As you get started with your NEW CHALLENGE, cleaning out (or at the very least, reorganizing) your kitchen of those trigger foods and temptations is going to be KEY. You might be feeling strong and determined TODAY….but you WILL have those moments of weakness. Today I want to share with you how to change things up in your kitchen, pantry and fridge so that success is not just simple and convenient but visually enticing!
Step 1 – Pantry & Cupboards: Box The Junk
Get some boxes and/or bags. For the donate-able items (items that have not been opened and have not expired) you’ll need one box for frozen food, one for dry goods and one for refrigerated items. Then you’ll need one box for items that will need to go to the garbage.
Step 2 – Sort the Junk
Sort through your cupboards and pantry and get rid of any item that has ingredients you cannot pronounce or you don’t understand what it is. If you don’t recognize it as food, you won’t want to use it in your body. Here are a few examples of things to throw out: canned soups, canned pastas, Uncle Ben’s dishes, Kraft Dinners, most crackers, chips, jello, pudding packages, cold cereals, cake mixes and candy bars. This might seem extreme, but you are making way for some amazing changes to you and your family’s bodies and health. You will thank yourself later! Remember, you are an athlete in training. You need to use real food to fuel your body. If that box of lucky charms for your kids is constantly calling your name, ditch it. Stepping into your kitchen shouldn’t be anxiety producing! Make it easier on yourself to make health choices by eliminating the temptation of poor choices.
What will still be remaining is white sugar, white flour, brown sugar and dried pasta. These items will eventually need to be replaced with sprouted spelt or whole grain flours, real organic raw cane sugar (or preferably honey, agave nectar, coconut flakes and maple syrup), spelt or kamut dried pasta (don’t worry they’re not that much more than regular pasta and I think they taste better than whole wheat pasta), or use veggie substitutions (spaghetti squash, eggplant) couscous or quinoa. Either you make gradual changes and slowly replace these items, or you do it cold turkey. Either way, you want to stop buying these “foods”.
If you do decide to keep some of those foods that you know you should eventually replace, put them way up high where you would need a step stool!
I use the eye and chest level shelves to place the healthiest nonperishable items. So here is what you can find on my shelves:
- Brown Rice Unsalted (or low sodium) rice cakes
- Unsalted Raw Almonds, Cashews, Peanuts
- Old Fashioned Oats
- Protein Powder
- Canned Low Sodium black beans
- Canned low sodium diced tomatos
- Instant Brown Rice
- Dried Fruit such as craisins, raisins, cherries
- High quality protein bars (such as Quest or P90X bars)
Then, put things where family members know where to find them. I basically stock the same stuff all the time. I maintain a list and check off what I need. But there is no mystery. No one is opening the pantry and expecting a sudden influx of cookies or chips. Boring? YES!!!! Intentionally!!! You see, if you never knew what you might get when you opened the pantry, you’d go there first!!! I don’t want my family to eat from the pantry. The pantry is where emergency foods live. Let’s face it, with few exceptions, just about everything in your pantry is processed! The healthy stuff is in the fridge!!!
Step 3 – Refrigerator: Cold Junk Goes, Real Food Stays
The biggest offenders here will be condiments. BBQ sauce, fake pancake syrup, salad dressings, low fat or fat free, flavored yogurts, lunch meat and stir fry sauces. Some things you’ll want to hold onto are mustard & mayo (it’s so much better homemade but this might be another one of those transition products), butter, pickles, capers and hot sauce. Read the labels so that you know what is in the foods you use. That way when you go to the store to replace the empties, you will know what you need to look for as an alternative brand or product. Over time you’ll get really good at reading labels and some of the products you see now will also disappear, being replaced with better choices later. Better choices, as you restock, are full fat plain Greek yogurt, eggs, block cheese, fresh produce and milk, to name a few. Notice I mentioned nothing about soda, juices, energy drinks, alcohol…those foods will be reserved for once in awhile splurges. Don’t worry – you’ll survive!
Step 4 – Freezer: The Frozen Junk
I never realized how many people rely on frozen dinners. Growing up on a farm, growing our foods in the gardens, our freezer has always been a place to preserve our summer harvest. But unfortunately, that isn’t the case in most households. Normally, foods that people really don’t want to get rid of are kept here. The frozen pizzas, microwave dinners, frozen egg rolls or burritos, ice cream, pizza pockets and Freezie Pops…. what should remain are frozen vegetables, frozen berries and meat. This will be a haven for all the yummy food you’ll make in the future. Remember, you can always freeze a portion of your delicious clean eating prepped meals, for quick, easy real-food dinners.
Step 5 – Say Goodbye
Take all your boxes of unopened food loot out of the house and off the property immediately and don’t look back. Your local food pantry will appreciate your donation!
Have the right tools in the right places!
