If you’re going to eat a healthy diet, you need the right ingredients, and that begins with how you stock your kitchen. Put the wrong things in your refrigerator and cabinets and it’ll be more challenging to eat a nutritionally clean diet. Needless to say, when you open your refrigerator door, the first thing you see shouldn’t be a plate full of brownies and other sugary goodies. Most people reach for what they have easy access to, so it’s important to keep the wrong foods out of sight and out of easy reach. Here are some tips for stocking a healthy kitchen.
Purge Your Cabinet of Trans-Fat and Foods That Contain High-Fructose Corn Syrup
If you’ve stocked your cabinet with convenience foods, you probably have items on your shelves that contain trans-fat, a fat that’s a known risk factor for heart disease, along with items that contain high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener that disrupts appetite signals that tell you-you’re full. Read the labels on the products in your cabinet with the eye of a detective. If the ingredient list includes “partially hydrogenated oil” or high-fructose corn syrup, give them a toss.
You’ll probably also find that many of your packaged foods are high in sodium and sugar. That’s why it’s best to lighten up on packaged and prepared foods – and that includes most breakfast cereals. Replace packaged cereals with old-fashioned oats, quinoa or barley you can prepare in a slow-cooker overnight for a quick, high-fiber breakfast.
Replace Refined Grains with Whole Grains
Refined grains have had most of their natural fiber and nutrients removed during processing. Some vitamins and nutrients are added back, but it’s not the same as consuming the whole grain. Toss the white rice and white flour. Replace them with whole wheat flour or almond flour or flaxseed meal if you’re watching your carbs.
In place of white rice, choose healthier grains like quinoa, brown rice, and barley. Replace pasta with whole wheat pasta or explore a pasta alternative such as spaghetti squash or low-carb noodles made from tofu, available at some natural food markets. Look for 100% whole grain bread to replace the loaf of white bread in your cabinet. Taking these steps will add more fiber to your diet and help you avoid rapid changes in blood sugar that cause you to store more fat.
Keep Frozen Vegetables on Hand
Buy local produce when you can, but keep some packages of frozen vegetables in the freezer for days when you don’t feel like prepping fresh ones. You can cook frozen ones quickly in the microwave so it’ll be easier to get your daily vegetable quota without spending lots of time in the kitchen. Frozen veggies are just as nutritious as fresh ones because they’re frozen at their peak of freshness, and you can store them in the freezer for 4 to 6 months.
Toss the Sugary Snacks
If you keep a box of cookies in the cabinet, you’ll eventually end up eating them. Don’t tempt yourself. Toss the cookies, brownies, cakes and other sugary snacks. Replace them with “better for you” dessert and snack options like Greek yogurt, fresh berries and portion-controlled packs of nuts. Keep a canister of cocoa powder in the cabinet you can use to make hot cocoa sweetened with Stevia when the urge for something sweet strikes. Don’t keep empty calorie “treats” in your cabinets and refrigerator where you’ll be less likely to munch on them. When you want a sweet treat, buy a single cookie or brownie, and don’t bring home a whole box.
Stock Up on Spices and Other Flavor Enhancers
Veggies taste even better with the right spices – and if they taste good you’ll enjoy more of them. Plus, you’ll get the benefit of the spices at the same time. Fill your spice cabinet with healthy spices that bring out the flavor of veggies and other foods like garlic powder, turmeric, parsley, dill, and dried herbs.
Add flavored vinegar to your kitchen cabinet to give vegetables and salads more flavor, and keep a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil handy to mix with flavored vinegar to make your own salad dressing. It’s healthy and cheaper than buying bottled salad dressing. Keep feta cheese in the refrigerator and use a small touch to augment the flavor of vegetables. Pump up the flavor of your meals, and you won’t miss the junk food.
The Bottom Line?
Healthy eating begins with changing what’s in your refrigerator and kitchen cabinets. Take these steps to stock a healthier kitchen and you’ll be rewarded with better health – and a slimmer waistline.