It's Time for a Kitchen Makeover!

As you begin your journey to a healthier lifestyle, you have to keep in mind that the rest of your family may need a bit longer to adjust.  That means you may still have some food in your kitchen that is not for your mouth!  A great example of this happened in my house last night.  My husband brought home a small 5 pack of those Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies.  They were even brownie filled!  Ahh!!! Although they weren't a very healthy surprise, he brought them home for my daughters.  They each got one, which left 3 more.  The "out of site out of mind rule" works pretty well for me.  So, I ended up having my husband hide them somewhere!  Why?  Well, I really like those cooki
es and they should not be in my house!  I have come a long way with my will power, but it's not quite where I want it to be.  So, if I don't know where they are, I won't worry about them.  If they were sitting on the pantry shelf where I would see them every time I open the door then guess what?  They'd be gone in a heartbeat! If this sounds anything like you then it's definitely time for a kitchen make over!

Within my challenge groups, I promote meal planning and meal prepping.  I do so because I know what would happen to me if I didn't have a plan.  I would eat foods that were simply for instant gratification.  For starters, in order to get the body you want, you have to surround yourself with good stuff and get rid of the the stuff that is holding you back!  In addition, you have to get rid of those self-justifying excuses.  What do I mean?  Have you ever eaten everything on your plate just because you don't want to waste food?  Have you ever bought things at the grocery store, that you know are very unhealthy, because someone in your house likes them? Do you ever reward yourself with food?  Maybe you had a bad day or an extra special day. If you answered yes to any of those questions then THAT is what I call self-justifying excuses.  

So here we go!  Let's get those kitchens ready!

First thing first!

Get those tools ready!
When organizing your kitchen, it is much easier and quicker to have your "go-to" utensils together and ready to go.  I use these tools frequently and they are together in an accessible place.
1. Paring Knife
2. Vegetable Peeler
3. Food Scale
4. Measuring Cup / Spoons
5. Plastic baggies
6. Blender
7. Cutting Board

You may be thinking, what do you use all of those tools on a regular basis for?  Well, we all know that if you were to grab a bag of chips and begin eating them, you'd eat a lot more, if not the whole bag, as opposed to getting a small bowl and measuring out a portion.  So, what I do on Sundays is I pre-portion all of my snacks for the week.  For me, I eat a lot of unsalted roasted almonds which means I count 14 of them out and place them in a baggie.  The same goes for vegetables.  I wash, peel/cut up my veggies and make individual baggies with about 2 cups of veggies each.  Any pre-portioned snacks that I make are placed at eye-level in the refrigerator or in the pantry.  By keeping them at eye-level, they are always in reach and are ready to "grab-and-go" at snack time.

So here is my suggestion...go through your pantry, cupboards, refrigerator, freezer and ditch the bad foods!  If it is something that you don't think you will have the will-power to pass up, then your family members probably shouldn't be eating it anyways.  It is important that you explain to your family that you are trying to better yourself by creating a healthier lifestyle.  If that means not buying that bag of chips each week then so be it!  My husband was extremely supportive in what I was doing but he still wanted to be able to eat what he wanted, whether it was clean or not.  So, I know it sounds silly, but, like the cookies, I asked him to hide his chips!  If it was going to be in the house then I didn't want to know where it was at. 

Now that you are ready to do some cleaning, what exactly SHOULD you throw away or get rid of?  Definitely get rid of the obvious junk foods (chips, soda/sweetened drinks, instant food, most frozen dinners, margarine and other processed fats, candy, etc).  There are also a lot of "trick" foods that you should get rid of.  This is what got me at the beginning!  When I first started, I had no idea that these foods weren't really "healthy" for you! (crackers-even whole grain ones, breakfast cereals that have more than a few grams of sugar per serving, granola bars, fruit juice, regular peanut butter, breads and bagels that are not exclusively made from whole grains). 

A good rule to get in the habit of is looking at the labels.  Stay away from forms of sugar such as high fructose corn syrup as well as hydrogenated oil, fractioned oil, and preservatives.  
Are you thinking that your kitchen is going to be empty yet?!  Don't worry! Everything will be all right!

