If home (or apartment!) is where the heart is, then to me, the kitchen serves as the veins and arteries of the home. Biology analogy aside (I am a scientist after all) your kitchen can be the central place to promote positive health changes. Starting a journey toward weight loss or maintaining a healthful diet can seem daunting, but some of the most important steps toward a healthful approach to weight management or weight loss can start in the kitchen. Whether your kitchen is decked out with fancy gadgets or you have just the bare essentials in a tiny galley kitchen, read on for six simple tricks for making your kitchen work for you:
Switch up your dinnerware.
You may have heard that eating meals from smaller plates and bowls will help you eat less without even realizing it. While partly true, this argument has another interesting side to the story. Turns out people who used a large plate for meals served themselves more vegetables than those using a smaller plate. The takeaway? Using a large plate might be a simple and cheap strategy to increase vegetable consumption, so use dinner plates for your salad and save smaller plates for higher-calorie entrees and desserts.
Keep cookies and candy on the top shelf.
Let’s face it – some days, a cookie is the only thing that’s going to make us feel better. Studies show that trying to fight food cravings can lead to overeating down the line, so satisfying an urge before it becomes irresistible is healthier than devouring a sleeve of cookies as a midnight snack. Keeping snacks around can help manage your cravings, but to avoid overconsumption, store high-calorie snacks and sweets on the top shelf or in opaque containers. You’ll be able to indulge when you need it, but otherwise out of sight, out of mind can work for you.
Rethink your fridge space.
“Out of sight, out of mind” also works in reverse – if you normally store vegetables in the refrigerator’s bottom drawers, rearrange your fridge to keep lower calorie, high fiber fruits and veggies in plain sight. The next time hunger strikes, you’ll find yourself reaching for salad or an apple instead of leftover pizza. You’ll also cut down on food waste and save your cash from (literally and figuratively) going into the garbage. A win-win situation!
Plan for portion control.
Put your reusable food containers to good use. Set aside time on the weekend to prepare a big batch of your favorite grain or greens, mix in lean protein like chicken breast, canned tuna, or beans, and take 5 minutes to chop up vegetables for office lunches and snacks. Then, put food in single-serving containers so you’ll be able to grab-and-go during the busy morning rush. Planning ahead will save stress and calories in the long run.
Research has shown that overestimating serving sizes is a common reason that people don’t lose weight. Measuring food can help to keep portion sizes accurate, so keep measuring cups and spoons close by when serving up a meal. (If you have a kitchen scale, this is also a good idea to use.) Chances are it will be an eye-opening experience. You may be shocked to see the true serving size of some of your favorite things like cereal, peanut butter, and even salad dressing. It should only take a few times of visually seeing an appropriate serving size to make this a long-term change. This handy guide of appropriate serving sizes will make it easier to stick to appropriate serving sizes.
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Make the kitchen your happy place.
Creating a calming environment may be the key to de-stressing in the kitchen. Try to keep the countertops clear of clutter and the sink free of dirty dishes to make the kitchen a place where you want to spend time. Special touches like a bowl full of fresh fruit or a vase of farmers’ market flowers can add to the room’s appeal. Preparing a healthy meal can be great therapy at the end of a stressful day – and it beats drowning your worries in a bag of potato chips.
Some of these kitchen hacks only take a few minutes but can really add up to significant health-promoting changes. The hardest question is — which one will you try first?
Allison Dostal, PhD, RD, Sylvia Rowe fellow of the International Food Information Council, contributed to this piece.