This is the time of year when you think about spring cleaning your closets, but what about your pantry? There may be foods in your pantry and your refrigerator that need to be organized and cleaned out - and replaced with healthy, fresh options.
Try focusing on some of the areas below with these tips from Sonal A. Hill, registered dietician.
Check the Expiration Dates
Did you know salad dressing has an expiration date? Most of the foods, spices, and beverages in your kitchen have use-by dates. These dates are set by the manufacturer as the date when the food products will not be at the best quality.
For example, fats may become rancid and have a bad taste, or sauces may begin to separate or spoil. Checking all of your foods at purchase time and adhering to these expiration dates will help you to create the best possible meals.
Sometimes, products will have a “Sell by” or “Best by” date. This doesn’t mean that you can’t eat the item after these days. Sell by dates are the dates when a grocery store must sell the item; best by dates represent the date by which the food will taste best.
Use Refrigerated Leftovers Within Five Days
Generally, leftovers made at home should be used within three to five days after they have been cooked. Meat dishes or restaurant meals should be used within one to three days.
The reason is that bacterial growth increases as the food is stored. Furthermore, food should be properly reheated to 165°F or higher to prevent food-borne illness.
Freezing leftovers is another way to store food for longer. Frozen food is safe indefinitely. However, you should use it within a few months for the best quality, depending on the type of food.
Store items Within 2 Hours of Opening or Preparing
Cooked leftovers should be placed in the fridge or freezer within two hours. This also goes for opened condiments such as ketchup and barbecue sauce. If it’s very warm - like if you’re outdoors at a barbecue - the rule is one hour.
Use caution when storing hot leftovers, however. Putting something like a large pot of chili directly into the fridge will take it a long time to cool down. The longer the food is in the “danger zone” of 40°F or higher, the greater the chance that bacteria can multiply. To help food cool down faster, separate it into smaller containers before refrigerating.
Healthy Spring Produce to Try
Now that you’ve cleared some space in your kitchen, why not fill it back up with fresh, seasonal produce? After a cold winter, enjoy nature’s bounty with a few of the following fruits and vegetables.
These green spears are at their peak in the springtime. Besides being a low-calorie and delicious side dish option, they’re also high in folate and Vitamin C. Try them roasted in the oven, added to an omelet, or tossed into your favorite pasta.
Sweet, tender peas are a springtime delicacy. Peas provide a surprising amount of protein for a vegetable and are also a good source of Vitamin C. Stir them into a rice pilaf or liven up a salad with fresh peas.
These bright-pink veggies are coming into season now. You might consider them simply vegetable tray staples, but they’re also perfect for sauteing, roasting, and dipping in butter. Just think of them as a cucumber’s spicy cousin.
Rhubarb is a super-sour vegetable that’s typically used as fruit in dessert dishes. Only the stalks are edible - the leaves are poisonous. Try them in a pie, crumble, or homemade jam for a unique springtime treat.
April through June is the peak season for strawberries. Take advantage of the best season for these fruits by using them in a variety of ways: pair strawberries with fresh cream, blend them into smoothies, use them to sweeten up salads, or add them atop your cereal.
Health and Wellness at Otterbein SeniorLife
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