Now that you got rid of the junk, let's talk about where exactly you should place your healthy food.  This may have to wait until you go to the grocery store :)  As I briefly mentioned above, you should have your healthy snacks at eye level.  Did you ever notice that in refrigerators all of the fruits and veggies are typically in a closed drawer?  Do you ever get to eat them all before they go bad?  Let's pull out those fruits and veggies and put them in the middle of your fridge so that you can see them every day!  You could cut them up and place them in clear containers, or I like to portion them out into baggies.  The same goes with your fruits and yogurt. If you plan to have berries in your yogurt throughout the week, cut them up and place them in small snack baggies and keep them together.  More often than not, as consumers at the grocery store, as well as in our own home, we tend to grab things that are at eye level, so, having whole, healthy foods at eye level will help to prevent you from reaching for those potato chips!  

Let's talk about healthy swaps!  Take a look in your pantry and refrigerator.  Is there anything in there that you would be willing to swap out for a healthier alternative?  Do you eat peanut butter?  Would you considering swapping it out for an all natural peanut butter?  Keep in mind, you still have to look at the labels!  All all-natural peanut butter is not created equal. You want to stick with the only ingredient being peanuts.  Another great swap can happen with yogurt.  I prefer to eat yogurt for lunch; however, I used to eat a light, flavored yogurt.  It was recommended to me to switch to plain Greek yogurt and the first time I tried it I thought I was going to be sick!  So, what I did was I sweetened it with natural sweeteners.  I use a handful of berries and a drizzle of honey or Agave Nectar.  It does the trick perfectly!  I will warn that it does take a little getting used to.  Greek yogurt is thicker and you need to figure out what kind of sweetness you are looking for when adding the toppings.  Often times I use 1/4 cup of homemade granola for an extra crunch as well. This makes for a great lunch or a nice complete snack because it includes a complex carb and a lean protein. In most recipes, you can even swap out the sour creme for Greek yogurt so there are multiple purposes!  Cheese is another easy swap.  String cheese is already portioned out and easy to grab.  Pair it with a serving of 20 grapes and you've got yourself a complete snack!

Also think about your regular condiments.  Most condiments, including ketchup and Dijon mustard come in a cleaner version that do not include high fructose corn syrup (for the ketchup) and no added sugar (for the mustard).  Another big, yet easy, change that I made was using butter.  I actually can't tell you the last time I bought butter at the store! When cooking, I use cooking spray or olive oil.  

If you  have the phone capability, there is a great free app that you should download.  It is called Fooducate. It will allow you to scan bar codes of products and do comparisons of two products or by itself.  Each item is given a grade based on its nutritional content, as well as healthier alternatives!  It is convenient for quick decisions.

Keep in mind that the healthiest foods are kept in the refrigerator.  If you are running to the pantry for something, it is most likely processed.  Realistically, I know that it would be next to impossible for me (and my family) to completely eliminate processed foods.  While I do still have snacks for my girls in the pantry (that I stay clear of), you will find other things like Brown Rice (unsalted) Rice Cakes, instant Rolled Oats, raw unsalted almonds, Shakeology, instant brown rice, Quinoa, and whole wheat tortillas.  Although this is in the freezer, you would also find that I eat Ezekiel bread rather than a whole wheat bread as well.  In any case, the key for me  when it comes to the pantry is to keep those rather unhealthy choices hidden in the back! 

So now what?! Here are some things that you can do RIGHT NOW to help you get started:
1. Check out your refrigerator and pantry to see if there are foods that you frequently consume that you are willing to swap out by a lower fat, lower, sugar, or reduced calorie alternative. Once you do that, go add those to your grocery list NOW so you don't forget!
2. Remove high fat, high sugar, and any other temptations that you have in your kitchen and make room on the shelves for the fresh food that you will be getting soon!
3. Be sure that you have the basic tools you will need (noted above) so that this process truly is easier than what you do now.  
4. Stock up on plastic baggies or containers that you can store in your refrigerator, so that you are ready to portion everything out come prep day. 

If you are looking for snack or main meal ideas that have worked for me, check out the Clean Eating Recipes tab above. 

Good luck and don't hesitate to contact me if you need help with your kitchen makeover! 

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