April is here—and if you haven’t already jumped into spring cleaning mode (what, you decided to sleep in this weekend instead?), now’s the time to give the busiest room in your home a facelift.
Yep, we’re talking a total kitchen makeover—no demolition required. We’re not adding marble countertops or unveiling a new subway tile backsplash. Instead, we’re going to remodel the inside of your cabinets, fridge, freezer, and kitchen drawers. Getting organized and clearing out clutter is as easy as making a few simple changes—and it’ll help you make healthier choices, and even lose weight, all year long.
Problem: Your messy kitchen makes you crave unhealthy snacks
Solution: Declutter your counter
Between the coffee maker, drying rack, spice holder, and blender, small appliances alone can make your kitchen feel cramped and cluttered. Pile on top of that the stuff you know inevitably ends up taking space on your counter, like unopened mail, kids’ art projects, magazines, and paperwork and you’re left with a very chaotic space. Other than being annoying—constantly shuffling things around just to make room to chop an onion isn’t ideal—that mess could be screwing with your waistline.
One recent study out of Cornell University suggests a link between disorganized kitchens and unhealthy eating. Researchers found that a chaotic environment might make it harder to resist junk food, especially when people already feel out of control or stressed.
Help yourself make better choices by keeping counters clean and pristine. Store small appliances in cabinets, recycle or compost mail immediately, organize any papers you need to keep, and if you’re storing fruit or veggies outside of the fridge, use a fruit bowl to keep everything in one place. (Wondering what goes in the fridge and what goes on the counter? Read this.)
Problem: You keep reaching for junk food when you open your pantry
Solution: Put healthy options at eye level
Reorganizing your pantry can totally change how you eat. Think about it: Most of the time when you’re reaching for a snack, you’re looking for something that’s convenient, relatively simple to prepare, and satisfying. That’s why a handful of chips, a chocolate-covered “protein” bar, or a few cookies seems so much easier than almond butter and an apple.
First, keep enough healthy options on-hand to make it easy to grab a good-for-you snack between meals. Whole food nutrition bars, seaweed snacks, or vegan superfood cookies do a better job of curbing cravings and fighting hunger than sugar- and sodium-loaded processed foods. Then, put that good stuff front-and-center in the pantry, so you see it right away—and are therefore more likely to reach for it.
As for the unhealthier items (most of us have at least a few), store ’em in hard-to-reach high shelves or toward the back of the pantry. Like that unopened jar of cannellini beans you bought last winter, if you can’t see it, you might not eat it. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Problem: Your portion sizes are way too big
Solution: Lose the oversized plates and kitschy utensils (maybe)
Time to throw out those huge, Central Perk–inspired coffee mugs, extra-large pasta plates, and cow-shaped cheese knife—all could be causing you to eat more.
According to a review of 72 studies published by Cochrane Library last year, people consistently consume more food, unknowingly, when served on bigger plates with larger portions. The researchers found that people ate nearly 13 percent more calories when overserved, which could translate to thousands of calories a week. And it didn’t matter if people were overweight or average, they always ended up eating more. Using salad plates or smaller dishware could keep portions more normal, and help you resist overeating in the long run.
And a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research revealed that using a doll-shaped ice cream scoop made people serve 22 percent more ice cream, maybe because they're thrown off by the cuteness (seriously). It seems that whimsical, adorable products might encourage more indulgent behavior. If trading out that adorable butter knife and the kitschy bread basket for more utilitarian, clean-lined products is enough to keep us from unwittingly going overboard—we’re all for it!
Problem: You store food in the freezer, but never end up using it
Solution: Make your freezer user-friendly
Not unlike the pantry, your freezer can turn into a leftover black hole. Even if you have everything you need to make that metabolizing green smoothie, you might not realize it because the ingredients are hiding behind microwaveable pizzas.
An organized freezer is a healthy eater’s best ally. Arrange yours in a way that makes sense to you—but if you’re stumped, here are a few ways to get started.
- The shelves on the door are the warmest area of the freezer, so they’re not ideal for things like ice cream or frozen meat. Instead, use them to store nuts, flour, chocolate, and alcohol, which should all be stored in the freezer to prevent them from going bad.
- Separate leftovers into individual serving sizes (versus freezing, say, an entire vat of soup). They’re more convenient to grab and reheat that way, and easier to organize and stack, too.
- Chop up ripe fruits and vegetables and freeze them in ziplock bags, so they’re ready to throw in smoothies.
- Label everything!
Problem: You’re storing your cleaning supplies under your sink, exposing your food to toxins
Solution: Go all-natural and choose eco-friendly products
Ok, this one might not make you lose five pounds immediately, but it’s incredibly important for maintaining healthy hormonal levels, which can control everything from how fast your metabolism is to how fat gets stored on your body.
If you keep bleach, glass cleaner, and an extra can of paint under your sink, you’re potentially exposing all of the food you cook in your kitchen to hormone-disrupting chemicals. Many household cleaning products contain hormone disruptors and result in tons of deleterious side effects like fertility problems, diminished sex drive, kidney disease, birth defects, and of course, metabolism dysfunction and weight gain. Not cool. Over time—as little as a few months—exposure to toxic chemicals does lead to weight gain. And, it’s really unhealthy. Toss the bad stuff and invest in green cleaning products that are approved by the Environmental Working Group.
Have any kitchen decluttering secrets? Share in the comments below!
Photo credit: Alicia Cho