No matter how much you know about diet and nutrition, did you know that you’re still vulnerable to your environment? That’s right: when it comes to eating behaviour, where you are trumps what you know. Researchers from Cornell university have found that healthy eaters make the right choices not because they know better, but because healthier foods were made more visible, attractive and obvious in their environment.
So let me ask you this: when you last walked into your kitchen, how did you feel? Did your kitchen inspire health? Were healthy foods the most visible on your kitchen counter, fridge and pantry? Do nourishing foods seem like the obvious choice in your home?
Or does your kitchen make you feel anxious because it’s cluttered with equipment you don’t use and stocked with unhealthy foods in the pantry and limp, unattractive vegetables in the fridge?
If your answer was the latter, the good news is that with a bit of organization and strategy, we can work the science in our favour and create an environment that makes healthy eating effortless.
Keeping your kitchen organized will save you time and energy and keeping your kitchen stocked with nutrient-dense whole foods will help you create healthful meals, quickly and simply. Here are some tips to get started as well as a free printable with healthy kitchen essentials to stock-up on.
How to organize your kitchen
Create a cooking zone
Surround your stove with items you most frequently use: pots, pans, cooking utensils, salt, pepper and cooking oils. Having these essentials at arm’s length will shave time off your cooking.
Keep like with like
Designate areas in your kitchen for similar items: knives, mixing bowls, measuring spoons, baking trays, roasting pans, cutting boards, baking accessories. Always return items to where they belong. Apply this to your pantry, fridge and freezer too, by grouping together breakfast foods, baking goods, canned goods, spices, condiments and ethnic ingredients.
Fill your cupboards at eye-level with the kitchenware you rely on daily, keeping fancier pieces for the higher shelves. Keep heavy items on bottom shelves.
Nothing kills efficiency faster than clutter. Consider your kitchen cupboards as prime real estate: high-value items in, the rest out. To help you cut the clutter, empty your cupboards and apply the three month test. That ice cream maker you haven’t used in years? Move it to the basement. Apply this to your kitchen counter as well, by keeping it clear at all time, especially as you cook.
Tiny kitchen? Try these space-creating tools:
- Cabinet organizers such as sliding shelves, drawer dividers, shelf extenders
- Lid racks to keeps lids for pots and pans tidy and aligned
- Rods for ladles and utensils
- Countertop containers for wooden spoons, spatulas, whisks
- Magnetic strips for hanging knives or spice jars
- Hooks for aprons and kitchen towels
- Baskets for grouping items in the pantry
How to stock your kitchen
Raid your pantry, fridge and freezer
- Empty your pantry and clean it with soapy water
- Spread out its contents
- Toss items that have passed their best before dates
- Toss items that you do not recognize
- Group unused non-perishables and donate to your local food bank
- Return items in an organized manner, grouping similar items together
- Organizing bins are great to create space and keep similar items together. I use one in my pantry for cans of tuna and one in my fridge for yogurt cups, snack packs or sparkling water.
- Stock your pantry with the basics
- Repeat this process with your fridge and freezer
Make healthy items visible
- Keep healthful foods at eye-level and treats tucked away
- Transfer foods to clear, glass, stackable jars. This creates space, keeps foods fresh, keeps you inspired and reminds you of what you have
- Set a fruit bowl on the counter, washed and ready to go
- Keep a clear container of ready-to-eat veggies and fruit at eye-level in the fridge
Keep food safe
- To slow the growth of bad-news bacteria, keep your refrigerator at 4ºC (40ºF) and your freezer at -18ºC (0ºF) by placing a thermometer in each.
- Store shelf-stable foods in the fridge doors as this is the warmest part of the fridge
- Keep eggs in the back of the the fridge where it is coldest and keep them in their packaging to keep your eggs from picking up any food odours
- Raw meat or fish should always be kept at the bottom level of the refrigerator in a bowl or on a plate to avoid leaking and cross-contamination.
- Don’t defrost foods at room temperature. Plan ahead and defrost in the refrigerator, overnight.
- Avoid placing very hot food in the fridge or freezer as this will raise the temperature of the appliance into the danger zone. To speed up cooling, transfer foods into multiple shallow containers and let them cool down at room temperature for 30 minutes before placing them in the fridge.
In my fridge
From top to bottom
Prepped oats for quick breakfasts
Chopped fruit and vegetables ready for snacking and in clear containers
Quinoa salad for lunchs (inside the grey container)
Greensaver by OXO for storing long vegetables (celery, bok choy)
Steamed broccoli and baby spinach
Eggs and boiled eggs
Cod defrosting for dinner
Turmeric tonic (recipe from the love your lifestyle plan)
Fresh herbs packed in kitchen towels and plastic zip-top bags
Condiments: Mustards, sesame oil, flax oil, miso, harissa, tomato paste, ginger, chipotle peppers in adobo
Nut butters (tahini and almond butter) and raw chocolate
Now it’s your turn! Block some time in the coming weekend to spring clean your kitchen, get it organized and stocked for health and notice how effortless healthy eating becomes. I would love to see your kitchen transformation so be sure to tag me @MotiveNutrition on instagram with your pictures.