It’s not always easy to lose weight and make smart diet choices — especially if your kitchen is filled with traps that throw you off course. But a few minor changes to your kitchen’s organization and function can make a huge difference if you’re working to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Try these seven tips in the kitchen that can help you lose weight and stick to a healthy diet.
1. Organize, organize, organize
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Even if you have good intentions at the grocery store and fill your cart with healthy items, it won’t mean much if they get shoved to the back of your refrigerator. So be mindful of how you stock and organize the fridge and pantry. “Invest in individual baskets to separate and organize foods by type: dairy, snacks, fruits and vegetables, condiments and leftovers, for example,” Cleveland Clinic says. “This makes healthy foods easier to find — and unhealthy food easier to avoid.”
Put healthy foods front and center, so you’re more likely to grab them than junk food. And know your trigger foods — i.e., unhealthy foods that make you want to overindulge. Either store them out of sight (and hopefully out of mind), or don’t even bring them into the house. Instead, make sure you have all the ingredients for a healthy snack or meal on hand and readily accessible. (Your organizational system should let you know when you’re running out of something.) Cleveland Clinic even recommends storing foods that you eat together, such as carrots and hummus, in the same spot. This way, they’re as simple to grab and eat as a bag of potato chips.
2. Remove the distractions
Take a page out of Marie Kondo’s book, and declutter your kitchen and dining space. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, distractions — such as clutter, smartphones, TVs, etc. — can lead to overeating at a meal. And they even can cause you to consume more food later on because your memory of eating isn’t as strong as it would have been if you were paying better attention to your meal.
So Mayo Clinic recommends decluttering your dining space and setting it up for, well, dining. Make it a spot where you can sit down and focus on your food without paperwork, screens or general untidiness calling for your attention. “You’ll be able to better listen to your hunger and fullness cues, which can help you avoid overeating,” according to Mayo Clinic.
3. Make portion control easy
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Portion size is everything when you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy one. But it can be all too easy to overeat when you have an entire fridge and pantry at your disposal. So make portion control a little easier on yourself, and split up foods from their original containers into appropriate servings. “Embrace baggies and containers,” Cleveland Clinic says. “… When you have leftovers, divide them in appropriate portions before you store them.”
You also might want to pre-cut fruits and veggies into individual portions, so they’re easier to grab and go when you want a snack. And if you’re using condiments or spreads, scoop out the correct serving size in advance, rather than continuously adding them to your food as you eat. If you’re not sure what the proper portion is, there are many online nutrition databases that can help. Or you can consult your doctor for more individualized advice on the best diet strategy for you.
4. Serve meals from the kitchen
Speaking of portion control, a tip that can help at mealtime is to dish out food in the kitchen, rather than bringing serving bowls to the table. “Keep food out of sight on the stovetop or kitchen counter,” Mayo Clinic says. “You’ll have to think twice (or three times) before standing up and going for seconds, which might be all you need to decide if you’re still hungry.”
Allow yourself one reasonable portion to begin. Then, slowly finish what’s on your plate before considering whether you need (not want) more. You even can make it a slight hassle to get more food by putting everything in storage containers (allowing hot foods to properly cool) right after you plate your first helping.
5. Be strategic about dishes and utensils
Another way to trick yourself into eating less is by strategically choosing your dishes and utensils. A tip many people swear by is using a smaller plate or bowl to cut down on overeating. “It’s human nature to fill the space on a plate with food,” according to Mayo Clinic. “So if you grab a large plate, you’re probably dishing up larger portions than you need.”
You also can try eating with your nondominant hand — or even using chopsticks — to avoid mindlessly shoveling food into your mouth. Take your time. Strike up a conversation if you’re eating with people (or pets — no judgment here). And enjoy the food. By not rushing, your brain will realize it’s full after you’ve eaten an appropriate amount.
6. Make your own flavored water
Because thirst can feel similar to hunger, staying hydrated can help if you’re trying to lose weight — not to mention hydration is vital for anyone’s health. But drinking too many calories can easily throw off a diet. “You’re better off quenching your thirst with water than taking a swig of juice when you’re thirsty,” Cleveland Clinic says.
If you have trouble getting yourself to drink enough plain old tap water, try keeping a pitcher of filtered water in the fridge. Even better, Cleveland Clinic suggests making your own naturally flavored water using foods, such as mint, lemons or cucumbers. Find the flavor that makes you want to hydrate, and always have a pitcher prepared.
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If you tend to eat out more often than you cook at home, you might be sabotaging your health (and your wallet). “More frequent consumption of home cooked meals was associated with greater likelihood of having normal range BMI and normal percentage body fat,” according to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. Plus, study participants who ate home-cooked meals more than five times per week consumed more fruits and vegetables compared to those who ate at home fewer than three times per week.
So make your kitchen a place where you like to spend time cooking. That might mean decorating it to your taste, investing in some nice cookware or simply better organizing what you have. If you’re not much of a chef, consider taking classes or finding some easy recipes online for inspiration. When you set up your kitchen for nutritious cooking, you’re giving yourself the tools you need to lose weight and maintain a healthy diet.
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