be consumed as such. Our technological age has brought about many amazing inventions and conveniences that our ancestors could only dream of; but unfortunately, the advancement in food production has left us with overfed and under-nourished bodies, yearning to be released from the addictive and health-compromising qualities of the food we feed them.


So without further ado, take the first step with me on the journey back to a whole-foods lifestyle and your healthiest body ever:


Fats & Oils


Arguably the greatest change you could make towards living a healthier lifestyle would include the elimination of refined high-polyunsaturated vegetable oils.


WHY eliminate these

  • Refined vegetable oils are prone to oxidation. which form free-radical chain reactions. These have been shown to damage cell membranes and other tissue in the cardiovascular system, immune system, nervous system, and brain.

  • This oxidation also contributes to inflammation and free radical damage, which over time, causes premature aging, skin disease, heart disease, liver damage, immune dysfunction, and even cancer.

  • In the manufacturing process of these oils, they are heated to high temperatures to be extracted from the seeds and beans they come from, mixed with toxic chemical solvents to clean them, give them a more appealing color, and render them solid, for the sole purpose of increasing their shelf life.

  • The modern diet promotes excessive consumption of these oils which comprise predominantly omega-6 fatty acids, and contribute to systemic inflammation by inhibiting the conversion of short-chain omega-3s into long-chain omega-3s, forming inflammatory eicosanoids in tissues, and displacing anti-inflammatory omega-3s.

WHAT to eliminate

  • Deep-fried menu items,

  • Bottled vegetable/seed oils (canola, cottonseed, corn, soybean, safflower, grapeseed, and peanut oils)

  • All foods contain refined high-polyunsaturated oils and especially partially hydrogenated trans fats. Read the labels on any foods that come in a box, jar, bottle, or bag. You’ll be shocked at how many products sneak these oils into their manufacturing.

  • Buttery spreads and sprays

  • Margarine

  • Vegetable shortening

Sugar & Sweets


We all know that our consumption of sugar greatly exceeds that of a few generations earlier. We might also have a general idea that it might be bad for us, but if you’re not entirely sure why, read on…


WHY eliminate these

  • It promotes a state of oxidation and inflammation that sets the tone for heart disease, cancer, and accelerated aging.

  • They have been so heavily refined and processed that they are devoid of any nutritional value. Being stripped of all the naturally occurring fiber, water, nutrients, and enzymes (all the good stuff!) that were contained in the original whole food, ensures an immediate spike in blood glucose levels and prompts a significant insulin response, once consumed. As sugar levels drop, the body's stress response is activated in an attempt to restore blood sugar levels to normal.

  • Excess consumption results in hyperinsulinemia, hyperglycemia, and, eventually, type 2 diabetes and other assorted health problems.

WHAT to eliminate

  • Sweeteners (agave nectar, sugar, evaporated cane juice, high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, powdered sugar, raw sugar)

  • Brownies, cake, cookies, cupcakes, pies, and other baked treats

  • Candy, candy bars, and all other confections

  • Milk chocolate

  • Frozen desserts (popsicles, push-pops, ice cream, frozen yogurt)

Grains


Grains have been the centerpiece of the human diet since the advent of civilization, but have also undergone tremendous genetic modifications and processing in the last few decades. These changes and the excessive consumption that are prevalent in the modern diet, along with its negative consequences (as explained below) make grains a particularly unhealthy addition to one's diet.


WHY eliminate these

  • They deliver wildly excessive levels of carbohydrates, that overwhelm and disrupt the composition of our healthy digestive flora.

  • Limiting or removing grains can decrease your risk for hyperinsulinemia and diabetes, lower high blood pressure, alleviate heartburn, help shed excess body fat, and reduce pro-inflammatory markers, among other health benefits.

  • They also contain anti-nutrients (like gluten, lectins, and phytates) that we can’t digest successfully. All humans have some degree of grain intolerance, which could range from mild (symptoms are subclinical, resulting in a state of mild systemic inflammation that affects digestion and immune function) to severe (enough to manifest in serious health problems throughout the body, including gastrointestinal disorders, nutrient malabsorption, and autoimmune disease).

Lectin

A mild, natural toxin, found in high levels in common grains. Inhibit the natural repair system of the digestive tract, leaving the body vulnerable not only to digestive ailments but also to eventual autoimmune disorders.

Gluten

A protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Can cause or aggravate intestinal disorders, peripheral neuropathy, joint pain, and autoimmune diseases. Several cancers are also strongly linked to gluten intolerance. Many people enjoy noticeable improvements in symptoms like joint pain, skin issues, and digestive disturbances once they eliminate gluten-containing foods from their diet.

Phytates

Offer certain nutritional benefits when consumed in moderation, a grain-based diet results in excessive phytate consumption and accordant difficulties with digestion. Phytates bind with nutrients in the digestive tract and inhibit their absorption. This can compromise the absorption of important vitamins and minerals and interfere with the body's ability to synthesize vitamin D3.


