When was the last time your kitchen had a makeover? Now, we are not talking about new kitchen cabinets or a new floor, but making over the items you keep in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry.
Eating healthy can be a challenge. Life interferes with our plans. We are often in a rush to get kids to an event or practice, trying to manage a household, care for an aging relative or catching up on work. We are in “grab and go” mode with little thought about good nutrition or we try to use willpower to avoid unhealthy foods.
“Grab and go” and willpower are not long-term strategies that will get us to our goal of health. Our willpower is limited and when we just grab any available food, our choice is often the least healthy option available. Often by the end of the day, we have used most of our willpower and do not have the energy to resist temptation. Instead of relying on willpower, a better way is not to have to make a decision in the first place.
Do you ever find yourself staring into the abyss of the refrigerator and the only choices are ice cream or a piece of fruit? Chances are you will be mindlessly gulping down gobs of ice cream without a thought. A better way is to not have to make the decision between ice cream and fruit in the first place. If the ice cream was not in the refrigerator in the first place, we would choose the fruit and not have to rely on willpower.
The best way to avoid foods that have little nutritional value is to keep them out of our house. If you are trying to eat healthier or lose weight, then why keep foods that do not support your goal in your house?
Food decisions should be simple. The best way to eat healthy is to make your nutrition decisions fool-proof. Kitchen makeovers are a great way to simplify nutrition and make eating healthy easy. Follow these simple steps to makeover your kitchen.
The Kitchen makeover
Step 1 – Eliminate any food that does not support your goal. Get a garbage bag and a box. Place your food items into one of three places. If the food has little nutritional value, throw it directly into the garbage bag. If the food has some nutritional value but does not fit into your nutrition plan, place it into the box to give away to a shelter or your local church. The rest of the food goes back into your refrigerator, pantry or freezer.
Eliminate the following junk foods: Foods that look good but are not inherently healthy – processed foods, - check the label for added ingredients like sugar and chemicals. Also beware of condiments, salad dressings, bread crumbs and processed meats.
Step 2 – Organize for success. Make a food list that supports your goals and use this list for your weekly grocery shopping. Make sure to include “go to” foods. “Go to” foods are any food that is available and ready to go when you do not have time to prepare a healthy meal. Fresh or frozen fruit, packaged tuna and foods that you have prepared in advance can be your “Go to” food when you need something to eat right away but do not have time to prepare a healthy meal.
Restock your kitchen. Stick with non-processed whole foods as much as possible. Whole grains, beans, lean meats and fish, fruits and vegetables, skim milk and yogurt should be staples on your healthy food list.
John Berardi of Precision Nutrition recommends:
Pick your 3 favorite:
· Lean proteins
· Whole grains (oats, quinoa, wild rice, brown rice, sprouted grain breads, corn, amaranth, etc.)
Be careful of food package labels that say healthy, low fat, no added sugar. Look for items that are as close to their natural state as possible. Shop for fresh unprocessed food.
Once you have restocked your kitchen, prepare your foods as soon as possible so they are readily available to eat. Wash and cut vegetables, cook your grains and lean meats so you can make a healthy meal quickly when you need it.
Step 3 – Prepare the Physical environment. Make sure you have the right tools to prepare foods. A non-stick pan, microwave, food processor, cutting board and a good set of knives are a great start. Clear off counter space so you have room to prepare your healthy meals. Purchase glass or plastic containers and plastic bags to store and freeze foods for easy access.
Step 4 – Make it easy to choose healthy foods. Prepare and freeze meals ahead of time. When preparing meals, make enough to have multiple meals. Freeze and store leftovers. Fill a bowl full of fresh fruit on the counter. If you have foods that trigger overeating or mindless snacking, make sure they are stored in hard to reach places.
Follow these four steps to your kitchen makeover and you will not have to rely on willpower or “grab and go” to eat healthy.
Level one – Remove all sweet snacks and junk food from your kitchen
Level two – Make a standard weekly list of fresh, whole unprocessed foods to buy when you go grocery shopping.
Level three – Plan and prepare healthy meals ahead of time. Freeze or store extra portions so they are readily available.