The refrigerator is arguably one of the most important inventions of the nineteenth century. Its ability to preserve food and help limit or prevent foodborne illnesses is undeniable. But, despite its merits, your refrigerator can also encourage you to store food beyond its shelf life and it can damage the taste and texture of some healthy foods, making them less desirable to eat. Cleaning out your refrigerator can have huge benefits for your health and wellness and it can help you make the most of the healthy foods in your home.
The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences recommends cleaning your refrigerator out by removing the contents of your fridge, tossing any spoiled or expired foods, and then wiping down the shelves with warm water mixed with baking soda (two tablespoons of baking soda for every quart of warm water). Be sure to remove the drawers and shelves and wash them thoroughly in hot soapy water — these are some of the germiest places in your kitchen. After the refrigerator is washed, return any foods that should be saved to the refrigerator.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that our refrigerator is home to some of the unhealthiest foods in the home and that those foods should be eliminated. From sodas to deli meat, our refrigerators are packed with added sugar, empty calories, and nitrates. Knowing which pre-packaged and convenience foods are the unhealthiest (and replacing them with wholesome options) can have tremendous impacts for your health. Even products labeled "diet" or "low-fat" are worth getting rid of; they are often loaded with preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and salt.
When you're cleaning your fridge you'll also want to throw away foods that shouldn't be stored in the refrigerator in general. The refrigerator compromises the taste and texture of foods like fresh basil and under-ripe avocados. These are healthy foods that should be a regular part of a healthy diet but storing them in the refrigerator makes them less desirable to eat. Throw out the portions that have been stored in the refrigerator but replace them, storing them at room temperature or in the freezer in the future.
It can be difficult to know which foods are worth saving and which foods need to be thrown out, so we've compiled a quick guide of some of the most common foods in your refrigerator that need to be trashed.
If you’ve been storing food in the refrigerator in an open can, throw it away. Studies show that harmful metals are transferred into foods when they’re stored this way.
Most margarine contains trans-fat, which raises your bad cholesterol, lowers your good cholesterol, and increases your risk for heart disease. If your margarine contains any trans-fat, toss it.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.