Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.
If my guess is correct, cleaning the kitchen probably doesn’t top your list as a great way to kick off the weekend.
The reasons you should? They’re too numerous to tally.
The benefits to be had from investing some quality time in your kitchen are quietly waiting. By taking inventory of what you’ve purchased and what’s occupying real estate in the cabinets, fridge, and freezer, you'll be able to better and more effectively create an environment prime for healthy and delicious meals.
Appetite for Health finds that an “organized and welcoming” kitchen encourages health because it creates an environment everyone wants to cook and eat in. Take it one step at a time; you’ll be amazed at how much more inviting—and healthy—your kitchen can be.
What should my kitchen look like?
You certainly don’t need to have Martha Stewart’s kitchen (or skill set) to crank out a healthy meal. A lived-in kitchen with banged up pots and pans is perfect—it shows that you’re actually using them.
What’s the first step in kitchen inspiration? According to The Kitchn, start by simply clearing off the countertops. It makes sense; if there’s clutter everywhere, it not only makes the space feel small, it screams, "Eat out!"
If your kitchen is a repository for all things related to work and school, make it clear to your family that the kitchen is now only for kitchen items—no papers, no forms, no old mail, no half-completed homework. The kitchen countertops are only for preparing meals and nothing else.
That said, there's no reason why your countertops can't be inviting for guests. Try this on for size: find a favorite bowl, give it a special space on the countertop, and fill it with fresh ready-to-grab items such as bananas, avocados, oranges, apples, or pears. Having it front and center will increase the odds that your family indulges in the fresh produce.
In addition to clearing off the countertops, take the time to organize your cupboards and pantry. Get rid of the spices and ingredients you haven't used in a while. Look for expired items and toss them. If you have the room, a spice rack or organizer might be a great addition to your cabinet or wall. Then look for what's missing. Do you have the basic pantry items for a healthy kitchen? Find what works with your particular diet plan and stock up.
The average person in the United States eats out between three and four times per week according to The Simple Dollar; the cost of restaurant or take-out dishes can add up. So by setting this process in motion, you’ll not only improve your family’s health, but also your bottom line.
10 tips for a healthier kitchen
- Clean. We're talking deep clean. Even in the places you never think about. Start with a clean slate and build your healthy kitchen from there. (Real Simple has some great tips on “How to Speed-Clean Your Kitchen”.)
- Trim down the condiments—get rid of nearly empty jars, expired foods, and unhealthy choices.
- Store nutritious foods front and center. These will be whole foods—fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, and some dairy.
- Donate unopened foods that were poor choices to a food bank. We're looking at those cheese puffs.
- Store unhealthier options at the back of your cabinets or fridge and in spots that are above eye level or are difficult to reach. If you can't see the chocolate, you're less likely to gravitate toward it later.
- Store food in containers that you can see though. This will make these foods more appealing and more likely to be chosen off the shelf. Go to secondhand stores and look for mason jars and other glass storage containers; there’s no need to spend an arm and a leg on this.
- Organize your cookware and utensils so they’re easy to access; donate items you never use. That second rice cooker? Do you really need it?
- Grocery shop for the entire week—you can easily get it out of the way on a Saturday morning trip. By staying on a schedule, you can decrease waste, plan a healthy menu, save money, organize coupons, and clean the refrigerator weekly—i.e., when you bring the new food in, you do a quick run-through of the fridge and remove the stuff that's going bad. Hate crowds? Get to the store as early as you can. Bonus: you'll most likely get the freshest produce of the day.
- Never shop on an empty stomach. You'll be tempted to buy products you want but really don't need.
- Change something in your kitchen that’ll make you happy to go on this healthy-eating adventure: hang a picture, buy a new cutting board or replace an old pot, or perhaps the walls could use a new coat of paint.
To learn more about creating a good kitchen environment to help manage your diabetes:
Diabetic Kitchen Confessions: Nikki's Story
5 Kitchen Tools Every Diabetic Should Own
Mindfulness Moment: Find Calm in Simple Chores