9 Kitchen Hacks to Help You Eat Healthier
A well-organized kitchen certainly feels good mentally. But the way you set your kitchen up can do wonders for you physically, too. Yes, that’s right: Dr. Brian Wansink, author of Slim by Design ($19, amazon.com) and director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, says you can arrange your space so the healthiest choices are ones you don’t even have to think about. Here, nine of his best tools.
Declutter Your Counters Already
A messy counter can actually compel you to eat more, according to a study released last year that Wansink co-authored. The researchers found that women with messy kitchens—think: newspapers, dishes, bills, and more—ate twice as many cookies and snacks as women in a kitchen with clear counters who had access to the same snacks. Further study showed the difference seemed to be tied to how stressed the women felt—a disorganized kitchen led to out-of-control eating.
And Store Special Kitchen Tools or Appliances
You may love your vintage Kitchen Aid Mixer or custom Bundt pan collection, but these items can draw you to special occasion foods more than everyday healthy choices. Hide them, store them, or move them to the basement. As you declutter your countertop, only keep appliances on hand that will make healthy eating easier, such as the blender for smoothies. And ditch the easily accessible toaster: Wansink’s studies found that men in households with a toaster on the counter weigh an average of four pounds more than their neighbors who hide this common appliance.
But You Can Display a Fruit Bowl
In Wansink’s research, people with cereal, soda, and other snacks displayed on their counters weighed, on average, 20 pounds more than those who kept no food out. On the other hand, he found that putting fruit in a nice bowl, conveniently located, increased how much kids take by as much as 104 percent.
Eat Dinner Off Your Salad Plates
Try moving them to a lower shelf—this way you’ll use them more frequently than your dinner plates. Wansink’s studies show that the bigger the plate, the more we fill it, and the more we eat—up to 22 percent more. Aim to use salad plates in the 9- to 10-inch range, which you can fill with a more reasonable portion. But you shouldn’t go below 9 inches, either: “At that point you know you are fooling yourself and you go back for seconds or thirds or fourths,” Wansink says. The same rule applies for serving spoons (a bigger scoop can add up to 14 percent more food) and bowls, too.
And Swap Your Rocks Glasses for Highballs
The same logic for plates applies to your glasses, too. Wansink found that people perceive tall thin glasses as holding more than short, wide glasses even when they actually hold the same volume. As a result, people poured (and then consumed) almost 30 percent more when using the short glasses. “Opt for the illusion of the tall glass, and don’t pour all the way to the top,” he suggests. Make your taller, thinner glasses your everyday drinkware.
Retire Your Serving Bowls for Everyday Dinners
Big serving bowls on the dinner table for family-style eating only invite us to consume more, Wansink says. “On average, people eat 20 percent more of any food served off of the table than served off of [the] counter or stove,” he says. Serve any higher calorie food in the kitchen onto individual plates. That doesn’t mean you need to toss out all of your beautiful serving pieces—use them for special occasions when you expect to indulge, or for everyday meals, where you can serve salads or light vegetable sides family-style. Even better? Repurpose those dinner plates as vegetable platters.
Pull Your Grandmother’s Cookbooks Out of Storage
It’s no surprise that portion sizes have gotten larger over the years; in fact, Wansink discovered that calorie counts in the Joy of Cooking increased by 44 percent per serving over the past 70 years and seven editions. “If you need to use a modern cookbook, think half,” he says. “Make it and put half in the freezer before dinner starts.”
Haul Your Costco Buys to the Basement
Studies show that we eat half of what we purchase within the first week of buying it, and if we buy bulk, well… you do the math. So if you buy large quantities for the cash savings (or the hungry teenagers in your house), put what you need right away in the pantry and then move the extras deep in storage. Consider a “kids only” snack drawer out of reach of your regular path through the kitchen. Another idea is to take bulk and items and break them into small, single serving packages.
Play Hide and Seek With Your Food
Wansink says we eat what we see. Reorganize so your dishes are stored in any glass cupboards and then move food and snacks behind closed doors. He also recommends hiding any unhealthy foods in foil or in opaque containers, since leftovers wrapped in plastic or in clear containers get eaten faster. Place healtheir choices, like crudités, in glass containers, since you’ll be more likely to reach for those first.
And if you find yourself digging into your pantry multiple times a day, consider moving it to another spot altogether (if it’s practical), such as an old coat closet, basement, or anywhere that requires you to walk a little further to get to food. “We keep all of our snacks in the laundry room,” Wansink says. “If we want a snack, we know where to find them, but it’s not as easy as trolling through the cupboards.”