One the best ways to kick start a wellness regime is to make your environment conducive to health…especially healthy eating. The most important place to do this, of course, is the kitchen. So grab your apron, some dish gloves and learn how to organize your kitchen the healthy way.
Learn How to Organize Your Kitchen For Healthy Eating in 7 Steps
1. Make the kitchen a place of cooking and eating…not bill paying or paper piling
Typically, when you arrive home, you head straight to the kitchen. This universally common pattern really must be changed.
Not only are you more likely to engage in behavioral eating—the act of eating due to a routine, not a true physical need to eat—but also ruining the “karma of the kitchen” with bills, papers, and piles of junk.
So, you must first remove all of this unnecessary clutter.
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2. Choose a new room as your home arrival destination
Begin by packing up all of the stuff that usually gets dumped in the kitchen. Bring it to another room…preferably one with a desk. This should be your new first stop upon getting home.
When you first walk in the door, go directly to this newly designated room. Drop off your mail, your bag, your wallet, etc., and then take a minute to de-stress. Do not attempt to de-stress in the kitchen!
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3. Thin out your cabinets
Now that your counters have been freed of non-kitchen essentials, it’s time to open the cabinets and see what you need to keep, what you need to ditch, and what you need to organize. If you open the cabinets to find more papers and more non-kitchen-related items, just toss them into a big bowl to sort through later.
Things to keep…but only if you actually use them:
- Bread Machine
- Rice Cooker
- Slow Cooker
- Coffee Maker
- Soda Streamer
- Food Processor
Things to eliminate:
- Deep Fryer
- Snow Cone Machine
- Any Infomercial Kitchen item you bought, used once, and now store in your cabinets
- Giant Cupcake Mold
- Storage Containers without lids
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4. Put everyday wholesome food choices at eye level
Now that your cabinets are thinned out, it’s time to “healthify” the pantry and/or the cabinets containing food items.
Keep the everyday nutrient-dense foods such as whole-wheat pasta, olive oil, and canned tuna on the lower shelves and/or at eye level. The reasoning concept here is: What you see…is what you eat!
If you have cake mixes, chips, snack bars, and the like, place them in hard-to-reach spaces…perhaps above the refrigerator or on the highest shelves. Later, when you open your cabinets to grab something to nibble on, you’ll see food items that most likely need time to prepare…and/or are more wholesome choices such as freeze-dried fruits. This will help to prevent mindless eating.
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If you are truly hungry, you’ll either need to take time to make the food or, at the very least, be more likely to pick a more nutrient-dense snack. This also helps parents with young children who like to peruse the cabinets for their food choices. They will see only healthy choices. It helps parents be the gatekeepers of nutrition for their families.
5. Fats go in the fridge
Transfer all nuts, seeds, and flours to your refrigerator to help keep them fresh. Anything that contains fat may become rancid if it sits in your cabinet too long and, of course if it gets too hot.
Also, if you actually see the nuts and seeds in your fridge, you’ll be reminded to add them to your salads, yogurts, and smoothies.
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6. Choose a way to organize your foods
Not sure how to organize your kitchen? Here are two basic organization schemes:
- You can arrange your cabinets by putting the same foods in different forms near each other. For example, place the dry beans and canned beans side-by-side on the shelf and continue the pattern with other items.
- You can choose to organize by canned versus boxed; place all canned foods like soups, olives, and beans together and all boxed items like cereals, multigrain crackers, and so on together.
7. Stock your cabinets with everyday essentials
If you find that you have no foods appropriate for placement at eye level and have too many foods that should be positioned on higher shelves, you may want to write a “new” grocery list. You can easily donate some of these less nutrient-dense food items to a local shelter or hold a bake sale.
Of course, please do include some nutrient-dense foods like canned tuna and whole-wheat pasta when donating those other foods. The following list notes healthy options for stocking your cabinets:
Everyday Essentials for Eye Level Placement
- Artichokes in water
- Hearts of palm in water
- Olives in water
- Beans, no salt added
- Soups, broth-based, low in fat and sodium
- Sweet Potato
- Canola oil non-stick cooking spray
- Tuna, chunk light, low sodium
- Bean soups
- Beans, dried
- Whole-wheat pasta
- Wild rice
- Wheat berries
- Multigrain pancake mix
- Steel-cut oatmeal
- Spelt pretzels
- Olive oil
- Tomato sauce, no added sugar
- Applesauce, unsweetened
Knowing how to organize your kitchen can help you and your family make healthier food choices. So, what are you waiting for…go get organized!
Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE is a nationally recognized nutrition expert, author of the Diabetes Comfort Food Diet Cookbook and the mommy manual called Healthy Habits. Laura has a private nutrition practice in NYC where she lives with her husband and children.
Featured photo by Ella’s Kitchen Company Limited