It’s easy to be confused by all the contradictory health and dietary information we’re bombarded with daily. While most of us instinctively know what we should be eating — real food, not too much of it, and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables — temptations, habits, and mindless eating often lead us astray.
But without us realizing, our kitchens could also be working against our efforts to be healthy. But, a smart kitchen can encourage smart choices and even lead to weight loss. Below, the experts explain how.
Beware of the display.
Food psychologist and author of Slim By Design ($26.99, Amazon), Dr. Brian Wansink, has researched how “mindless eating” habits can be channeled into making better health choices.
“One thing we’ve found is any food that’s on your kitchen counter is more likely to be eaten than food which isn’t,” he says. “Our study showed if you have chips on your kitchen counter, you weigh about 10 pounds more than your neighbor who doesn’t. If you have breakfast cereal visible anywhere on the bench, you’re going to weigh about 19 pounds more than your neighbor.”
Conversely, having healthy foods on display can produce major health benefits. “People with fruit bowls weigh almost 13 pounds less than their neighbor who doesn’t,” says Brian. “It’s like you see it and go, ‘that’s an idea, I’ll have an apple.’”
Zoe Bingley-Pullin, celebrity chef, nutritionist, and founder of Falling in Love with Food says a well-maintained kitchen can contribute to healthier choices. “Keeping the kitchen clean and free of mess avoids feelings of overwhelm and chaos, which can lead to poor food choices or opting to call the local take out.”
Smarten your storage.
How and where food is stored can have a huge impact on dietary choices — those same tricks that supermarkets use to encourage us to buy are also at play in our own kitchens. “Avoid storing ‘treats’ at eye level so when reaching for a snack, treats aren’t right before your eyes,” suggests Zoe.
“You’re three times more likely to eat the first food you see than you are the fifth food you see,” says Brian. “Our research shows one of the most basic — and easiest — changes to make in ensuring the first foods you see when opening your fridge or pantry are the healthy ones you want to eat more of.”
A kitchen well-stocked with healthy foods will always lead to healthier eating choices and, to help you achieve this, Zoe suggests keeping a shopping list in a handy spot (such as on the fridge door), writing down exactly what you need to purchase each week and only buying what is on the list to avoid impulse buys.
Plate up or down.
Even the size of our plates can influence weight gain or loss because it has a significant impact on the size of the portions you serve up, even though you may not be aware of it.
“Our research has shown you serve yourself in proportion to the size of the plate you’re serving on,” explains Brian. “You might put three ounces on a nine-inch plate, but if that plate is a little bigger, say 11-inches, you’ll add about 22 percent more.”
In addition to being aware of portion size relative to plate size, Brian recommends pre-plating food directly from the stove rather than having a big bowl sitting at the dining table, citing an 18 percent reduction in food eaten.