Organize Your Kitchen for Health

Michela Kruse, MA, RDN, LDN talks about how to organize a healthy kitchen. Listen to the audio or read the Q&A below.

What does a healthy kitchen look like?

  • Clean and uses good food safety and sanitation practices
  • Reasonably-sized dishes and serving utensils
  • A good meal planning system in place that is easy and friendly to use (such as recipe box, online recipe management program, grocery lists on the fridge, meal plan on the fridge, etc.)
  • Stocks plenty of healthy, nutritious foods and keeps unhealthy foods or trigger foods to a minimum
  • Organized in a way that encourages good nutrition

Can you give an example of how to organize a kitchen to make it healthier?

  • Place fruit in a bowl on the counter (instead of hidden in the bottom of the fridge) and place the cookie jar in the back of the pantry (instead of sitting on the counter)
  • Organize healthy snacks in an easy and portable way.
  • Wash, chop, and individually portion fruits and veggies in small, portable containers.
  • Buy individually packaged low-fat dairy such as yogurt, cottage cheese, string cheese. Otherwise when you are in a hurry, the easy, portable snack foods are mostly junk foods

Should we throw out all food that contains a certain ingredient or isn't perfectly healthy?
No, there is no food that is so bad that it can't be incorporated into a healthy diet. Outside of severe food allergies, there is no off-limit food. It's your overall eating patterns that are important. When you lay out all of the food that you keep stocked in your kitchen, you can get a pretty good glimpse of your eating habits. It can be a real eye opener. If you keep very minimal fruits or vegetables on hand, do you really expect to get in your five servings a day? If you keep excessive amounts of junk food on hand, how hard are you making on yourself to limit calories from sweets?

Are there some foods you just shouldn't keep in your house?
There are no good foods and bad foods. And foods that are good for some people may be bad for others. For example, let's take salad dressing. For some people using light or reduced fat salad dressing helps them control their calories because it is about half the calories. Other people tell me that prefer the full flavor of regular salad dressing and use less of it because of that. Still others may need a very low sodium diet, and when fat is removed from a food, salt is often added, so a low-fat dressing may be a worse choice for them. Still others may already have too much fat in their salad from cheese, meats, croutons, etc. and may opt for a fat-free dressing to control fat and calories. Everyone has different nutritional needs, and food choices must be tailored to the individual and what will help them be a healthier version of themselves.

You offer a program where you will come into people's homes and help them make over their kitchens. What exactly does this entail?

  • Examine food choices
  • Assess availability of healthy and unhealthy foods
  • Help stock a healthy pantry and eliminate unhealthy foods from house
  • Suggest healthy alternatives for the unhealthy foods found in the house (or suggestions for controlling portion sizes of unhealthy foods) Home environment evaluation
  • Cleanliness and availability of kitchen table
  • Cleanliness and organization of fridge/pantry/freezer
  • Availability of electronic distractions (TV, etc.)
  • Size of dishes, utensils, serving dishes, and storage containers
  • Where healthy food is stored in comparison to where unhealthy food is stored (e.g. Are apples stored in the fridge drawer while cookies are sitting out on the counter?)
  • Sanitation
  • Accessibility of basic cooking equipment and utensils
  • Is the kitchen an enjoyable space to cook in? Clean, organized, uncluttered, well lit, well stocked, music, etc.
  • Bare shelves vs over-stocked pantry?

If someone doesn't know where to start when it comes to healthy eating; what's your best piece of advice?
Ask for help! We offer a complimentary 30-minute nutrition consultation where you can sit down with me and we can explore options that might be right for you. At Mettler Center we believe in accountability and social support so whether you're hitting up a group exercise class or trying to overhaul your diet we believe we are stronger together than alone. Often times, people just need someone to help get them started and once they have the proper tools they can then maintain on their own and check in as needed for extra accountability.