It never fails. You’ve settled in for the evening to watch your favorite movie or read a book and you happen to glance towards the kitchen. Your body has already told you it’s full—there’s no need to add any more fuel.
But your mind taunts you with the delicious, rich and oh so smooth ice cream that’s hiding out in the freezer. Come to think of it, there’s also the leftover pizza and even a bag of M & M’s waiting to be devoured.
You find yourself asking one simple question: How do I stay on track with my health and fitness goals for 2017?
The answer is actually quite simple—your kitchen needs a makeover.
The kitchen poses one of the biggest challenges for people on their health and weight loss journey and in order to make new habits stick and old ones disappear, your cooking and eating space must match your new lifestyle.
But why can’t I just exercise to lose weight?
There’s no denying that exercise will boost your metabolism, strengthen your bones and muscles, and generally just make you feel good, but unfortunately that is not enough in the battle to lose weight.
Fitness and health experts have been debating the age old question of what leads to quicker and longer lasting weight loss for years, and what both sides seem to always agree on is that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.
And research from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggest just that. Researchers found that the addition of diet to a physical activity intervention leads to more weight loss than the addition of physical activity to a dietary program.
This hints at the relative importance of dietary change as the key component of weight-loss programs.
Should I just focus on my diet instead?
All of this leaves many health conscious people asking one question: Should I abandon my workouts and just eat heathy instead?
That answer is still a clear no, and here’s why: Regular exercise has been called the best medicine for health and longevity because of its long list of physical and mental health benefits.
And it’s still widely known that the most effective way for most people to lose weight and experience long-term improved health and wellness is to pair a calorie-conscious healthy eating plan with adequate exercise.
Phillip Stanforth, a professor of exercise science at the University of Texas and the executive director of the Fitness Institute of Texas, explains that in the short-term, diet is far more important for shedding pounds, but over the long-term, regular workouts are critical to keeping that weight off and staying fit.
So in your quest to improve your fitness, lose a few pounds, and boost your overall health, it’s important to look at your home environment—and specifically your kitchen—as your first priority towards making long-lasting changes.
The following tips will help get you started on overhauling your kitchen and creating a space that is more heath conscious and supportive of your weight loss and fitness goals.
1. Clean the Clutter
Take an afternoon to clean out and arrange all of your food, storage, and cooking items so that they are easier to access. This will help make it easier to cook and will help motivate you to spend more time in the kitchen.
2. Remove Food From the Counter (unless it is fruit)
Find a place for your food in drawers, cabinets, and glass containers and place them out of sight.
3. Get the Electronics Out of the Kitchen
You are more likely to graze on food and not even realize it if you have a television or iPad turned on.
4. Have Your Kitchen Utensils Handy
Put measuring spoons and containers where you can easily access them until you are comfortable eyeballing portion sizes.
5. Invest in Good Cooking Utensils and Cookware
Measuring cups, vegetable peeler, non-stick muffin pan, vegetable steamer, slow cooker, mini food processor, rice cooker, blender, 12” skillet pan, 2-quart sauce pot, chopping and cutting knives, cutting board, glass storage containers, mixing and serving bowls, are all good investments for your kitchen.
6. Have Clean, Cut-Up Fruit and Vegetables Ready
Clean and cut up half of your produce and place into ziplock bags or containers for easy grab and go. If you do this twice a week, you will have fresh fruit and vegetables available all week long.
7. Have Pre-Cooked Food Available in Your Refrigerator
Lean sources of protein (chicken, ground beef, turkey, salmon, eggs, etc), rice, quinoa, pre-soaked beans, mason jar salads, low-fat dairy, and sweet potatoes cut up into fries.
8. Hide the Snacks
You are more likely to reach for the food that you see first, so make sure the healthy choices are the first ones you see. If you live alone or have a partner that is making lifestyle changes with you, resist buying snack foods. However, if you have a family, skipping out on the snack foods altogether might be difficult. After shopping, place these items on top shelves and only buy deserts once a week.
9. Use Smaller-Sized Plates
By downsizing, you may find that your portions automatically decrease and you eat less.
10. Keep Water with Lemon on the Counter or in the Fridge
Drinking water between meals and during food prep can help eliminate snacking.
Photo: Wendy, CC-BY
Sara Lindberg is a freelance writer specializing in health, fitness, and wellness.