Who hasn’t planned to eat healthy only to have your lettuce go bad in the back of your fridge as it fills up with takeout boxes? And pretty much everyone has been bummed to see that something you intended to use when whipping up a recipe was long forgotten behind brown bag lunches. The good news? Decluttering your fridge, pantry, and kitchen can not only make your feel accomplished, but can also make it easier to eat healthy, and ensure that you’re wasting less food and slashing your grocery bill. Read ahead for tried and true tips from experts on how to get organized.
1. Toss what you don’t need.
If a diet regimen or healthy eating plan is your aim, then the first thing you should do is get rid of foods that don’t fit into your overarching strategy. “The biggest mistake people make is putting unhealthy foods anywhere at all in their fridge,” says Pat Salber, M.D., founder of “The Doctor Weighs In.” “So as painful as it is, I suggest doing a thorough fridge-cleaning and throwing away (not giving away) [sugary] sodas, foods loaded with artificial ingredients (all that stuff with unpronounceable names), sugary yogurts, and super-caloric foods, including those sitting on your condiment shelves. If it is not there, you can’t eat it.”
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Other foods you might want to consider tossing include juice (which is loaded with sugar and lacks fiber) and commercially prepared salad dressings (which are packed with chemicals and preservatives), says Kimberly Snyder, nutritionist and New York Times best-selling author of the “Beauty Detox” book series and “Radical Beauty.” “Everything you see in your space should be supportive of your goals and reflective of how you want to live,” she says. “If it [is] not…just throw it away.”
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2. Use the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ rule.
Have a relative with a sweet tooth who refuses to live in a cookie-free home? A simple thing to do is keep unhealthy foods out of view, says registered dietitian Megan Denos, R.D.N. “One easy thing you can do now to make it easier to eat healthy is to remember ‘out of sight, out of mind.’” says Denos. “Keep the foods that you want ‘out of mind’ [like junk foods!] hidden away and in hard-to-access places.” If you have to whip out a step stool every time you want a handful of chips, you might be less likely to do it than if they hang out on your counter.
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3. Make a plan.
Having an organized kitchen starts with knowing what you’re going to get when you go food shopping, experts say. “The biggest mistake people make when organizing their fridge is buying food without having a plan, which usually leads to buying unnecessary items,” says Andres Ayesta, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., registered dietitian/nutritionist and owner of Vive Nutrition. “For example, buying five different types of vegetables without really having a plan on how you will cook them or eat them will likely cause them to stay there for a week before you toss them out.” Bottom line? Know before you go: Plot out what you’ll use each purchase for rather than throwing random things in your cart.
Snyder recommends stocking up your fridge with staples like leafy greens, healthy veggies, organic fruits, organic free-range local eggs, avocados, raw almonds, chia, unsweetened almond or coconut milk, and quinoa, to start.
4. Don’t overfill it.
The amount of food you buy will depend on your household and needs, but it’s important to avoid stuffing your pantry and fridge to the gills. “The biggest mistake people make when organizing their fridge or pantry is packing it so full that they don’t even know what’s in it,” says Denos. “ Let’s face it: you can’t eat food that you don’t know is there. In order to eat healthy foods, it’s important that you a) can easily see them and b) remember that they are there.”
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5. Keep the healthiest stuff in your eyeline.
Wondering where you should keep your veggies? Not hidden away in the back of your crisper drawer! “Don’t hide produce away in the bottom drawers,” says Denos. “It’s so easy to forget about all of your fresh fruits and vegetables when they are tucked away in the bottom drawers of your refrigerator. By keeping them out in the open (and at eye-level), you’ll remember that you have them and eat them before they go bad.” This also goes for your pantry: if it’s at eye level, it will be top of mind. “Keep healthy foods at eye-level (probably the middle shelf of your fridge or pantry),” she says. “Since this is where your eyes will go first, choosing the healthier options will be a no brainer.”
Fruits, meanwhile, will “live happily in a basket in plain sight,” says Salber, perfect for making sure you actually see them when you’re hankering for something to eat.
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6. Do prep work.
Once you have your meal plan designed, and your food purchased, prep work is the next step to making your life easier. “Get the tedious work out of the way,” Ayesta says. “As soon as you do your groceries, prep all your food to have it ready for cooking: pre cut your vegetables and store them in sealed containers like mason jars to preserve them longer, portion the meats you will be eating in the next 2-3 days in Ziploc bags. Leave foods that last longer in your drawers (usually dressings, and canned products).”
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By putting this leg work in early, you’ll fly through cooking the next few days. Bon appetit!
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