I went on a cleaning spree last weekend and cleaned my kitchen — refrigerator, cabinets, all of it. I pitched the cans that were out of date and organized what was left to make it more accessible.

I’m amazed at the ease in preparing food now that I’ve organized. September just happens to be National Family Meals Month, but don’t let the start of October stop you. Family meals are a way to improve our family’s eating habits. And to have successful family meals, many of our kitchens could use a good makeover.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers a few tips for getting started:

» Make a list. What healthful foods do you want in your fridge, freezer and pantry? Make a list and bring it to the grocery store and farmers market.

» Consider some simple swaps. Can you swap white bread for whole wheat or white rice for brown rice? How about low-fat milk instead of whole milk, plain yogurt instead of sour cream or mustard instead of mayonnaise? How about meals that are plant-based rather than meat-focused? Start by switching to healthier ingredients one meal at a time.

» Purchase what you need. That way, your cabinets aren’t bulging and the cans won’t out of date before you use them. Plan your meals so you know what to have ready.

» Embrace canned foods, especially those with no salt added. Many canned foods retain as much nutritional value as their fresh or frozen counterparts. Choosing canned fruits, vegetables, beans, meats and seafood can save money and ensure you have nutritious foods on hand.

» Change up your kitchen environment. Once you bring your groceries home, make nourishing foods more accessible and inviting. Fill a fruit bowl with the fresh, colorful fruit you just purchased and place it on your kitchen countertop. Clean and cut fresh vegetables right away and put them in containers in the front of the fridge so they are convenient to grab and eat on the go. Place fresh herbs in water in the fridge to use quickly and put new milk behind the older one so you use it up before it spoils.

Q&A

Q: What are the nutritional differences between raw and roasted nuts?

A: When one looks at the nutrients gram for gram, raw and roasted nuts are essentially equivalent. Nuts are roasted to enhance taste, aroma and texture (crunchiness). Nuts that are sold as “raw” have not been roasted, although harvested nuts that are in their shell may still have heat applied to them to separate the shell from the nut. When heat is applied to any food, there can be a change in the composition of that food. With nuts, the difference is largely attributable to loss of water.

Nuts are known for the health properties of their fat composition, which is changed only minimally by roasting. One ounce of roasted almonds, for example, has 0.4 grams more monounsaturated fat than raw nuts, and an almost negligible change in saturated and polyunsaturated fat levels. It also has 6 more calories than the same weight of raw almonds. Raw nuts have a slight edge over roasted nuts in dietary fiber (0.5 grams more per ounce).

— Information courtesy of Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter

Recipe

Here’s a quick recipe for those hurried weeknight dinners — in between school, practice and homework. It’s from Cooking Light magazine. Serve with a salad and vegetable and you’ve got dinner.

Chicken Breasts with Brown Butter-Garlic Tomato Sauce

» 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts

» ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided

» ¾ teaspoon black pepper, divided

» 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

» 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

» 6 garlic cloves, sliced

» 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

» 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Place chicken breasts on a cutting board. Using a meat mallet, pound them to a ½-inch thickness. Sprinkle chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; keep warm. Do not wipe pan clean.

Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper, butter and garlic to drippings in pan; cook 2 minutes or until butter just begins to brown, stirring frequently. Stir in tomatoes; cook 2 minutes or until tomatoes are wilted. Spoon tomato mixture over chicken; sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 4 (serving size 1 chicken breast and about ⅓ cup tomato mixture)

Per serving: 341 calories, 39 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrate, 17.3 grams fat, 139 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram fiber, 4 grams sugar, 443 milligrams sodium

— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at charfarg@aol.com, or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Charlyn Fargo Ware

Charlyn Fargo Ware

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. Contact her at charfarg@aol.com, and follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd. The opinions expressed are her own.