There are many factors that can have an impact on reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Some factors are more obvious than others. For example, most people know it isn’t a good idea to keep “junk food” in the house because it typically leads to over indulging. But, did you know that the placement of certain foods in and around your kitchen can also have an effect on the likelihood of you eating them? This is because our kitchen environment shapes our subconscious cues for eating. Below, we share with you some tips for shaping your kitchen environment so that you can reduce mindless eating and start eating more mindfully.
1. Eliminate countertop clutter. According to research by Dr. Brian Wansink, an expert on eating behavior, people eat 44% more snacks when their kitchen is cluttered than when it is clean and organized. Something as simple as removing foods high in carbohydrates (i.e. cereal) from the counter tops makes it easier to eat healthier. Out of sight, out of mind, is true for the kitchen.
2. Place a fruit bowl on the counter. Make the healthiest foods, like fruit, the most visible and easily accessible in your kitchen. Conversely, remove all unhealthy, “junk food” from the counter tops (and your house altogether, ideally). If you have a difficult time deciding what is healthy and unhealthy, a good rule of thumb is to not have any food on your counter top except fruit.
3. Don’t buy unhealthy foods to keep in the house. Instead, go “out” for the more unhealthy stuff. For example, if you love ice cream, don’t keep it in the house. Treat yourself to some ice cream once per week by going out to have a single serving of ice cream. This way, you will start to view ice cream as a treat that is ok to have every now and then, instead of every day.
4. Move undesirable food to the cabinets. Undesirable foods aren’t necessarily unhealthy, but they are foods that you have a hard time controlling the portion of (i.e. mixed nuts). By moving these types of foods to the cabinet, you are making them harder to get to, which means you will be less likely to end up mindlessly eating them.
5. Prepare healthy meals in advance. When hungry and in a hurry, we often choose unhealthy foods to eat. If you have ever grocery shopped while hungry, then you probably know the feeling. For a lot of people, Sunday is a good day to make a couple of healthy meals that will last through the week. By making meals ahead of time and storing them in the fridge, you will have a quick go-to healthy meal option that will make it easier to drive right past all the fast food places on your way home.
6. Pre-wash and prep foods when you unload groceries from the store. Wash all the fruits and vegetables as you unpack them. This will save time later. Also, if you buy meat in bulk, go ahead and put it into individual zip top bags and place in the freezer. While buying in bulk can be a good way to save money, often times it’s at the cost of increased calorie intake. Portioning out items bought in bulk as soon as you get home allows you to get the deal without all the extra calories.
7. Prepare portioned snacks ahead of time. While most “snack size” foods are easy to grab when you’re in a hurry, they are also typically highly processed and full of added sugar and fat. Help yourself out by preparing some healthier, portioned snacks in your free time. You can measure out your favorite snack into a snack size zip top bag. The next time you are in a hurry and need to grab a quick snack, it will be ready. Some examples of this are popcorn, mixed nuts, unsweetened dried fruit, carrots, celery, and grapes and cheese.
8. Serve food off the stove, not the table. People who eat with serving dishes on the table are more likely to go back for second and third helpings before their body has had enough time to comprehend if it’s still hungry or not. By keeping the serving dishes on the stove, it will take a bit more of a conscious decision to decide if you are truly hungry enough to get up for a second helping.