Each tool that you use on a daily basis should be kept close to the area where you prep your food. I suggest having the following all in one drawer, plastic container, or cupboard for quick and easy access:
- Paring knife
- Vegetable peeler
- Measuring cup
- 21 Day Fix containers for portioning
- Snack size plastic bags
- Plastic 1 cup size reusable containers
Use your containers or bags to portion snack foods You and I both know we are going to keep reaching into that bag of snacks or treats and eat well beyond an individual portion, ESPECIALLY those roasted almonds or trail mix. Here’s what I do: Repackage snacks into servings sized baggies and store in the FREEZER. Out of sight, out of mind..but they’re there for you when you need a fast snack or on-the-go food for the family. This makes it simple for grab and go snacking!
WHERE do you place your foods? Does it make a difference?
When we stand in front of the fridge, we tend to grab whatever food takes the least amount of time to prepare and that “looks good.” The healthy stuff, like fresh produce, we hide in the drawer that’s difficult to get to, and even easier to forget about until you notice a bad smell coming from your fridge! So when you get home from your weekly grocery shopping, I suggest that you clean and display your fruit in clear plastic containers or bowls, and place your fresh produce on the MIDDLE SHELF so it’s at eye level, prepped and ready to grab and eat. There are even pre-cut veggie options if you don’t have time! No excuses, right?
Arrange your Greek yogurt near the berries and veggies. Store cottage cheese nearby as well. Place healthy whole foods at eye level near the front of the shelf.
When you are building muscle, hard-cooked egg whites are a great source of lean protein, and they’re easy to prep so they’re ready to go! Boil a dozen eggs on Sunday night, then peel and place them in a large storage bag. Now, all you have to do is remove the yolk, dice up your egg whites, dump some salsa in there and BAM! Or you can just eat your egg whites on the go whole!
Other fast protein sources to be stored at eye level in your pantry include prepackaged tuna, salmon or chicken packets. Though they store well in the pantry, if you prefer them cold with your wrap or pita pocket keep them in visible sight in your fridge.
Now when you find yourself staring mindlessly into your fridge, you’ll see the stuff you should be eating! It’s washed, cut, enticing and ready to go!!
Replacing your old staples with new alternatives:
Look in your refrigerator for regular staples and read the ingredients label. Then ask yourself if you’re willing to try a healthier alternative. One thing that really helped me, is when I started to change the way I was eating, I was still feeding my kids the same old. And then one day, I thought to myself, if I wasn’t willing to put these foods in MY body, why would I feed it to my family?? Like PB&J every week, for example, or Grilled Cheese with processed American cheese? Would they notice if you subbed fresh fruit (bananas) in place of sugar laden jams and jelly? My kids prefer fresh fruit wraps to jelly any day. If you don’t say anything, they might actually love the changes! I love cheese but instead of buying a brick of it you can stock up on individually packaged string cheese! They are portion controlled and appropriately sized. I don’t have the time to look at the packaging to figure out how many ounces is a single serving. And switching out the processed cheese to real cheese slices was super easy, and a welcomed change for our family.
Let’s talk condiments… Ketchup now comes in all natural with no high fructose corn syrup, dijon mustard you can buy with no added sugar. I substitute Greek yogurt for recipes calling for sour cream, and nobody notices.
If you are not sure which brand or version is a better choice, there are great tools you can use to help you get started. My favorite is the Fooducate app which allows you to scan the bar codes of products for a food “rating”. Each item is given a grade based on its nutritional content, which makes it convenient for quick decisions. My kids really enjoyed helping me go through our pantry, scanning the barcodes, and helping me sort our foods. Involving THEM helped them to understand the “WHY” behind all the changes and helped get them on board.
Things to do right now to get started!!!
- Remove high fat, high sugar temptations from the kitchen.
- Survey the refrigerator for frequently consumed foods that can be swapped out by lower fat and reduced calorie alternatives.
- Stock up on small plastic food bags, snack containers, and clear plastic fruit bowls for display.
- Arrange prep tools in an easy to reach place. The fewer steps, the better!
- Spring clean your fridge, make room for the fresh stuff.
- Divide snacks into individual servings and arrange in the front and center of the pantry!
What If I Get Off Track?
The hardest part will probably be ridding your cupboards of white sugar and white flour. Did you realize that you can substitute whole wheat flour for most all recipes with little to no effect? AND the REAL sweeteners (honey and pure maple syrup) taste WAY better? Once you get accustomed to these changes, it will become your new norm. You will find yourself looking for recipes for your salad dressings using Greek yogurt and other ingredients you have on hand (without resorting to the boughten ones). You will get more confident and comfortable trying new recipes you and your family will love!
You can always join an online accountability group for help and support as you make these new changes to your family’s eating. Having the support, encouragement, and resources for new healthy recipes and options will help you see tremendous success with making this new lifestyle habit and routine! For details and to secure your spot, apply HERE