Tip #2 – Get the fruits out
The only “Grab & Go” foods that should be promoted on your kitchen counter are fruits and vegetables. You should ALWAYS have a big bowl of fresh fruits on your counter, with at least 3 different types of fruits in it, depending on the season.
The idea is simple: we want what we see. This is not rocket science; this is the very basis for advertising. We are bombarded by images that make us desire stuff we did not even know existed, and we become convinced that not only they are appealing, but we even need them. Do the same in your kitchen!
Expose yourself nonstop to a colorful bowl of fruits and when you want to snack on something, fruits will become more and more often your first choice. Because you see them, and because you don’t see anything else. Try it, you’ll see! At first, you will still want that muffin top, that you know is somewhere in a cupboard, but after a while, it won’t come to mind as often anymore, and that beautiful mango or kiwi will seem irresistible.
Tip #3 – Hide your stash
Just like we want what we see, we also have a tendency to forget what we don’t see. So, make it easy on yourself and have everything disappear from your sight that is not serving your weight loss goals. Some “health perfectionists” suggest that you get rid of anything processed, sugary, or with saturated fat. I don’t recommend such drastic moves. First, because you might not be the only one using your kitchen and you don’t want to become the “enemy” or the “party pooper”. Second, because saying a permanent good-bye to everything you love or are used to is the best way to feel deprived and miserable, and to eventually fall of the wagon. Don’t make that mistake! Snack food, ready-to-eat meals, deli meat, pops… keep them, but hide them.
Make sure processed food is stored in opaque containers or covered with aluminum foil, and stored in places that are hard to reach. This way, there will be no visual trigger for you to think of it. Your brain will have to do all the work, and when it does and you really want those chips, you will have to dig deep to reach them from behind piles of veggies, boxes of whole grains, and jars of preserved fruits.
If you can store some of your “tempting” food outside your kitchen, that’s also a good move. This way, it will require a little extra effort to go get snacks, cups of chicken noodle soup, baking supplies, etc. Your house does not allow for that? Think twice! I have made room in my kitchen cabinets for school supplies, and store chocolate chips, nuts, spreads and other “risky” food in the hallway closet where glue sticks and construction paper used to be. Who says food has to be in the kitchen?
Think about it and do it! It’s an easy step that makes a big difference! And if you are ready to throw away some really bad stuff, then ditch anything in your kitchen that contains trans fat (known as partially hydrogenated oil).
Tip #4 – Shrink the dish
No beating around the bush here. The bigger the plate, the bowl, the spoon; the more we eat. I usually don’t recommend throwing things away or going shopping. But in this case, if your plates are bigger than 10 inches, or if your individual bowls contain more than 12 oz., then, yes. Get rid of them! Replace them with eating plates that are no bigger than 9 inches and with bowls 12 oz or smaller. If you drink alcohol regularly (wine included) or juice, it’s worth shopping for glasses that are narrow rather than wide, as this will help you pour smaller quantities. Try also to find smaller serving and eating spoons.
Living in a smaller world helps us focus more on quality rather than quantity. And once we start shrinking our food portions without having to think about it, we start shrinking too. Yes, it works!
Tip #5 – Make food prep easy
Ok, so you are thinking… now that all my “Grab & Go” food is hidden, am I just going to survive on this bowl of fruits? Well, not quite! Remember tip #1, when we talked about getting rid of the clutter on your countertop? Did you think we would keep it all empty and useless? Not exactly! Of course, we will always try to keep as much free space on the counter as possible, but we will also make sure that all the tools necessary for cooking are right there, always available.
There are very easy ways to make food. Using super quick recipes, precut ingredients, frozen vegetables, etc. But if every time you want to make a meal, you have to dig in your cabinets to find a cutting board or the salt, it turns sour pretty fast.
So make sure that the following items have a permanent spot on your counter:
- Cutting board. If possible, by the sink so that you can wash it easily after every use and always have it ready.
- Spices, garlic, salt, pepper… the basics to make anything tasty without adding calories.
- A blender or a food processor is a great addition if you want to cook fast and easy. An electric kettle, a steamer, a rice cooker, and a stand mixer are quite handy as well. If you can afford them, it’s a good idea.
By the same token, make sure the basics are not only available but also easy to access in your cabinets: pots and pans, stirring spoons, oven mitts, but also cooking oil, vinegar… and good recipes!
Tip #6 – Portion, proportion
As I wrote earlier, you don’t have to throw away all your treats. But if you want to make progress toward a healthy life and a leaner self, most of the food in your kitchen and pantry should be healthy and whole. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, plain yogurt, real cheese, whole grains, beans… You know, the type of food that you cannot just grab and snack on (fruits are the exception). You can keep your favorite chips and the kids’ cookies, but aim for at least ¾ healthy foods, in your fridge, in your freezer, in your pantry… Make junk food the exception, not the norm.