WHAT to eliminate

  • Wheat flour, semolina, and other grain-based flours like rice flour or masa

  • Cooking grains (amaranth, barley, bulgur, couscous, millet, rye).

  • Baked goods and snacks containing flour (bread of all varieties, crackers, croissants, Danishes, donuts, scones, graham crackers, pizza, pretzels, muffins, rolls, tortillas, cookies, cakes, cupcakes)

  • Breakfast foods (dry cereals, Cream of Wheat, oatmeal, grits, granola, pancakes, waffles, French toast)

  • Chips (corn, potato, tortilla)

  • Pasta and noodles

  • Puffed snacks (Cheetos, Goldfish, Pirate's Booty, popcorn, rice cakes)

  • Rice

Legumes


Legumes are often commended for their protein content (a typical half-cup serving contains 28 grams of carbs and only 4 to 9 grams of protein) and excellent sources of fiber, but a diet heavy in grains and legumes carries a risk of excessive fiber intake and accordant digestive difficulties. Following primal eating, pattern delivers plenty of fiber from the consumption of vegetables, fruits, and nuts (foods with lower carbohydrate contents). This makes it an “unnecessary” food to consume, particularly for those looking to drop excess weight


WHY eliminate these

  • They too contain noticeable levels of antinutrients

  • They stimulate excessive insulin production (which drives fat storage), as they are predominantly carbohydrate

  • The bioavailability of minerals in legumes is compromised by the body's inability to digest legumes. This is evidenced by the common side effect of flatulence (caused by the fermentation of indigestible carbohydrates in the digestive tract), and by the fact that soaking processes are necessary for proper digestion and nutrient absorption.

  • Anyone struggling with digestive ailments will want to try eliminating legumes to see if their symptoms improve.

WHAT to eliminate

  • Alfalfa

  • Beans

  • Peanuts

  • Peas

  • Lentils

  • Chickpeas

  • Soybeans and related products like tofu

Condiments


Some condiments contain offensive ingredients such as canola, soybean, or other PUFA oils, or added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners which could prove detrimental for your health and weight loss goals. So be diligent about seeking out the least offensive option you can get.


WHY eliminate these

  • can be a source of hidden sugar and objectionable oils (check labels)

  • “Low-fat” options are typically doused with sugar to make up for the missing fat, while “lite” or “diet” options often contain distasteful artificial sweeteners and PUFAs.

WHAT to eliminate

  • Salad dressings

  • Mayonnaise

  • Ketchup

  • Other sauces (barbecue, buffalo, teriyaki, Worcestershire, hot sauce)

  • Pasta and pizza sauces

Beverages


Simplifying your beverage selection might just be the missing link between seeing the results you have been hoping for. A lot of unhealthy ingredients can sneak into some of today’s most palatable drinks along with an obscene amount of calories.


WHY eliminate these

  • Sweetened beverages trigger the insulin response and reinforce sweet cravings

  • Designer coffee drinks can deliver surprising amounts of sugar.

  • Energy drinks deliver an immediate energy spike from the combination of caffeine and sugar, resulting in an eventual energy crash and stress on the fight-or-flight system.

  • Fruit-flavored drinks offer minimal or no nutritional value but provoke a mighty insulin response

  • Real fruit juices offer quick hits of sugar that spike insulin and can easily deliver hundreds of calories

  • Milk is objectionable due to lactose intolerance, allergenic concerns, and the common use of hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, and GMOs in mainstream products.

  • Non-dairy milk often contain additives like carrageenan and guar gum which some people are sensitive to.

  • Carbonated sodas release a high volume of sugar and assorted chemicals into your bloodstream, and diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose. The jury is still out on the severity of the health-compromising effects of artificial sweeteners, but side effects such as migraines and panic attacks have been reported.

  • Sports drinks offer sugar calories and zero nutritional value. Many brands contain chemical additives such as artificial colors (check labels)

  • Sweetened cocktails. When alcohol calories are consumed in conjunction with carbohydrates, as with these and other mixed drinks, they are much more likely to be stored as fat.

  • Vegetable juices' fiber and additional nutrients are discarded during the juicing process which results in an excessive glucose spike upon ingestion

WHAT to eliminate

  • Designer coffee drinks: Mochas, Macchiatos, blended drinks, etc. Also, watch out for sugar- and PUFA-laden coffee creamers. Instead, choose additives such as whole cream or coconut milk.

  • Energy drinks: Red Bull, Monster, and the like

  • Fruit-flavored drinks

  • Real fruit juices: If you insist on drinking fruit juice, try diluting it with sparkling water, aiming to increase the water-to-juice ratio over time.

  • Milk: Adding whole milk or cream to your coffee is fine if you tolerate dairy, but avoid non-fat or low-fat milk and milk products (like yogurt), which are typically high in carbohydrates.

  • Sodas

  • Sports drinks: Sports drinks are only advisable during sustained medium-to-difficult workouts where hydration and a small number of glucose calories are necessary to sustain a high-performance level.

  • Sweetened cocktails: like daiquiri, margarita, and mai-tai

  • Sweetened teas: avoid premade, highly sweetened iced tea products.

