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Give your pantry a makeover

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

Taryn Wren has a full house: 12 year old Kinsey, 9 year old Preston, 13 month old Asher, and her husband, Rick. She's working hard to get them on a healthier eating plan. Wren says, "We've spent the last few months trying to eat healthier, and taking, eliminating items out of the house."

So how is Taryn doing? Monica Griffin, a registered dietitian with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, volunteered to take a look at her pantry. Her first impression is a good one. Griffin, a mother a toddler herself, says, "For a busy mom of three, I'd say she's doing a pretty good job. I do see some beans, a great source of protein. And some tuna canned in water."

She also sees whole grains, like brown rice and whole wheat tortillas. Both, she says, are "very nutritious and kid-friendly."

The problem? All the healthy food is mixed in with some not-so-healthy options. So, you're not sure what to reach for.

Griffin wants to tweak the layout of Taryn's pantry, to move healthier foods down front and center.

She says you want to make the healthiest choice, the easiest choice. That's important, she says, "Especially when there are kids in the house. So whatever they see first, is probably what they're going to have for a snack."

The first place Taryn's kids usually go is this snack drawer, full of cookies and granola bars. Griffin suggests moving the snack foods. She says, "We want to allow families to have these goodies in the house, they shouldn't be forbidden. But maybe keeping them up higher, and limiting the variety of them."

She also suggests Taryn replace the snack drawer with a bowl of fresh fruit that's both attractive, and easy-access.

Then she moves on to the Wrens' refrigerator. The first thing Griffin notices is the sugary drinks on the shelves and the door. She says, "I see we have some green tea, I see some juice and some sports drinks on the bottom here. And some sparkling juice up top."

That's a lot of high-sugar drinks, she says. A better option? A pitcher of water, flavored with fresh fruit or berries. Griffin says put the pitcher on the top shelf. The kids won't be able to miss it. She says, "Put it right in the middle, so when they go to reach for something that's the easy choice to make."

Taryn Wren says she learned that keeping a "healthy" kitchen depends not just on what you stock, but "location, location, location." Griffin's advice to make the healthy choice the easy choice makes sense to her. And she thinks she can use the tips she learned to build a healthier pantry. She says, "As long as when I go to the store, I'm thinking healthy, I think I can do it."

So what healthy staples should you have in your pantry? Griffin suggests a few basics:

  1. For cereals, pasta and bread, buy whole grains. Look for the "100% whole wheat" or "100% whole grains" on the label. That should be the first ingredient you see, not sugar.
  2. If canned vegetables & fruit are convenient, look for vegetables canned in water (with no added salt) and fruits canned in water or juice (avoid the sugary syrups).
  3. Stock up on healthy cooking oils like canola and olive oil.
  4. Invest in some herbs and spices to help you season your cooking without adding salt.
  5. Buy whatever fresh fruit is in season, and they keep a bowl of it in easy reach.

For more tips on how to do a DIY Kitchen Makeover, check out Strong4Life online.

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