It is vitally important to stock your kitchen with healthy foods. When your kitchen is filled with pre-packaged mixes and meals, unhealthy snacks and an unlimited supply of foods filled with empty calories, you are basically sabotaging any attempts you may make at healthier eating.
In order to develop and sustain better eating habits, you must have a kitchen stocked with good quality, healthy food. So, the first step may be to take inventory of your food supply and eliminate all the foods that contribute to poor eating habits. OUCH! That could be a scary process for some – depending on the amount of unhealthy food that has collected on your pantry shelves and in your refrigerator. BUT . . . you have to start somewhere. So, removing all the foods that take you down the path of poor eating habits is the first step.
When you are hungry and look through the cabinets for something to eat, if are like me, you eat whatever is available. Keeping cookies in the pantry or ice cream in the freezer is simply too tempting, I can almost guarantee that you will eat them – eventually. If you want to stop eating unhealthy foods, you simply must not keep them around. If they are not readily available in your kitchen, you no longer have to make the choice of eating them, or not.
Once your pantry and refrigerator are clean, the next step is to pay attention to how you shop. The act of resisting temptation starts when you are in the grocery store. Avoiding the temptation to buy foods that you know you don’t want to eat (or should not eat) is the first step toward changing your eating habits.
Before we discuss how to stock a healthier kitchen, let’s deal with some of the false beliefs, which may be preventing you from eating better.
- “I can’t throw away all that food. I will use what I have first and then replace it with better choices.” – This is a ridiculous statement! As long as you tell yourself such hogwash, you will NOT change your eating habits for the better. There are alternative choices to eating or throwing away the unwanted (bad) food in your kitchen.
You can donate canned goods, boxes of pasta, and other packaged goods to the local food bank. There is no reason to throw away usable foods when someone else can use them. Check the dates and make sure the packaging is sealed. The only things you should throw away are items like a half eaten carton of ice cream or open packages of cookies – simply drop them in the garbage, forget them, and don’t buy any more.
- “Eating healthy is too expensive” – If you plan well and shop wisely, you will actually save money. Become a smart shopper, use a list, and buy only what you know you will use so that you do not end up throwing away spoiled food. Frozen fruits and vegetables are viable options to use in place of fresh produce on occasion (but do not do this all the time).
When whole grain bread is on sale, buy several loaves and freeze them immediately until needed. When thawed, you will never know the difference.
Start buying lean meats, chicken, and pork from a good butcher shop that sells quality, fresh meat (preferably grain-fed beef). Buy in quantities when on sale, divide it into appropriate serving portions for your family and freeze immediately until needed. Word of caution – always date foods you put in your freezer, rotate them, and use them within three months.
Learn to “Cook Ahead” and freeze meals so that you know the foods you are serving are made with healthy ingredients and are better for your family’s health. (Check out my book, Cook Ahead – Freezer to Table for more information on freezing foods and meals.)
- “My kids won’t eat healthy foods” – If you have been serving high-fat foods filled with empty calories, the change will take some effort. Long-term eating habits can be difficult to change, but not impossible.
It will take some focused effort (and persistence) on your part, but you can do it if you believe it is important enough. The natural sweetness of nuts, fruits, and some vegetables as discussed in a previous post can lower the desire for high calorie sugary snacks. You can also begin to lower the calorie content by making their favorite meals with low fat milk and other substitutions – the change in taste will probably go unnoticed.
If you have never introduced healthy foods to them, they have never had the chance to develop a taste for them. It is never too late to help them (and you) discover the natural flavors of really good food.
The next post will help you with an important step in this process . . . how to stock your kitchen for a healthier diet.
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