The Ultimate Pantry Clean-Out Guide (With Checklist)

GMOs, food dyes & corn syrup, oh my! 😱

I know it can be overwhelming to learn what’s inside the food you eat, but my advice has always been to face the facts, and move forward with healthier choices. 💪

And that’s what we’re gonna do today, starting with your pantry. 

This article is for you if you’ve been wondering:

  • “Which ingredients should I be avoiding?” 
  • “How can I keep my family healthier?”
  • “Do I really need to buy all organic?”
  • “What about GMOs?”

But, before we get too far, I want you to know that the goal here is to build awareness. I’m not suggesting you toss out every item with a questionable ingredient. 

It’s about progress, not perfection. 

OK, let’s make some pantry progress! 💪

Checklist of Ingredients to Avoid.

First things first → your goal each week should be to buy as much minimally processed food as possible. This is the fresh food you find on the outer perimeter of the grocery store… the stuff that oftentimes doesn’t even have a label (fruits, veggies & meats). 

BUT, convenience foods are often necessary, and your pantry is probably chock full of them. Things like canned soups, crackers, croutons, pastas, salad dressings, condiments, trail mixes, granola bars & protein powders. 

While these foods are great for fixing quick meals & snacks, you want to be mindful of the ingredients. So, grab a pair of reading glasses if you need them, and let’s take a spin through your pantry. 

Here are the ingredients I want you to avoid:

  • Food Coloring & Dyes: This is a big one because these food colorings & dyes have been linked to hyperactivity, behavioral changes, depression, asthma & more. 

Pay special attention to foods that are marketed to kids like cereals, fruit snacks, and boxed macaroni and cheese. But don’t ignore the more sophisticated products. Food coloring can also be found in pickles, salad dressings, energy bars, and more. 

If you’re looking for a natural way to brighten up your foods try using beets, turmeric, matcha, and spinach. 

  • Seed Oils: This one surprises many of my patients because seeds themselves are packed with nutrition. But seed *oils* are a whole different story, and are known to cause inflammation in the body. 

Avoid all seed oils, including sunflower seed oil + soybean oil. And the most common → canola oil. Canola oil is used in soooo many packaged products because quite frankly, it’s the least expensive and companies want to keep their costs down.

  • Gums: Xanthan gum, carrageenan, guar gum are in a lot of packaged foods, particularly plant-based foods. Companies use them because they prevent oil and water from separating, and provide texture, stability, and flavors. Butttt numerous studies have shown that these gums cause gastrointestinal side effects, such as abdominal gas, bloating, and loose stools. No Thank You! 🙅‍♀️
  • Modified Corn Starch: Companies use this to help emulsify, thicken, and stabilize processed foods, but it’s a “no-go” in my book due to the harmful chemicals. Modified corn starch is often found in chips, soups, puddings, cheese sauces, powder-coated foods, and candies.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): It’s widely agreed upon that high fructose corn syrup contributes to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. While companies are getting a little better at removing this one, you’ll still find it in sauces, salad dressings, canned ingredients, yogurts & breads. 
  • Artificial Sweeteners: As people have become more aware of the harmful effects that sugar can have on their health, companies have scrambled to come up with alternatives, such as aspartame, sucralose, xylitol & saccharin. But these are *not* healthier options, and have been linked to diabetes, cancer, and obesity. Look for products that have been sweetened with natural ingredients such as honey, maple syrup, and fruit juices. 

OK, now that we have some of the main offenders covered, let’s chat about the not-so-obvious ingredients that can still be harmful to your health. 

Not-So-Obvious Things to Watch For:

As a general rule of thumb, I usually tell people that they should recognize & be able to pronounce the ingredients on their food labels. But some things sorta *sound* like they aren’t so bad, when in fact they should be avoided. 

A perfect example of this is “natural flavors”. 

Sounds pretty harmless, right?! 

The problem however is that it's a really vague, unregulated term that can include preservatives and solvents, both of which you don’t want to be consuming regularly! For this reason, it’s best to avoid products that list “natural flavors” as an ingredient. 

Two more “not-so-obvious” things to look for:

BPA Packaging 

BPA stands for bisphenol A, an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics & resins since the 1950s. Most companies are now using BPA-free packaging, but it’s always good to check. 


Aluminum is unfortunately a common addition to some processed foods (especially certain baking mixes) and baking powder. Look for aluminum-free on the packaging to be sure you steer clear of this. 

GMOs + Organic Foods. 

There’s usually some confusion about these two terms, so let’s get clear on what each means. 

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are foods grown using certain bio-technologies to create higher yields. Most of the crops (corn, canola, sugar beet, and soy) in the United States have been genetically modified, as have many animal feeds which impact our milk, eggs, seafood, and honey. There is some debate about whether GMOs have a negative impact on your health, but I personally avoid them. 

Organic means that the food was produced mostly (95% or more) without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, genetically modified organisms, chemical food additives, or irradiation. Organic food is also made without preservatives and artificial colors, and often contains more minerals and vitamins compared to conventional food. 

Here’s what you should remember: if a label says “organic” then you know it’s also non-GMO. But if a package says “non GMO”, that does NOT mean it’s organic. 

The Takeaway → If possible, try to shop organic as much as you can.

Buying organic means:

  • Your food is likely higher in minerals & nutrients 
  • Your food was was grown as nature intended, without bio-technologies
  • Your food was grown mostly without fertilizers, pesticides & chemicals

And one last tip on this front: while I know most of us shop at big grocery stores for the convenience, if you can find a local farmer, that gets major bonus points in my book. They may not have paid to go through the lengthy process to become “certified organic”, but if you know & trust your farmers, that goes a long way. 

Personalized Nutrition & Health Support. 

I hope this article has helped empower you to make healthier choices. 

If you’re looking for extra support, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We can talk about your health goals, and make a realistic plan that works for you & your family. 

We also offer advanced testing that allows you to identify food intolerances & sensitivities. 

Just give me a call, or send an email! 😉 



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