Eating well is not just about what you eat, but how you eat, and your environment ultimately shapes those behaviors. If you try to stay away from the heart of the home—the kitchen—out of fear of derailing your diet, it's time for a kitchen makeover. And no, it won't require a hammer, a fresh coat of paint or a $20,000 budget. With a few simple tricks, you can transform your family's favorite room into the ultimate health-food spa.
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Recipe to Try: Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip
If you rush home from work in a "hangry" state, chances are you'll grab the first snack you see. Make sure it's a good one by placing the healthiest options in clear containers at the front of the fridge at eye level, and hiding any of the kiddos' treats or entertaining leftovers in opaque containers toward the back. I keep baggies and containers of fresh fruit, carrots, hummus and yogurt near the front of the fridge so that the choice is so fast, I can't even remember we have chips in the pantry.
Recipe to Try: Butternut Squash Carbonara with Broccoli
Research suggests that larger plates and bowls tend to mean larger portions, because bare space makes us feel deprived. So keep your salad plates and small soup bowls nearby, while storing your full-size dinner plates in a higher-up cupboard out of reach. If you're still hungry after filling the smaller bowl, then of course, go back and grab seconds, but you'll at least have bought yourself some time to listen to your satiety cues.
Recipe to Try: Brussels Sprout & Potato Hash
"Eating the rainbow" is a great way to get a variety of healthy foods, but why not eat off the rainbow, too? Scientists have discovered that an optical illusion called the Delboeuf effect affects perception of amounts, to the extent that eating off a plate that is the same color as your food could increase consumption by 18 percent. Why? Well, like-color food tends to blend into the background, making it difficult to comprehend the portion at hand. Dining on white rice? Choose a bright red or yellow plate to ensure the rice portion really pops! Loading up on steak? Go for a clean white plate to let that protein shine.
Recipe to Try: Peanut Butter-Oat Energy Balls
Whether your snack food of choice is potato chips, trail mix, pretzels or salted peanuts, treating yourself occasionally doesn't have to sabotage your diet. But if sitting down with the family-size bag is typically the first step for your mindless snack attack, it's time to do some preventative prep! Immediately after your grocery haul, portion your go-to snacks into manageable portion-controlled bags so that you can easily grab one from the pantry and indulge guilt-free. Keep 1-ounce bags of almonds and 3-cup portions of air-popped popcorn in the pantry and stock your fridge with perfectly portioned energy balls or chia pudding in mason jars.
While the average American adult spends over 10 hours a day glued to some type of screen, it's time to make eating your reason to escape. Studies suggest that people who eat while distracted by technology tend to ignore their hunger and satiety signals and, as a result, tend to eat beyond their needs. Who hasn't been sucked into a juicy episode of "Game of Thrones" only to realize you've plowed through an entire family-size platter of pasta by the ending credits? Get the television out of the dining room, and leave all of the phones at the door. (But if you absolutely have to take an Insta pic, grab it quickly, then power down.)
Tired of boring plain baked chicken breasts? Can't choke down another forkful of kale? We got you. Get inspired to add low-calorie, low-sugar flavor to naturally nourishing foods with a well-stocked pantry of condiments and spices. Liven up your salads by filling your cupboards with unique oils and vinegars—think pepper vinegar or basil olive oil. Also, explore different hot sauces, mustards and sexy spice blends (check the sodium on these) the next time you're at a farmers' market. Za'atar-seasoned shrimp, anyone?
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We all know we probably can stand to drink more water, so if you're constantly forgetting to refill your glass, keep your favorite water bottle, filter or water cooler on the counter. Seeing all of your water paraphernalia every time you walk into the kitchen will help remind you to drink that H2O!
Recipe to Try: 90-Calorie Cinnamon-Raisin Oatmeal Cookies
When you keep sweets and treats peppered throughout the kitchen, you'll end up stumbling upon them even when you're trying to locate something healthy. Instead, keep the chips, cookies, candies and cakes packed away in a single drawer or cupboard so that you only need to see them when you're specifically hunting for a treat.
There's a new reason to tell your family members to put away their dirty dishes! According to research, messy environments, like a cluttered kitchen, tend to initiate an out-of-control mindset which carries over into daily eating behaviors. When study participants were in a cluttered kitchen, they consumed almost three times more cookies than they did in a tidy space! Neat freaks, rejoice!
Like any dream renovation, you don't have to make all these changes at once. But bit by bit, these simple, mindful hacks have the power to build a healthier dining hub in your home.