Whenever, we all think of healthy eating, we take a big breath in, then quickly exhale it in a big annoyed huff. Why? Well, because we know that in order to actually eat healthy food, we have to prepare it at home. Who in the world has the time to prepare all meals at home? How are we to fit it all in? Being healthy is important to most of us, and we make time for what we find to be important. So what’s keeping us from doing it. One of the big drawbacks is figuring out what eating healthy actually means; however, it’s simpler than many make it out to be. It’s eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while decreasing meat intake and severely limiting highly processed foods. A second major drawback is being in the kitchen. The kitchen can seem like this black hole that sucks you in once you step in and feels like you can’t escape. You cook breakfast, then clean up. Boom, it’s lunch time. Same goes for dinner. So how do you avoid getting stuck there for hours on end. Well, it involves a little pre-work on your end, but I’ll explain how this makes life so much easier.
- Take note of the foods you no longer wish to eat as you pursue your healthier lifestyle. Foods to limit are those high in sodium, cholesterol, added sugar, and saturated fat. Make these foods less accessible and prepare to purchase them less, if at all. In order to decide if a food is high in any of the nutrients to limit, you need to investigate the nutrition label. First take a look at the serving size. Decide if that’s a realistic serving size for you. Do you typically eat more or less than the serving? I suggest measuring it out if you’re unsure to get a better idea. With the serving size, investigate the nutrition facts, pay close attention to the nutrients previously listed. If the serving size, either the one listed or your personal serving size, provides more than 20% of the daily limit of that nutrient, then it’s considered high. The daily limits are set with a 2000 Calorie per day diet in mind. If your calorie needs are higher, your limits may be higher than those listed. The opposite holds true for lower caloric needs. The limits may be lower. There are certain medical conditions that require limitations on certain nutrients as well. If you have questions about what your caloric needs or what nutrients you need to limit, contact your doctor or registered dietician as applicable.
- Aim to fill the vacancies with whole, plant-based foods. There will be a future post on making healthy substitutions, so stay tuned. Focus on making fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds the bulk of your diet is the goal. Make these foods very accessible. Use storage bins in the pantry and refrigerator to make these foods accessible to your household. If you have children and are comfortable allowing them access to obtain their own foods, then place the storage bins with foods you want them to eat on the bottom shelves. We use open containers in our fridge to store the kids’ favorite fruits and veggies. In the pantry, we store items like applesauce, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds on the bottom shelf so our kids can reach them.
- Organize your food storage areas so that you can easily see what foods you have available. When organizing foods, store like items together. Decide what you consider to be like items. For example, you can separate items by meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) or food types (produce, whole grains, nuts, seeds). You can even use some combination of the two. We use a combination. In our fridge, I store produce that the kids have easy access to for snacks in bins on the bottoms shelf, but we store produce that needs to be prepped before consumption in the crisper drawers or other shelves.
- Store your kitchen tools in efficient locations. Keep items in locations near where you will use them. Pots and pans should be near the sink and stove. Spoons that you use near the stove should be stored in a drawer near the stove. Store knives and cutting boards near where you usually cut items and cups near the fridge. By keeping items where you use them, you save time in walking all around the kitchen. Also by organizing your kitchen essentials, you’ll know where items are and spare yourself the waste of time looking for them. If your drawers are overflowing with items and too crowded, consider which items are essential for you. Decide the quantity you need of certain kitchen utensils. Consider how often you wash dishes, and if items will be available when needed based on that.
- Prior to grocery shopping, take note of what you plan on eating for the next few days. When purchasing fresh foods, your grocery trips will be a little more frequent; however, they will be quick runs. Buying groceries with meal and snack plans in mind saves time and money. Your grocery trip is faster because you have specific targets. You can go in with a list and quickly tackle it. Knowing what you will eat and only buying groceries for a few days at a time, helps decrease waste, which saves resources and money. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of shopping with a list. It decreases your time in the store and reduces your chance of impulse buying.
Restructuring your kitchen so a healthy lifestyle is more efficient involves five simple steps:
- Removing the foods you wish to limit, or at the very least, make them less accessible.
- Replacing those options with whole plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains of your choice.
- Organizing your food so that you easily see what you have.
- Storing kitchen tools in convenient locations.
- Grocery shopping with a plan.
Healthier eating is easier when you don’t have to battle your willpower every time you enter the kitchen. By limiting access to highly processed foods and other foods high in sodium, fat, and sugar, it is much easier and less stressful to avoid them. You are much less likely to eat a bag of chips for a snack if you have to go to the store first to get them. With that, if nuts are in the pantry in place of the chips, a handful of those is a healthy and convenient replacement. Organizing your foods so you can see what you have and tools where you use them equals efficiency in the kitchen. You know what you have and what you need when making grocery lists. So the moral is reduce access to foods you wish to limit, replace those foods with whole, plant-based foods, organize that food so you can see what you have, make grocery lists, and organize your kitchen essentials where they are convenient to use.
If you need help or tips with restructuring your kitchen, check out www.getfitward.com
Erica & JR