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By Nicole Spain, Registered Dietician
If you really want to change your family’s eating habits, you need to build a healthy kitchen. Your mind and body need external cues to help guide you in the right direction. Here are some tips to help you optimize your environment to help you reach your wellness goals.
If you don’t have unhealthy food around, you’re a lot less likely to eat it! Get rid of anything unhealthy to avoid giving in to those cravings. Get rid of refined, white, processed grain products (breakfast cereal, cookies, pasta, breads), chips, soy sauce, salad dressing, jams, ice cream, candy, and diet foods with artificial sweeteners. If you have unopened items, consider donating them to a local food pantry.
Using smaller plates and glasses will help to cut back on calories at mealtime. Put away large or oversized plates and stock your cupboards with small entrée plates or salad plates to use for main entrees. Look for dishes that are 8-10 inches in diameter. The optical illusion of filling your plate will help trick your brain into eating fewer calories.
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.
Don’t hide your fancy kitchen equipment under the counter or in closets. Keep your juicer, blender, crockpot or other cooking gadgets where they can be seen and used! You’ll actually make a smoothie or slow-cook chicken if you don’t have to dig through cabinets to get to your appliances.
What healthy foods do you want to stock in your fridge, freezer and pantry? Make a list and bring it to the grocery store. Some items that you’ll always find in my pantry include natural peanut butter, raisins, quick oatmeal, lima beans, 90 second brown rice packets, madras lentils, black bean soup, and creamy tomato soup.
Can you swap whole wheat bread for white? How about low-fat milk instead of whole milk? Plain yogurt instead of sour cream? Plant-based meals instead of meat-focused meals? You don’t have to make every change right away if you’re not ready. Ease yourself and your family into healthier ingredients one at a time.
Calculate your grocery needs based on how many people are in your family. For example, if each person should eat a minimum of two pieces of fruit per day and there are four in your family, that means you need eight pieces of fruit in your house for a day.
Stock your kitchen with fresh herbs and dried spices to flavor your foods naturally and without loads of salt and butter. Some of my favorites blends to use on roasted vegetables are lemon herb, Greek seasoning and roasted garlic and pepper.
Many canned foods retain as much nutrient value as their fresh or frozen counterparts. Choosing canned fruits, vegetables, beans, and seafood can lighten the burden on your pocketbook and ensure these nutritious foods are on hand in a pinch. Look for BPA-free cans whenever possible. Rinse and drain canned food items, such as beans, to reduce the sodium. Purchase fruit packed in 100% juice or water.
A neat and organized pantry, where you can find everything easily and see what you have, sets you up to cook healthy options. Put healthy ingredients front and center and at eye level. People act on visual cues; you have to see what you have in your pantry in order to use it.