When most of us start on a new diet program or make nutritional changes, we often rely on our willpower. Unfortunately, willpower is a finite resource which means that it will eventually run out. Instead, why not surround yourself with an environment that helps you make good eating decisions. A great place to start is your kitchen.
As author Brian Wansink, PhD, says, “We’re creatures of convenience, hard-wired to choose the easiest option by default”. Your environment strongly affects your behavior and your eating habits. Luckily, even small changes can make a big difference.
Consider this statement from Dr. Berardi at Precision Nutrition: “If a food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it.” Whether it’s eaten as a planned meal, for a special occasion or as an unplanned stressed-out binge, it’s going to be eaten.
While there are no “good” or “bad” foods, there are probably some foods that are an unhealthy choice for you. If there are foods that make you feel sick when you eat them or trigger unhealthy behaviors, then you don’t need them near you. Here are some tips to create a healthy kitchen that works for your unique needs.
We Eat What We See
Have you heard the phrase, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”? This is definitely true when it comes to food. We are typically drawn to the foods we see, so here are some tips to help you organize the food in your kitchen.
Keep “Red Light” Foods Away and Inconvenient
“Red light” foods are foods that are bad news for you. They may trigger you to eat too much or make you feel sick when you eat them.
Here are some suggestions to keep typical “red light” foods out of sight:
- Remove bowls of candy, mixed nuts or other snacks from counters and tables.
- Keep bags of snacks off your kitchen counters.
- Wrap up tempting leftovers in aluminum foil and put them in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
- Make your pantry boring!
- If there is food your kid(s), spouse or roommate(s) eat that tempts you, put that food in a cabinet or a closet that you don’t open often. You could even store that food on a shelf in the garage.
- Put the foods you want to see at eye and chest level.
- Remove trigger foods. If you know there are certain foods that trigger unhealthy eating habits, remove them from your house. You can still enjoy those foods as a “treat”, but eat them outside of your home. Let’s say you like ice-cream, but can’t stop yourself from eating the whole container in one sitting. Keep the temptation out of your freezer and go to a local ice-cream shop instead.
Keep “Green Light” Foods Near and Convenient
“Green Light” foods are foods that make you feel good mentally and physically.
Here are some suggestions to keep typical “green light” foods in sight:
- Cut up and wash vegetables and fruit so they are convenient to eat. Store them in clear plastic containers and put them at eye level in the refrigerator instead of the crisper drawer.
- Have lean “ready to eat” protein available like deli meat, pre-cooked chicken breasts, hard boiled eggs, and tuna packets.
- Avoid mindless eating by repackaging anything purchased in bulk into single serving bags or containers.
- Put foods you want to eat at eye level in your pantry and your refrigerator.
Each person will have different red and green light foods. You might leave potato chips in your pantry untouched for months, whereas another person might eat a whole bag in one sitting.
Here are a few tweaks you can make to your kitchen to make cooking and eating at home more appealing.
Clear Kitchen Chaos
Create a clutter free environment that you want to cook in. Clear your counters of papers, mail and appliances that you rarely use. This will make your kitchen more appealing and a place where you’ll want to spend time.
Our kitchen plates have gotten bigger in recent years. Use plates that are 10 inches in diameter or less. It has been shown that using smaller plates make the same amount of food look bigger which tricks our brains into feeling satisfied while eating less.
Creating a healthy kitchen also includes having a place where you can easily prepare meals. Consider purchasing some of these items to help you prep and cook your food.
- A good set of pots and pans
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Kitchen knives
- Vegetable peeler
- Wooden spoons
- Mixing bowls
- Casserole dish(es)
- Roasting pan(s)
- Cookie sheet(s)
- Cutting board
- Salad spinner
- Indoor grill
- Food storage containers
- Aluminum foil and plastic wrap
- Zip loc bags
What Can You Do Today?
- Look inside your cupboards, pantry, freezer, refrigerator and anywhere else you have food and drinks. List out the “red light” foods/drinks and the “green light” foods/drinks. Are there any changes you can make so that “green light” foods are convenient and “red light” foods are inconvenient?
- Are there any changes you can make to your kitchen to make it less chaotic and more organized?
- Take an inventory of your kitchen equipment. Is there any equipment you need and are willing to purchase right now?
Want more tips or advice on nutrition or interested in getting more advice about making over your kitchen ? Contact FitFlex Nutrition to learn about our Nutrition Coaching services.