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December 30, 2010

Eat Better: Make a Fresh Start in the Kitchen

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

It's a new year and you're looking to improve your eating habits.  

Forget about making drastic diet and exercise regimens.  An organized kitchen may be just the ticket to better nutrition and easier weight control for you and your family.

Just the thought of a cluttered kitchen can be so exhausting that it saps your motivation to shop for, and prepare, healthy foods.  Clean and orderly refrigerators, freezers, cabinets, and kitchen counters allow you easily assess what foods you have on hand, and what you need to buy, which helps avoid waste. An organized approach to meals and snacks means you rely on fewer convenience and take-out foods, which save on time, but are more expensive, less nutritious, and higher in fat and calories than what you make at home.

Here's a simplified approach to getting your kitchen in order.

Purge

Sacrifice the days-old leftovers in the fridge, food that's passed its expiration date, and the Christmas cookies and breads lingering on kitchen countertops. Scan the freezer for foods to toss, too. If you can't remember when you put something in the deep freeze, it's probably been there too long.  In the future, date your leftovers and use them in a timely fashion to avoid wasting food.

Clean

Scrub down your refrigerator, freezer, countertops, stove and cabinets. Clean surfaces reduce bacterial growth, and help to keep you safe from foodborne illness. Invest in a thermometer for your refrigerator and make sure it always registers at or below 40˚F to keep foods freshest and avoid spoilage that costs money.

Plan

Invest in a paper calendar, or use an electronic one, to manage family activities.  The whereabouts of family members during the dinner hour will dictate what type of meal to prepare each night.  

Then, plan dinners for at least Monday through Friday. If you're not sure what to make, visit the Hood Kitchen  for easy and delicious recipes, and be sure to check out one of my favorite books, 7-Day Meal Planner for Dummies by Susan Nicholson, RD.

Shop

Now that you know what you're making for dinner, you need to shop for the ingredients.

My grocery list changes from week to week, but not by much. Here are some essential ingredients I always have on hand for fast and easy healthy meals and snacks:

Fridge:

Hood Milk
Eggs
Trans-fat free tub margarine
Whole grain bread, hamburger buns and English muffins
Fruits
Veggies
Hood Low Fat Cottage Cheese


Freezer:

Pork tenderloin
Boneless, skinless chicken breast
Roaster chicken
Ground sirloin
Frozen vegetables
Frozen waffles

Cabinets:

Whole grain breakfast cereal
Canned tuna fish
Salmon (in pouches or cans)
Peanut butter (or sunflower seed butter)
Pasta
Rice
Nuts


Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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