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8 Ways to Prepare Your Kitchen for Healthy Living

kitchenAs the holidays are fast approaching so are a plethora of yummy holiday treats. Tis’ the season to stress about weight gain! So many people spend too much time during the holidays overindulging and immediately regretting it. So why not be a step ahead of the game?

Even though many people spend the holiday season traveling here and there, most of our meals and snacks are eaten and prepared at home. If you want to truly commit to a healthier lifestyle your kitchen is the first place you can set yourself up for success! Here are 8 ways to prepare your kitchen for healthy living.

Keep Unhealthy Snacks Out of Sight

Mindless eating is the death knell of any healthy eating plan. If you have a cookie jar on the counter always filled with treats, you probably don’t walk by it without grabbing a couple. If you have to keep treats in the house, put them in the back of the pantry, where you won’t be tempted to grab and go.

Shine the Spotlight on Healthy Options

After you’ve gotten rid of your Achilles heel – the cookie jar filled with Oreos – you need to figure out what to eat when you want a snack. Place a fruit bowl filled with grab-and-go options, like washed apples, bananas, and oranges, on the counter. This will replace empty calories with fiber and vitamin-rich options.

Other healthy snack options that could fill a countertop jar or pantry include the following:

  • Protein bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Mixed nuts
  • Air popped popcorn

 Clean Your Pantry

 Speaking of pantries, it’s probably time to clean yours. Check expiration dates and freshness for every item in your pantry. Toss those beyond their prime. Look at what remains: are there lots of potato chips, high-sugar cereals and instant noodle cups? Replace those items with healthier options like nuts, canned tuna or oatmeal.

In a pinch, many of us turn to the pantry to make a quick meal. Keeping healthy options on hand instead of empty calories will keep you and your family on the right track.

Purchase Substitute Ingredients

A total deprivation diet – where you swear off all of your favorite foods entirely – rarely lasts. In fact, extreme dieters usually end up binging on unhealthy foods and crash their healthy eating plans.

Instead of swearing off corn bread, substitute the white flour for whole wheat. Bake your mozzarella sticks or chicken instead of frying them, which will save calories and eliminate trans fats. Find ways to make your favorite comfort foods with healthier substitute ingredients. Butternut squash mac and cheese is a favorite in my home! Adjusting your favorite recipes instead of banishing them forever will help you stick with your healthy eating plan.

 Portion in Advance

 According to the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services, Americans have a major problem with portion control that continues to contribute to our health and diet issues. In fact, portion sizes have doubled or even tripled over the last two decades, and the idea of “super sizing” is all-American. For example, the average soda was 6.5 ounces 20 years ago, and today it’s over 20 ounces. That’s a lot of sugar!

How can you avoid this portion trap? Remember that the average portion you should be eating is about the size of your fist. Make it a single burger instead of that gigantic double cheeseburger. Even better, wrap it in lettuce instead of a bun. Satisfy your sweet tooth with mini, individually wrapped ice cream sandwiches instead of an entire tub of ice cream.

The National Institutes of Health started the We Can! program, which offers ideas to aid in portion control, like picking an appetizer instead of an entrée when eating at a restaurant, or serving your homemade burger with a mixed green salad instead of French fries.

You can trick your eyes a little by swapping out your large dinner plates for smaller ones. Suddenly, that burger and side salad look huge, because they’re being crammed onto a tinier plate!

Another great trick for sticking to the right portion size is to pack away the leftovers as soon as you’ve finished cooking. Instead of going back to the stove for seconds or thirds, you’ll be more likely to eat only what’s on your plate.

Stock Your Freezer with Healthy Options

After a late night of work or a crazy day of shuttling around the kids, many families open the freezer in search of meal solutions. How many times have you heated up a store-bought frozen pizza, lasagna or TV dinner in a pinch?

Freezer meals are a necessity of our busy, modern lives, but they don’t have to sabotage the commitment to healthy eating. Visit Pinterest to search for homemade freezer meal ideas, including healthy soups that can be quickly heated, vegetarian options and more.

Spend a day cooking a couple of these recipes as a family. Portion them out into single servings, so any one of you can grab and reheat instead of heading for the drive through.

Advertise Your Meal Plan

Another great way to stay healthy is to make your commitment known every week by planning your meals and putting them on display for all to see.

Add a chalkboard to a kitchen wall or prop up a whiteboard on the counter. Write out the meal plan for the week, so that when Wednesday comes you don’t forget about the ground turkey in the fridge and head to your favorite sports bar instead. Good Housekeeping offers a helpful daily meal plan with options that clock in under 1,200 calories.

By publically committing to the plan, you’ve created built-in accountability. Your roommate or your kids will notice if you vary from the plan, making you more likely to stick with it.

Another added benefit is that meal planning creates less food waste. Thinking ahead of time about exactly what you should get at the store will give every item in your fridge a job for the week. This means you’ll be less likely to throw out unused or spoiled food.

Don’t Forget the Drink Shelf

Sugary sodas and most fruit juices deliver more empty calories than you realize. Zero calorie drinks like diet soda aren’t off the hook, either; they are chock full of chemicals and artificial sweeteners.

Good old H2O is not only a zero-calorie option. It also offers countless other health benefits. If water is too boring for you, add slices of cucumbers, mashed berries or slices of lemon for a spa-like refresher.

Caffeinated drinks can be healthy if you make them right. Iced green or black tea (without added sweeteners) and skim or low-fat milk are good options. When making coffee, avoid sugar and use skim milk, almond or soy milk, or slug it down with no milk at all like a champion.

It’s also wise to examine your alcohol intake. A restaurant pour – meaning no more than six ounces – of wine every day has been shown to provide health benefits. Go for a light beer or simple mixed drink like a vodka tonic instead of a high-calorie cocktail like a margarita or piña colada.

Simply put, healthy eating starts at home. Sometimes our grocery shopping, recipe selection and even design choices make healthy eating at home harder than it has to be. Follow these 8 steps to prepare your kitchen for healthier habits today!

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