April 2, 2013
Is your spring cleaning well underway? Have you considered adding your kitchen to the list of items to de-clutter and revitalize? If the goal of getting healthier is a constant, ongoing process at your house, a healthy kitchen makeover may be just what your family needs.
For a whole new kitchen that supports and encourages healthy eating and quality family time, follow our three-part plan. In Part 1 you learned how to have a healthier pantry, and now we'll show you how to give your refrigerator a makeover.
Part 2: Refrigerator Makeover
If you’re like most people, you eat what is easiest to find and prepare. If food is buried in the back of a full refrigerator, it is unlikely to be eaten before it goes bad. Use this reality to your advantage by re-engineering the way you stock your refrigerator to make it easier and more appealing to eat nutrient-dense foods and less appealing to eat unhealthy items. Here’s how:
To strategically stock your refrigerator, you first need to clean it out. It is best to get on a schedule and do this weekly to minimize food spoilage and to keep your refrigerator clutter-free. Remove everything from the refrigerator, give the shelves a good cleaning and trash any expired foods or other items that no one is likely to ever eat.
Take inventory of food you need to purchase to be able to prepare your planned meals for the week. Planning your meals helps to optimize the nutritional value of your meals and minimize waste.
Now, strategically restock.
- Put the not-so-healthy items in the back of the refrigerator. This way, you and your family will have to work a little bit to find and eat them. That one extra step will go a long way in decreasing consumption.
- Put the fruits and vegetables on the main shelves, front and center in the refrigerator. We have all had healthy produce go bad because it was forgotten in a fruit and vegetable drawer. If you put them in a location that can’t be missed you and the family will be more likely to eat them. If you prep the healthy stuff, it is more likely to be eaten. Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables and cut them into snack-sized pieces. Put them in clear containers so they won’t be missed.
- Place leftovers and food that needs to be eaten soon in an easy-to-find location. Plan to use leftovers for lunches and snacks. For example, use leftover chicken in salads and sandwiches instead of pre-packaged and not-so-healthy (due to high sodium and nitrites) deli meat.
- Minimize space for unhealthy drinks. Aim to include only fat-free milk, water, iced tea or other beverages that are low in calories in the refrigerator. If the less-healthy beverages like sodas and juice boxes are a normal part of your family’s day, aim to decrease consumption by keeping only single-serving amounts in the refrigerator.
By simply reorganizing the refrigerator—making the healthier foods easier to find and the less-healthy ones less available—you will make great strides in improving the health of your family, without even having to say a word about it! The last step to complete your kitchen makeover: countertops and tables.
By Natalie Digate Muth
Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, FAAPNatalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, FAAP is the Senior Advisor for Healthcare Solutions for the American Council on Exercise, a board-certified pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a Diplomat of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, and ACE Certified Health Coach. She is the author of "Eat Your Vegetables and Other Mistakes Parents Make: Redefining How to Raise Healthy Eaters" and the textbook "Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals." She has been ACE certified since 1998.