I know very few people who don’t feel like they could eat healthier and create a more healthy kitchen, including me. Taking steps to cook and dine more healthily aren’t that difficult to implement; it’s just a matter of taking the Nike plunge: Just do it. Here are a few tips to help get started.
Mealtime should be thought of as quality time. That means putting away your phones, turning off the TV, tablets, video games and such, and sitting down to an actual table to dine. The French ― who know a thing or two about dining ― think that discussing work during a meal is bad for digestion, so try to focus instead on the food you’re enjoying, that someone went to the trouble to prepare, and strive to savor the company of your meal mates at mealtime as well as the food.
Organize your fridge, pantry, cupboards and such, to optimize making healthy food choices. For example, place fresh fruits and veggies front and center on the counter or within easy reach in the refrigerator, preferably at eye level where you’re more likely to reach for them. It’s best if you don’t buy junk food at all (but who doesn’t?). So at least store less healthy foods in the back of a cupboard or pantry where they’re somewhat out of reach, with the hope that you’ll grab a banana as opposed to a bag of Cheetos. Get creative. Discover your inner artist and enhance the appeal of your kitchen or dining room by making a still life of your fruits and vegetables.
Keeping appliances and kitchen equipment like crockpots, blenders, juicers and such where they’re easy to get to ― as opposed to under the sink or in the back of a kitchen closet ― means you’ll be more likely to use them. And that means that you will also be more likely to make nourishing meals and snacks from scratch, as opposed to turning to fast foods and processed fare.
It may sound obvious, but you should get in the habit of reading the labels on packaged foods. Simply put, if you don’t know what an ingredient is in your food, you probably shouldn’t be buying and eating it.
Stock up on herbs and spices and keep them handy. Fresh herbs and bold spices make foods more interesting and flavorful and are more healthy than enhancing dishes with ingredients like salt and butter. You can easily grow fresh sprouts, basil, scallions and the like in a kitchen window. Another trick to enhancing flavor that professional chefs frequently employ is adding a small splash of lemon juice or vinegar to soups, sauces, stews and many other foods to brighten dishes. Lemon juice isn’t just for drizzling on fish!
Professional chefs know that footwear is crucial; they don’t cook in flip-flops or slippers. I recommend buying padded anti-fatigue kitchen mats to save wear and tear on your feet and knees. Cooking requires a lot of standing so you need footwear with good support. I’m not a huge fan of Crocs, but a lot of chefs swear by them. At the very least, throw on some sneakers for the time you spend slaving over a hot stove.
Many of us eat until we are full, which is usually too much food. So work to exercise portion control. One way of doing that is to serve food on or in smaller plates and bowls so that they look full but actually are smaller servings. Again, the French are really good at this ― take your time when eating. Don’t rush through meals.
Make time to enjoy the foods you’ve prepared and use mealtime as an opportunity to catch up and sincerely listen to those with whom you’re breaking bread.
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