Four Healthy Changes That Start in Your Kitchen Cabinets

By , Lea Schneider
If you've committed to a healthier lifestyle, both for yourself and for your family, the key to success may just lie in feng shui-ing your kitchen. Making the right changes to your kitchen cabinets could be the extra push you need to eat healthier in the coming year. 
Keep in mind that no kitchen is created equal—each kitchen should be organized specifically for the family using it. Some are big party entertainers, while others have kitchens full of toddler and baby gear, and still others are into gourmet cooking. Each kitchen has its own arrangement that works to best meet the family's needs. The same applies to a kitchen with an emphasis on creating healthy habits.
Updating kitchen cabinets to include built-in modern organizational elements like pull-out shelving, as well as changing how and where you store items, can lead to lifelong healthy changes.
Launch your new initiative on health by getting in your kitchen and making these four simple remodeling and reorganizing changes.

Make a Pantry Push

Up-to-date cabinets are designed to be user friendly, which is very important—the easier it is to grab healthy dinner ingredients, the less likely you are to reach for a Hungry Man meal. Cabinets with pull-out shelves help you access every inch of space, which means no more losing ingredients to back corners or disorganization. To get started, tackle the food in your cabinets with these tips:
  • Remove foods you've decided are not in line with your particular dietary goals. Unopened packages and containers can be generously donated to a local food bank.
  • Store essential ingredients by the stove. Choose a cabinet with a Lazy Susan or add turntables to an existing cabinet to organize all of your cooking oils, vinegars and other liquid ingredients, such as soy sauce or hot sauce. Use a dedicated area, such as a shelf or organizer in your cabinet, to store your spices.
  • Create a dedicated shelf or cabinet for dinnertime meal preparation items. Having everything organized together makes it easier to grab healthy ingredients and throw together a chili or stir-fry than to give in to take-out or call for pizza. Sort like items together, such as canned beans and vegetables in one area and fruits in another.
  • Use canisters or baskets to hold selections of whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice and whole-grain pastas.
  • Make a list of shelf-stable items to keep on hand for quick but healthy meals. For example, keeping canned tomatoes, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and whole-wheat penne pasta in the pantry gives you the building blocks of a quick pasta primavera on hectic nights.

Mindful Snacking

Take advantage of great cabinet features like adjustable shelving or pull-out shelves to create a healthy snacking center. Snacking by the handful and mindlessly choosing your food are diet downfalls, but you can easily turn it into an advantage.
  • Make ''grabbing the first thing you find'' when you are hungry work for you. Put nutritious snack items like raw almonds front and center in your cabinet so they are the first thing you see when you want to snack.
  • Raise shelving to add stackable baskets to hold fruit, such as apples, oranges and bananas that don't need refrigeration. Use the tall spaces to hold clear canisters of healthy snacks like dried fruit and nuts, rather than chips or cookies.
  • Make yourself work for treats. Locate any junk food you are keeping in the house in a cabinet that isn't easy to reach—perhaps over the fridge or at the tip-top of the pantry. Yes, they are still there, but the new placement will force you to think twice before consuming.
  • Pay attention to serving size. To avoid eating a whole bag of snacks, use a pull-out shelf or deep drawer to hold baskets of snacks that you've divided into serving-size portions or buy pre-packaged (and pre-portioned) snacks. You can also buy an extra set or two of measuring cups. Leave measuring cups in the pantry cabinet in front of the snacks, so you can pour out the right amount every time.

Conquer Cookware

Every chef has go-to cookware they love using, but that isn't necessarily easily accessible. If you are crawling on the floor to dig into back corners and dark shelves, to find your favorite pan, consider making it easier to reach your cooking tools.
  • Update cabinets with deep drawers that will hold pots and pans, or pull-out shelves so you can view everything at once. Reorganizing pots and pans can make a big difference in making cooking much easier, and much more enjoyable, too.
  • Dig into your cookware. Start by setting out your go-to items—maybe your favorite non-stick skillet, your big pasta pot or a slow-cooker. Look at the remaining items in the area where you keep cookware. Ask yourself how often you use the other items. Then, place the most-used items front and center in pull-out drawers or easy-to-access cabinet locations. This small adjustment will make it easier to use your cookware and return them after washing. Apply the same technique to small appliances.

Get the Dish on Your Dishes

Portion control is easier if you have knowledge of the real size of your dishes and choose the right one. Make glass-front cabinets, popular in remodeled kitchens today, work for your healthy eating plan.
  • Put attractive and appropriate sized dishes on display, and then use them to create beautiful plates of food that are the perfect portion size. Often, people portion out their food based on whether or not the plate they’re using looks full. Dinner plates often hold much more food than we should be consuming in a meal, so rearranging your dish cabinet with smaller, lunch-size plates in and easy-to-grab location will save you a bunch of calories. Place large dinner plates on a top shelf.
  • Use a measuring cup and pour water into your favorite bowls to learn how much each size holds. You might be surprised! You may wish to place your small bowls front and center and move extra-large bowls out of the way. Or, just know that those extra-large ones are truly salad bowls—not cereal or chip bowls.
  • Be sure to peek in your glasses cabinet and measure the content sizes of drinking glasses and coffee mugs. A mug of coffee is not the same as one measured cup!
Being mindful of what you keep in your kitchen cabinets and where everything is located is key to making the transition to healthy eating a seamless one. Start with the right cabinets for your kitchen that allow access to your tools and ingredients for whole, home-cooked meals. Let this year be the year you stick to eating better.