Do you ever wonder whether your kitchen is keeping you from, or helping you meet, your healthy eating goals? Ideally, you want your kitchen to be a joyful, functional space that encourages you to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, between poor organization, bad lighting, isolating architecture and a slew of other flaws, many kitchens actually make it harder for you to eat a well-balanced diet.
Ready to whip yourself and your kitchen into shape? Here are nine planning and design tips to help.
1. Make A Plan & Display It
Making a meal plan is helpful on multiple levels. Meal plans:
- Help you maintain a balanced diet by planning meals in advance instead of grabbing whatever is quickest.
- Help you save money at the grocery store by allowing you to plan meals based on sales.
- Help prevent temptation by ensuring you have everything you need for healthy snacks and balanced meals on hand.
Keep yourself motivated and honest by displaying your meal plan as a list on your fridge or on a chalkboard menu. By keeping your meal plan on display, you not only cut down on the number of “What’s for dinner” whines you hear in a week, but you also hold yourself accountable. It’s harder to reach for the takeout menu when you can see you already planned for a hearty chicken and summer vegetable salad.
2. Keep Inventory
How many times a week do you run to the store to pick up an item you didn’t realize you were out of?
Each time you go to the store, you’re opening yourself up to a world of temptation. Just need a new bottle of cumin? Better put your blinders on before passing those tempting end-of-aisle potato chip displays. Never mind the racks of candy practically calling your name at the checkout line, too.
Use a dedicated notepad or a whiteboard on your fridge as the go-to shopping list. When you notice you’re low on, or use the last of an item, put it on the list. If you’re really dedicated, you can go a step further and keep a physical inventory clipped inside your pantry or even a digital inventory in a spreadsheet or Google Doc form.
These tactics cut down on last minute dashes to the store, saving you from needless temptation.
3. Shake Your Groove Thing
Working in silence is nice every once in a while, but for the most part, silence tends to make tasks seem tedious.
Find a spot in your kitchen to keep a small radio, an iPad or your laptop. Use your device of choice to play your favorite tunes while you cook. A little music goes a long way toward keeping you motivated and moving.
Don’t feel limited to just music, either. Try catching up on your favorite podcasts, listening to a radio drama or working your way through an audiobook.
4. Make It Cheerful
No one wants to feel like they’re working in a dark, cramped cave. No matter how small your kitchen might be, there are always ways you can make it feel bigger, brighter and more cheerful.
Try painting cabinets and walls in light colors. Remove curtains, blinds or any other covering that’s reducing the amount of natural light you receive. Design the right lighting by laying task lighting for work spaces and adjustable lights for dining areas. If you can, consider widening a doorway or knocking down a wall so your kitchen doesn’t feel cut off from the rest of your house.
The bottom line is your kitchen should make you happy. So if you love dark, moody wall colors, go ahead and throw out the rules. Make the kitchen a place you love and stop finding excuses to avoid it.
5. Keep It Comfy
Between prep work, cooking and dishes, you spend the bulk of your kitchen-time on your feet. No matter whether you’re young or simply young-at-heart, standing for prolonged periods of time doesn’t do your feet, knees or back any favors.
Try keeping a pair of well-cushioned, supportive sneakers on hand to wear while working. If you have the space, stash them under the sink. With a few bucks and a few minutes, you can even rig a spot for them on the back of the cabinet door using removable hooks and a section of an over-the-door shoe organizer. Thick rugs or specialty kitchen mats will also help keep you comfy as you work.
Set the temperature of your kitchen to something comfortable so that you’re not too hot or too cold. If your kitchen connects to a patio, make sure you insulate the door during the winter; old under-insulated doors can account for more than 20% of a home’s energy loss.
6. Get Social
Working alone can get, well, lonely. Why not make it easier for friends and family to join you in the kitchen?
Add bar stools to your kitchen island, put a comfy chair in the corner or do a little demolition to get an open floor plan. Some simple additions like an island, a rolling workstation or a few extra cutting boards also make it easier for kids or friends to socialize while lending a hand.
Making your kitchen a social workspace keeps you from feeling cut off from family or guests. This also makes it easier to commit to cooking fresh, healthy choices that take a little more prep instead of falling back on just-add-water options so you can eke out a few more minutes of socializing.
7. Keep It Visible & Make It Pretty
Healthy foods are filled with vibrant colors, so why not kill two birds with one stone and use fruits, herbs and other greens as part of the visual appeal of your kitchen?
A pretty herb container garden on a windowsill or wall looks fresh and fun. What’s more, these mini-gardens help keep tasty and healthy seasonings at hand for meal prep, keeping you from reaching for the salt shaker or butter dish instead.
A bowl of fruit on the counter or table is both vibrant and classic. As a bonus, it helps remind you of your healthy snack options.
8. Prep, Portion & Present
Make it as easy as possible to grab a healthy snack.
In the pantry, keep healthy choices at eye level, especially when it comes to snacks. Put items like nuts, dried fruit or rice cakes at eye level. This leaves the chips and candy out of sight and out of reach.
Prep fruit and vegetables for snacks as soon as you get home from the market. Store them in stackable glass containers at eye level in the fridge. Bonus points if they’re pre-portioned. For meals, try using fridge bins to corral ingredients by meal, making it easier to find what you need each night of the week.
Don’t have space in your fridge to store healthy snacks or organize ingredients? That may be a sign you either need to purge a few condiment bottles or budget for a new fridge with more storage space.
9. Cut Clutter
Cluttered counters, overstuffed drawers and disorganized cabinets make it difficult to use your kitchen, which in turn makes it more likely you’ll say no to cooking and grab a takeout menu instead.
Try this experiment to promote clear counters. Remove everything, except that aforementioned bowl of fruit. Wait a few weeks before storing anything else on your counter. You may find you need the toaster out for daily use. You might also discover that the mixer and toaster oven can afford to stay tucked away due to infrequent use.
Reserve the kitchen for ingredients and cooking necessities. Move bills to the office, tools to the garage and art supplies to the playroom.
Get rid of duplicate items and never-used gadgets. Reorganize the kitchen cabinets to make better use of space. You may find you can double your storage and drastically improve your function with simple additions like drawer dividers and other organizational add-ons. You could also discover that, no matter what you do, your current kitchen isn’t cutting it. If that’s the case, you may need to replace cabinets or change the layout.
Don’t let your kitchen keep you from your lifestyle goals. Whether it’s a simple tweak or a radical overhaul, there are plenty of ways to make your kitchen work for you.