Just because we know what’s healthy, we don’t necessarily change our eating behavior, but it ends up our environment can. With these five simple shifts in your kitchen, you can make the good-for-you choice your go-to choice:
1. IT ALL STARTS WITH SHOPPING
We know kale is better for us than candy bars, yet we still eat candy bars — but only if we buy them. Alissa Rumsey, MS, RDN, is a New York City-based dietitian who works with clients to makeover their kitchens for better health. After clearing kitchens of unhealthy foods, she sends shoppers to the perimeter of the store to load up on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products and whole-grain breads. Then they swing by the center aisles for canned beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters. “If you’re going to eat real foods, you need to stock up on them,” she says.
2. MAKE TEMPTATIONS AS DIFFICULT AS POSSIBLE
Most of us live with other people who may not have the same healthy-eating goals as us. “Negotiate with them,” advises Rumsey, “and see if they are willing to keep those foods in a separate cabinet.” If you can’t ban them from your kitchen completely, find ways to keep them out of sight. Store tempting frozen treats behind other foods, stash sugary jams in the back of the lower bottom shelf of the refrigerator and put enticing cookies and chips on a shelf that you need a ladder to reach.
3. WHAT’S ON YOUR COUNTERTOP IS WHAT’S TOP OF MIND
The first thing you see when you enter your kitchen makes it more likely that you’ll eat it. Lindsey Pine, MS, RDN, consults with clients in Los Angeles to help them reach nutrition and wellness goals. She knows the impact of seeing beauty and freshness in the kitchen and advises anyone who wants to eat healthy to keep a bowl of fresh fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes and avocadoes, on the counter. “These have the best flavor at room temperature, not refrigerated, so show them off,” she says. Pine also advises keeping your blender and food processor on the counter. You’re more likely to make produce-packed smoothies, soups and sauces if the appliances you need are visible.
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4. RETHINK YOUR REFRIGERATOR
Forget the crisper drawer for fruits and vegetables. Put them where you’ll see them every time you open the refrigerator. Rumsey advises going a step further to wash and cut up fruits and vegetables and put them in clear, portion-sized containers as soon as you get home from the grocery store. “Keep them front and center in the refrigerator,” she says, and choosing the healthy option is easy. Store other wholesome foods like Greek yogurt, hummus, hard-boiled eggs and natural nut butters on the center shelves, too.
5. DOWNSIZE YOUR DINNERWARE
Big plates, bowls and glasses make us think that it’s “normal” to eat large portions. Brian Wansink, PhD, is a pioneer in studying how our environment affects what we eat. His studies found that larger dishes and glassware make us serve ourselves more, and therefore eat and drink more. His recommended sizing is 9- to 10-inch plates and bowls that hold less than 16 ounces. Glassware for any beverage except water should be tall and narrow.
If you find all this fascinating, Wansink’s book, “Slim by Design,” explores the subject in-depth.