Thursday, September 11, 2014

Start Out Strong: Kitchen Clean Out!

To eat well you need to start with your kitchen.  Improving your diet is a breeze if you have an organized kitchen.  However, if you have old snacks and sugar filled cereals hiding in your cabinets, they are sure to bring you down. Plus, isn’t it nice to have a clean and neat kitchen anyways?

Lets start with cleaning the junk out. Has anything been sitting in your kitchen not touched for more than 3 weeks? If so, ditch it.  There are plenty of people that need food, and you clearly don’t need or want that.  Make a donation pile as you are downsizing (if it is expired, toss it!).  Check out your labels, get rid of anything with high sodium, high sugar, high saturated fat or anything that contains high fructose syrup, trans fats, or any additives (if you don’t know what it is, get rid of it). Even if these are foods you like, chances are you can find much healthier versions of them. I’m not asking you to give up your favorite foods.  I am asking you to find better alternatives.  For example, my go-to food is pasta with tomato sauce. It’s so easy and delicious.  Instead of getting regular pasta with a normal high sugar sauce, I choose whole grain, or quinoa pasta with sauce that has no sugar (the only ingredients should be tomatoes, oil, and spices).  These foods are out there, and they don’t taste much different! You just need to read the labels to find them.

Condiments seem to take over the fridge, am I right? If I let my boyfriend have his way, I think that is all we would have in the fridge.  Condiments can be misleading, so you should make sure you read your labels!  A lot of them are filled with sugar, colorings, and additives.  Most ketchups (which I love, I won’t lie here) are packed with high fructose corn syrup.  That stuff is nasty!  There are plenty of alternative natural versions.  The same goes for mustard.  If your mustard has all sorts of ingredients you have never heard of, find a better alternative next time you are at the grocery store.  Won’t you feel better knowing those meals you strived to make so healthy aren’t being tainted with condiments filled with junk?

Your prep area should always be clean and have some basic tools easily accessible. How easy is it to skip cooking or prepping because you don’t feel like cleaning first? Commit to keeping one space clean at all times. Have these close by:
o   Knives
o   Vegetable peeler
o   Measuring cups
o   Plastic baggies
o   Tupperware

Now that you have cleaned out the kitchen, let’s focus on filling it with all of the good stuff.  Let’s focus on your fridge for a minute.  This is where you should find fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, and dairy.  To put it simply, these are all the foods that will go bad, like real food should. Put your fruits and veggies up high in your fridge where you can see them. In fact, put all of your easy go-to foods there, such as some hardboiled eggs, yogurts, or precut cheese?  Be sure to cut up your fruits and veggies beforehand for easy access, because who wants to do that when they are hungry? Choose meats that are organic and lean.  Also, be sure to choose dairy that is as natural as possible (think local farms, hormone free). Get high protein Greek yogurt in there too, it makes a great substitute for sour cream.

Your cabinets should be holding grains, starches, low sodium canned goods, and healthy snacks.  A couple of staples I have are canned beans, instant brown rice, protein bars, canned veggies, oatmeal, nuts/seeds, and dried fruits. Put these items up front at face height, and force yourself to choose healthy options.  If you buy a bag of pretzels or crackers, divide up the box/bag into single servings for an easy grab on the way out the door.  It will make you more conscious of how much you are eating too.

Expand your spice rack! Seriously, it took me so long to figure this one out. But spices and herbs make any meal better. Cooking black beans? Throw some paprika and cayenne in there. Add cinnamon to your oatmeal or smoothies. Vegetables are better with rosemary, or garlic salt.  Play around with different combinations.  Learn to use spices instead of salt and butter.  Your heart thanks you!

That doesn’t seem so bad.  Does it? Here is your homework for your next day off:
  •  Clean out all of the junk, and food that has been sitting around for too long. Donate anything unopened and unexpired.
  •  Look at the labels on your condiments. Find better alternatives/brands.
  •  Precut your fruits and veggies. Place them high in your fridge so that they are the first things   you see.
  •  Pick out some new spices to use.
  •   Organize your cabinets so that healthy snacks are easy to grab.
  •   Commit to keeping a prep area clean and organized in your kitchen.

Now you are ready to make some great changes! I wish you the best of luck!

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