7 Tips to Creating an Inspired Healthy Kitchen

If your kitchen isn't the most frequented room in your house, then chances are it's not as healthy (and delicious!) as it could be. But, when it's warm and active with lots of organic, freshly prepared eats instead of the long lonely walk from freezer to microwave, an entire home can be transformed.

The more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and organic meats and dairy you add to your diet, the less room you have for the processed ersatz junk. But, if you're used to the frozen/canned/packaged-processed-stuff—which lasts indefinitely—the perishable fresh stuff can easily go bad before you have a chance to eat it. So where to start? Here are seven simple steps to creating a healthy kitchen.

  1. Donate the junk. Yep. Think of it as your old security blanket that you had to part ways with eventually. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't exactly helping you to hold onto it either. No matter how well stocked your kitchen is with fresh, healthy food, if there's a bag of M & M's hiding in the cupboard, you will find it. So save yourself the binge and guilt and make it a rite of passage into the new, healthy you by eliminating the temptations such as frozen pizzas, salty or sweet snacks, instant anything, and especially sodas—sweetened or diet.
  2. Make a plan. A healthy kitchen is one where things work together: kale and avocado salad, mushroom and barley soup, roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Spending a few minutes every week planning and calendaring your favorite recipes makes shopping and preparation inspired and delicious! There are so many cookbooks, websites, mobile phone apps and friends with great recipes to inspire you to get into your kitchen and cook. From the novice to the experts, we all can benefit from a great recipe.
  3. Invest in a few good kitchen tools. It's hard to prepare a healthy, yummy meal with a dull knife and the wrong cookware (you might cut yourself with that dull knife and burn up your delicious food in that thin pan!). Can't afford a kitchen makeover? Check community boards like freecycle.org or neighborgoods.net, and even scour the thrift stores for some sturdy pots and pans, a good knife and wood cutting board (which helps keep that knife sharp!). Tell your friends and family about your new health goals and see if they have some extra utensils and cookware they can gift you.
  4. Keep a list. An unbelievable amount of perfectly good food gets wasted every year, with nearly 100 billion tons of it ending up in landfills. Don't throw your money away by letting fresh fruits and vegetables rot in your crisper. Try making a list of all your perishables and keeping it on your refrigerator door or on that calendar in the kitchen (where you calendared 2-3 meals you’re going to cook this week). This will help you remember to eat those strawberries, or that red leaf lettuce before they turn to mush.
  5. Buy staples in bulk. One of the easiest excuses for ordering a pizza or scarfing down a Twix bar is that there's “nothing to eat.” Keeping staples on hand is a great way to break that habit. Shop your local natural food store bulk section for whole grains such as brown rice, millet, barley and teff; and for beans and lentils; as well as nuts, seeds and unsulphured dried fruits. Store them in mason jars rather than in plastic bags so that you can clearly see what healthy foods you have available.
  6. Prep. If cooking from scratch every night is intimidating or challenging, you can prepare lots ahead of time. Blanch or steam your veggies the day you buy them and then add those to soups, stir fries, casseroles, etc. Pick a grain or bean of the week and cook those ahead of time too, making several unique dishes during the week with enough for leftovers for lunch and or dinner the next day.
  7. Invite friends. Like the French, who share long meals with friends and family, we eat less and enjoy a meal more if we're surrounded with great company. Offer to cook for friends, family or neighbors once a week. Or make it a potluck where everyone brings a dish. Either way, you'll feel the healthy warmth in your kitchen increase.

Photo: Nosha

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