Looking to spruce up your eating habits? Your first step should be changing
what’s in your home! By keeping unhealthy foods out of your house,
and instead stocking your shelves with more nutritious options, you can
avoid temptation and make it easier to stick to a proper diet.
Parveen Vora, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group, knows that a pantry makeover can be a difficult undertaking. “The
first piece of advice is that you’ll need to be strong,” says
Dr. Vora. “Your body has developed a taste for foods high in sugar,
fat and salt. But you can do it. All it takes to lay the foundation for
better nutrition habits is one afternoon of being strict about what foods
you’re going to keep in your home.”
The best way to turn your kitchen into an environment that’s more
conducive to healthy eating is to revamp it in one fell swoop. So grab
two large trash bags – one for donating non-perishables to your
local food bank, and another for tossing out the rest – open up
every cabinet in sight, and take a good look at the inventory.
On your first pass, toss out all of the obvious junk food – candy,
chips, cookies, soda and anything that clearly stands out as not being
part of a health-conscious diet.
Next, get rid of anything that doesn’t align with your new dietary
goals. Educate yourself on how to read a nutrition label to help you decide
what needs to go and what can stick around. “Focus on the calorie
count as well as the grams of fats, carbohydrates and protein, or macronutrients,”
says Dr. Vora. “Then, take a look at the ingredients, listed in
order from highest to lowest volume, to avoid things that are high in
sugar and salt.” The label will show you what percentage of the
recommended daily values are contained in a serving, or you can read the
Food and Drug Administration's
table of daily values online. This will also be a healthy habit to get into as you head to the
grocery store, since you’ll want to be more careful about what you’re
bringing home to fill up the space formerly occupied by junky snacks."
Lastly, it’s time to go through the freezer and get rid of your guilty
go-to’s. It’s easy to spot things like cookies and candies
as needing to go, but it’s harder to make that decision when you’re
looking at the microwaveable burritos you automatically reach for three
times a week when you don’t feel like spending the time to make
dinner. Remember, the only way to stick to this new lifestyle is to truly
commit to it with a clean start.
After ridding your home of everything you shouldn’t be eating, it’s
time to head to the grocery store and start practicing health-conscious
shopping skills. “Shopping the perimeter of your grocery store is
the easiest way to stay on track,” says Dr. Vora. The outer areas
of the store are where you typically find the fruits, vegetables, deli
meats, dairy and other "clean" foods. When buying packaged foods,
be sure to check the nutrition labels before you add them to your cart.”
Once you have gone over all of the items you shouldn’t keep in your
kitchen and made room for more of the good stuff, it’s time to cut
yourself a break – you don’t have to
completely eliminate your favorite sweets and treats. If your goal is to change your
lifestyle, as opposed to just going on a strict short-term diet, you don’t
want to make yourself miserable by depriving yourself of your favorite
not-so-healthy snacks. This could lead to binge eating, which can erase
all of your hard work and lead to weight gain and other health issues.
“You can still treat yourself occasionally,” says Dr. Vora,
“but take steps to make sure it doesn’t become a regular habit.
For example, do not buy unhealthy foods in bulk, but instead buy small
or individual treats to avoid mindless snacking.”
Remember, sustaining a healthy lifestyle is about balance. Make healthier
food the centerpiece of your day-to-day diet, so you don’t have
to sweat the small stuff.
Have any tips on creating a healthier kitchen? Share them in the comments below.
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