The Kitchen Makeover

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…maybe it’s just your kitchen that’s terrible?

Recently, we talked about why it’s important to set up your home environment for healthy eating. If you’d like to incorporate this idea into your own eating plan, the Kitchen Makeover is a brilliant way to do it.

The plan is simple: If you make it easy to make healthy nutritional choices, and really inconvenient to make poor nutritional choices, you’ll usually make better choices.

If your kitchen is full of nothing but fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meat and nuts, what do you think you’re going to end up eating most of the time?

Conversely, if there’s nothing in the fridge but a sad-looking bag of slightly brown spinach, and there’s a bag of crisps sitting on your kitchen table, what are you more likely to eat?

This idea is summarised by Berardi’s First Law of Nutrition:

“If a food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it”

and it’s corollary

“If a healthy food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it.”

So think about your kitchen environment today. What things are making it easier for you to make healthy nutritional choices? And what’s making it harder?

What would life be like if you took every food and food-like edible substance that was leading you further away from your goals and threw it in the bin, before re-stocking the whole place from top to bottom with healthy options?

Probably better, right?

So, the next thing we need is some kind of system for deciding what’s going, what’s staying and what needs to be added. The way to do this is with the Red Light, Orange Light, Green Light concept.

The Green Light category is all the stuff you know you should be eating, but probably aren’t doing enough of. Lots of colourful fresh fruits and vegetables, all kinds of meats and fish, nuts, and other things that do not come in packets or have more than one ingredient. Generally, anything perishable will go in this category. Real food goes off if you don’t eat it, unhealthy crap will happily sit on a shelf for years.

The Red Light category is:
1) anything past it’s use-by date, and
2) anything that’s a trigger food for you.

What’s a trigger food? This is usually processed junk, sweets, biscuits, things with lists of 75 different ingredients (70 of which you can’t pronounce), cakes etc

If you’ve got alcohol in the house, it’s your call. You have to decide how much drinking is right for you, and if you feel it’s something that leads into poor nutritional choices.

We all have those foods that just push our buttons and drive us into unhealthy eating behaviour. For me it’s Oreos. I’m physically incapable of having a moderate, sensible quantity of Oreos. It’s going to be the entire packet, and I’m probably going to go looking for more afterwards. Keeping packets of these things sitting around my house would be about as clever as leaving heroine around an addict and telling them to just practise moderation. Not going to happen.

We don’t talk about “good food” and “bad food” around here because 1) We’re grown-ups and 2) We don’t believe there is a moral dimension to food. It’s not good OR bad, it just is.

What we DO do is make informed, grown-up decisions about our choices, and recognise that some choices lead us in one direction, and others lead us in different ones.

The Red Light category also includes sneaky things that pretend to be food, but when you read the label you discover it’s actually a bunch of heavily processed nonsense. So read your labels!

Now, maybe you’re not ready to let go of your own red light foods just yet, and that’s fine too. At the very least, think about ways of making them hard to get to. Can you move them to a different part of the house, so your eyes don’t fall upon them when you open the cupboard? Or can you seriously reduce their quantity?

Lastly, we’ve got the Orange Light category, which is the negotiable section.

These are the foods that aren’t necessarily a mainstay of a healthy eating plan, but aren’t really dragging you off course.

For example, maybe having a small bag of croutons in your fridge makes it more likely that you’ll eat a big salad full of colourful, nutritious vegetables on a regular basis, and you’ve never found yourself sneaky into your kitchen at 11pm to binge eat all of them. In that case, keep them!

Or perhaps those highly processed protein-bars in the cupboard are the thing that prevent you ordering pizza when you come home starving late at night. Probably a good idea to hold onto those too.

Those of you who live with other people will probably have to do some negotiating here. Ask yourself if there are ways to upgrade family favourite “treats” to healthier versions. Would they be happy enough with that fancy coconut ice cream instead of Ben&Jerrys? Could you make some of those processed sauces or salad dressings from scratch with better ingredients? Get a little creative here.

Perhaps you can agree to keep treats that others like, but you don’t find to be triggers for you. I.e If your Spouse “absolutely has to have” crisps, and you don’t really feel strongly about crisps one way or another, consider that a potential win-win.

Also, think about what’s “good enough” for right now.

Using these filters, think about your own kitchen and decide:

What has to go, and why?
What’s going to stay, and why?
What needs to be added, and why?

This can be a fairly small change the yields pretty shocking results.

Make it really easy to eat well, and really hard to ear poorly.  Chances are your diet will improve!

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