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When your kitchen is disorganized and chaotic, it’s easy to give in to food delivery app temptation. But all that could easily change once you organize your kitchen to support healthy eating goals.
In her years as a kitchen design consultant, Jamie Gold, wellness design consultant and author of Wellness by Design (Tiller Press, 2020), said her clients’ reasons for not cooking at home were often the same: The kitchen felt dark, cramped or cluttered.
“Your kitchen is your home’s fueling station, and it can help support or sabotage your eat-healthy goals,” Gold says.
There are a few things you can do to organize your kitchen to support healthy eating and make it an inviting place to make meals. And, thankfully, none of them require renovating your kitchen.
1. Set Your Goals
Think about your nutrition goals. Do you want to eat five servings of vegetables per day, lower your monthly takeout spending or maintain your weight? Getting clear on your goals makes it easier to decide how to organize your kitchen to support healthy eating. It starts with prioritizing the things that are important to you.
“Before you think of decluttering your kitchen, understand why you are getting rid of things,” says Isabel Almeida, a holistic interior organizer. “If it’s not working toward building the you that you want to be, it’s weighing you down and hindering your progress.”
Knowing your goals can make it easier to stash your ice cream or bread maker in the basement to free up kitchen space for a smoothie station.
2. Clear the Cupboards
Clearing the cupboards doesn’t have to be done in a day. You can go through one at a time and see what sparks joy. You might notice that you have a dozen identical spatulas taking up space or canned goods you’ll never eat. Consider donating extras and keeping just what you need.
“You’ll find you have a lot more room in your kitchen than you thought once you move out the things you’re not using,” Gold says.
3. Create Zones
“You want to be able to make your healthy foods with as few steps and as little time as possible,” Gold says.
One way to do that is by creating three zones.
- The cooking zone is centered around the stove. Put things like pots, pans, utensils, cooking oils and seasonings within easy reach.
- The food storage zone includes the refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Keep any food wraps and storage containers in this area.
- The meal-prep and cleanup zone is by the sink and dishwasher. This is a good place to keep cutting boards, cleaning supplies and the compost pail.
4. Make Cooking as Easy as Takeout
Once you have your main zones, you can create specialty zones that fit your lifestyle and goals. If you want to break your takeout addiction, you might need an “easy burger corner, an Italian delight station or a bomb-ramen cubby,” Almeida says.
Gather everything you need to make a healthier version of your favorites in one place.
5. Store Your Leftovers
To maximize your time, you can make several servings of healthy meals at once. You just need the right food storage containers and freezer space to keep meals for another day. Make sure you have the container sizes you need and the lids to match.
6. Have the Right Tools for the Job
Decluttering is great, but sometimes to organize your kitchen to support healthy eating, you need to add tools for the job. It’s easy to skip beans when there’s no colander to be found or skip the veggies when the chopping knives are all dirty.
“I like to keep several small cutting boards and nice knives handy — so there is never an excuse for not prepping my favorite fruits and veggies,” says Lee Jackson, LDN, RDN, a registered dietitian.
7. Pack the Pantry
“The real secret to quick and delicious yet healthy cooking is keeping a well-stocked pantry – it’s like having a permanent shopping list — keeping all your basics on your shelves,” Jackson says. Keep extra cans of low-sodium broth, canned tomatoes, whole-wheat pastas, and frozen and canned veggies on hand.
“It allows you to pull an ingredient out of the pantry and whip up a go-to nutritious meal in minutes without having to stress about what is for dinner,” Jackson says.
8. Tame the Treats
There’s nothing wrong with having a few treats on hand. But if you’re trying to choose more nutrient-rich foods at the grocery store but then find yourself unloading boxes of crackers and cookies, you might need to up your organization game.
“Prioritize storing your food so that you can take stock of everything you have at first glance,” Almeida suggests.
For example, have a treat container, a fruit container or baskets dedicated to smoothie ingredients. That way, you can glance in the food storage zone and see which containers need refilling. If the treat container is overflowing, there’s no need to pick up more.
9. Support Your Prep
Prolonged standing is linked to muscle fatigue and back pain. When you associate cooking dinner with feeling tired, it’s easy to order in while the veggies slowly liquify in the fridge. The solution is simple: Wear sneakers to cook, or get an anti-fatigue mat.
“If you’re training for a half marathon or a triathlon and you’re spending a lot of time doing meal prep, the last thing you want is for your body to feel sore and achy just from standing on your tile floor,” Gold says. “Tile floors are hard and they’re very unforgiving. Having that anti-fatigue mat is like a shock absorber.”
10. Light It Up
The difference between julienned carrots and julienned fingers can be task lighting, Gold says. A well-lit kitchen can be inviting and make it safer. You might be able to put in brighter lightbulbs, swap out pot lights for a pendant light that brings it closer to the workspace, or simply open the blinds.
11. Make It Smile-Inducing
Make the kitchen a place you want to be with something that makes you smile. It could be fresh flowers, personal art or an eclectic mug collection that you can choose from each morning.