Once you hide everything that’s not serving your weight loss, you will notice that you start forgetting about certain foods. When that’s the case, get rid of those! Replace them with cans of beans or vegetables, boxes of whole grains, nuts… And of course, fill up your freezer and fridge with vegetables, fruits, more vegetables, and more fruits! I know, you already have that bowl of fresh fruits on the counter, but you never want to run out of fruits. So make sure you always have a back up in the freezer. Same with vegetables. It’s hard to always have them fresh, but that’s no excuse. If you have a freezer, use it! Don’t stock up on ice cream and pizza. Stock up on veggie mixes, cut up carrots, broccoli florets, and all the good stuff. If it’s available to you, you will eat it, and you will end up liking it!
Tip #7 – Healthy foods take the stage
You have stocked up on the good stuff already? Good for you! Now, make sure you see it. You don’t want to rely on your brain to remind you that you have some celery sticks somewhere in a paper bag at the bottom for your veggie drawer. Every time you are in your kitchen you want to see the good stuff. So, just like you hid snacks and junk food in Tip #4, now work on making healthy foods visible everywhere. Store them in clear containers. Cover them with plastic wrap rather than aluminum foil. Put them in the front of your fridge/freezer and at eye level. Don’t hide them in the back of your cupboards!
While unhealthy foods should be removed from tempting packaging, you should always try to make healthy foods more appealing with nice dishes, a nice display, etc. Again, think advertising and how well it works. Use this to your advantage. It’s an easy trick and it will not only work for you, but for all the other people who might be using your kitchen. Give it a try today!
Tip #8 – Measure!
When you want to indulge on your favorite snack, go for it. But make sure that you have established quantity rules ahead of time (NOT when you are starving!). And follow those rules :-). Again, don’t rely on self-control or on intuitive portions. If you have decided that ¼ cup of almonds is a good snack for you, next time you want almonds, measure ¼ cup. End of story! You’ll see, it’s actually easier than it seems if you have taken the time to decide on the amount of almonds you want to eat, and if you have taken the time to put a measuring cup right by the almonds.
OK, I hear you… I am talking about almonds, but your favorite snack is actually not quite as healthy. No surprise here! I love Peanut M&M’s! You might have noticed, I love nuts! I even wrote a blog post about nuts 🙂 Anyway, you get my point. You know your triggers. You know your “dangerous foods”. Just prepare for them. Think about what amount you are comfortable having in one go, make sure the measuring tool is right there, and don’t think twice. Take that amount, and go away. If you come back for a second serving, that’s fine, no big deal… But keep measuring. Make that amount of pleasure become the norm, rather than indulging without being aware of how much you eat. Measure, measure, measure… Slowly, you will eat less of what is not good for you and for your weight loss goals. Believe me!
Tip #9 – Make your kitchen enjoyable
Whether you take your meals in your kitchen or elsewhere in your house, if you want to lose weight and keep it off, you need to eat more whole food and less processed food. Whole food, often, is food that needs to be prepared. When you move toward a healthier lifestyle, you might need to spend a bit more time in your kitchen so make this experience as pleasant and easy as possible.
Turn your kitchen into a room you like. Make it comfortable, bring chairs in, make sure you can listen to the radio… Also, try to draw people to your kitchen (unless you want a break from them all!). Make room so the kids can do their homework, have the family laptop in a corner, get a puzzle going… Having loved ones in the kitchen while you are cooking will make you feel less lonely and will slowly change the dynamic around food and meals. Others might start cooking with you (or cooking for you!). Give it a try. It might be a more subtle change, but it has a big impact.
Now, be careful! This step is the last one to implement. Because if you get yourself and your entire family to spend more time in the kitchen before you have made temptations disappear from your sight, you might all end up eating more junk food and putting on weight. So do everything else first, and once your kitchen has become your ally for weight loss, lure people in.
Tip #10 – What about TV?
TV can be your best ally if watching it helps you stay happily in the kitchen and prepare healthy gourmet meals for yourself and your family. But it can also be your worst enemy if it takes your attention away from food while you are eating, and leads you to gobble up large amounts without noticing what you’re putting in your mouth. In a nutshell, turning on TV while preparing food is a nice way to make cooking more fun. But please, turn if off when dinner-time comes. Focus on what you are eating, take your time, and enjoy every bite. If it’s not enjoyable, well, you might want to browse for some new recipes 🙂 Stay tuned, I’ll publish my favorite super fast recipes very soon. Your taste buds are going to dance!