Is your kitchen less attractive than it used to be? Do you find yourself spending less time with it? Has your kitchen held up as a healthy haven that encourages nutritional eating and smart choices? Or has it sagged into a calorie-packed danger zone that uses up space and heat so you can reach in and grab whatever food you find in its depths?
It’s time for a kitchen makeover!
This makeover will transform parts of your kitchen that you can’t see right away. Like you’ve always heard, it’s what’s inside that counts. In this case, that means what’s inside your drawers, cabinets, freezer, fridge and pantry. Following these simple strategies, you can bring life and luster back to what should be the healthiest room in the house.
Build For Speed
We’re all pressed for time. Kitchens often go unused because it can simply take too long to cook, and seems more like a hassle than a help. In this hurry-up world, a clean, organized kitchen will get more use than a cluttered mess that’s difficult to use. Creating an efficient workspace makes for healthier, faster and more enjoyable meal preparation.
- Clean and organize your pantry and cupboards. Throw out the old stuff and move the commonly used items to the front. Group together canned fruits, canned vegetables, tomato products, pasta items, canned meats, cereals, etc.
- Clean and organize the refrigerator and freezer. Then designate a specific shelf, drawer and area for your commonly used items. Make a special place just for leftovers. Do the same in your freezer, with a section for meats, vegetables, entree dinners and pizza. Don't pack the fridge tight; air needs to circulate to keep things fresh. Store meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
- Label shelves so you know exactly where all your ingredients are. This will make grocery storage a snap – even the kids can help!
- Make sure all of your small appliances – crockpot, toaster oven, mixer, blender, dicer, can opener, pasta maker, wok – are easily accessible, clean and in working order.
- Create a leftover storage system. Have freezer bags, plastic storage containers, labels and markers handy. Label and date everything that gets stored in your freezer or fridge.
- Untangle that jammed utensil drawer! You should be able to put your hand on just the right tool in two seconds flat. This includes the spatula, measuring spoons, measuring cups, ladle, can opener, knives, pastry blender, etc. Hang frequently used items on the wall or store them in an open container on the counter for easy access.
- Place a recipe box and cookbooks in full view, not stuffed in a drawer.
In With the Good, out with the Bad
Food substitution and sifting is the name of the kitchen makeover game.
- Throw out: Thick dressings, creamers, chips, dips, soda and pudding -- and just say no to Twinkies!
- Keep: Vinaigrettes, spinach, nuts, tomatoes, oatmeal, carrots, salsa, yogurt and natural applesauce.
- Take a close look at the calories on your condiment shelf. Mustard can be a low-calorie, tasty alternative to mayonnaise; barbecue is a nice substitute for sweet and sour; soy sauce and teriyaki sauce are loaded with sodium, so an oyster sauce or some spicy mustards may be better choices; hot sauces are usually low in calories and can spice up just about anything.
- Pay particular attention to carbohydrates. Whenever you see refined products like white rice, white pasta, plain bagels or white bread, replace them with more natural choices, like whole-grain (brown) rice, whole-wheat pasta or whole-grain bread.
- Load up your kitchen with as many superfoods as you possibly can.
- Have a can of nonstick cooking spray on hand as an alternative to higher-calorie oils or butter.
- Load up on fresh produce. Canned and frozen varieties have a long shelf life and are early as nutritious as fresh, if not packed in syrup. But they also often come with a lot of sodium, and anytime you eat fresh, you know you’re doing well.
Special Item Checklist
Beyond the fridge and pantry, a healthy kitchen involves a number of other items and a lot of smart organization. See how many of these you have right now, and then see how you can slowly add more over time.
- Picture of your goal on the fridge
- Healthy cookbooks
- Very visible grocery list
- Coupon envelope or storage system
- NO pizza coupons
- Cutting board
- Easy-to-read and categorized recipe box or book
- Full set of measuring cups and spoons
- NO television in the kitchen or eating area (distractions can cause overeating)
- Usable kitchen table, free of clutter, bills, bookbags and projects
- Spice rack and spices
- Water bottles (preferably reusable ones) in the fridge
- Water filter
- Snack bowl on the counter, for all of those fresh fruits and healthy snacks