  • Vegetable juice: Contain ample amounts of antioxidants and vitamins, but it is still much better to consume whole food vegetables that contain the fiber (which mutes the glucose spike upon ingestion) and additional nutrients that are discarded during the juicing process. Be wary of “vegetable juices” that are mostly fruit and other sweeteners.

Dairy


Full-fat dairy can be a healthy, delicious, convenient source of beneficial fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins, and high-quality protein, particularly if it's grass-fed, raw, and/or fermented. Not all dairy is healthy, however.


WHY eliminate these

  • All non-fat and low-fat dairy products, on account of the high carbohydrate content. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K dissolve in fat and are stored in the liver and fat tissue. Full-fat dairy products provide these essential nutrients, particularly the fat-soluble vitamins A and vitamin K2. When that fat is removed to produce low-fat or non-fat dairy, the vitamins people need are left out.

  • Conventional/GMO dairy products: In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) stated, "Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified food." These risks include infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.

  • For many people, dairy is inherently problematic, mostly owing to the presence of lactose (a milk sugar that is difficult for many adults to digest) and casein (a protein that can be allergenic to many). Sensitive folks might need to avoid all dairy products, or they may tolerate fermented products such as cheese, yogurt, and kefir.

WHAT to eliminate

  • Processed cheese and imitation cheese products

  • Ice cream and frozen yogurt

  • Non-fat and low-fat milk

  • Non-fat and low-fat yogurts, including fruit-sweetened yogurt

  • Conventional/GMO dairy products

  • Sweetened yogurt should be avoided for all the reasons you avoid sugar

Meat


Though animal foods are a central element of the primal eating plan, not all meat is created equal. It will require a sincere effort to navigate your local meat suppliers for the best quality meat your finances will allow.


WHY eliminate these

  • Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFO) are laden with hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics, and contain unfavorable omega-6:omega-3 ratios due to the animal's excessive grain intake

  • Processed meats and meat products filled with preservatives, sweeteners, binders, and nitrates (which can form potentially unhealthy, carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines when subjected to heat) are not nearly as beneficial as fresh animal flesh, bones, and offal (organ meats).

WHAT to eliminate

  • Avoid: Fried, breaded poultry (fried chicken, hot wings, chicken fingers, chicken strips)

  • Limit or completely remove CAFO meat

  • Cured meats (salami, prosciutto, coppa, pepperoni)

  • Sausage

  • Bacon

  • Deli meats

  • Jerky

Fish & Seafood


Depending on the source, fish and seafood are wonderful options for protein and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Unfortunately, commercial farming methods, certain cooking techniques, and environmentally objectionable catching methods make some fish and seafood less healthy than others. Be diligent about picking fish that are healthful and environmentally sustainable.


WHY eliminate these

  • Non-carnivorous farmed fish are fed pellets made of chicken feces, GMO corn, canola oil, and soy, while carnivorous farmed fish are fed wild fish, fishmeal, and fish oil, all of which deplete ocean stock.

  • Farmed fish are raised in cramped, unsanitary conditions and are exposed to high levels of dangerous chemicals and pesticides. Overcrowded fish farms carry a prevalence of disease, which necessitates the use of health-compromising antibiotics.

  • Farmed fish contain more omega-6 fats and fewer omega-3s than their wild counterparts, but farmed fish also contain more contaminants than wild fish.

  • Asian fish: concerns over polluted breeding grounds and poorly regulated farming practices.

  • Large predatory fish: more chance of containing high Mercury levels which is a toxic metal especially dangerous to children, pregnant women, and fetuses.

WHAT to eliminate

  • Most farmed fish, except for certain exceptions detailed shortly

  • Fish imported from Asia, both farmed and wild-caught (see details below)

  • Breaded fish (fish sticks, fillets, popcorn shrimp, fried calamari)

  • Frozen processed fish products (read labels and stay away from long ingredient lists)

  • Large predatory fish potentially high in mercury (shark, swordfish, king mackerel)

  • Fish caught by environmentally objectionable methods

  • Imitation crab

  • Predatory fish, like Large tuna, mackerel, swordfish, and shark, could be tainted with mercury levels 10,000 times that of their surrounding environment.

Potatoes


Potatoes are unlikely to cause harm from a health perspective, but they don't need to be a dietary staple, particularly if one wants to reduce excess body fat.


WHY eliminate these

  • Russet or white potatoes deliver unnecessary carbohydrates for most people not engaged in intense physical activity.

  • potatoes may contain high levels of glycoalkaloid, a potentially toxic, pro-inflammatory agent that can degrade cell membranes and increase the permeability of the intestines when consumed in excess by sensitive people.

WHAT to eliminate

  • Most potatoes have relatively low levels of these toxins, but potatoes whose skin has begun to turn green have the highest levels of glycoalkaloids and should be avoided entirely.

Hopefully, this guide would help you kick-start your weight loss journey with confidence and a calm, clear and clutter-free space that would set you up for success.


Let me know in the comments how your pantry purge went and what your biggest challenge was in the process.

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