Spring Break may feel like it's long gone, but April is prime time for a Spring cleaning. Break out your brooms and open the pantry because all that junk food has got to go.
We all know that food companies spend millions of dollars on advertising campaigns, with plenty of it aimed at kids as well. The bright colors, pictures, and wording are all designed to catch your eye, be familiar, and make you hungry. This is why McDonald's and other fast food brands use a red and yellow color palette. It stimulates those hunger and happiness feelings in your brain; but don't let them get free advertising in your kitchen! A couple quick tips to de-brand your cabinets and restore a normal sense of what real healthy food is actually in your house.
'Out of sight-out of mind' is a great tool to get control of your pantry. Don't keep boxes of cereal or bags of chips on top of the refrigerator. When you're hungry that will be the first thing you're tempted to reach for and your brain won't be so inclined to remember any of the other food you have on hand. Even when you're digging through shelves and drawers to find a decent meal, your mind is stuck on those things that you saw first. The same goes for treats, cookies, random boxes of crackers, or that loaf of bread on the counter top. Dedicate a drawer or bin to keep these things at least partially out of sight. Bread lasts so much longer anyway if you store it in a bread box or cabinet, and you won't be tempted to grab a snack each time you walk near the kitchen. This is especially important if you are trying to eat healthier or complete a juice fast when the rest of your house may not be. Request that they keep those cookies in a cookie jar, or better yet under lock and key!
To de-clutter and de-brand your kitchen, as well as weeding out the junk food, you'll also need to purge what you don't use or don't want to be eating. Be ruthless when determining what stays and what goes. Food is fuel, so make sure you are running on premium gasoline.
If you find it hard to decide what to toss, consider doing some meal planning, including snacks and healthy staples, then match your pantry to those items as closely as possible. Meal planning also makes healthy eating easier because you already have a recipe or idea in your mind before you've wandered starving and bleary eyed into the kitchen. You won't be doing any aimless searching if you've already planned out the various decisions beforehand. Narrowing down your options can also help you to not over eat. You have a set number of healthy options to choose from, rather than an endless stash of half-full bags of chips and pre-prepared boxed food. Planning a meal means you won't be relying on your hand to mouth muscles and your wandering eyes to tell you when you are full and what else you can eat. There are lots of resources available on Pinterest for healthy recipes and meal planning. Click here to see The Juice Junkie's Spring Clean Up board. They are often a good reminder too of what makes up a good meal. I love this example pictured from FourGenerationsOneRoof.com.
Nowadays, the tendency is to eat one larger item as the whole meal, and mayyybe the combo will come with fries. That counts as a side item right? No way. You can buy portion control plates designed to show you how to allocate your eating, or think back to your school cafeteria days. Our trays had one section for the main course which was way less than half of the tray space, and several other spaces left for fruits, veggies, a milk carton, and maybe a dessert if you had extra lunch money. That type of decision making, and consciously choosing an array of things to eat retrains your brain until it is second nature to serve green beans and a garden salad along side every main dish. We fall into the trap of eating A hamburger, A pizza, A piece of casserole, A basket of wings etc... Don't forget about the side salad, the fruits and veggies that should be a part of your eating habits too. Even breakfast should apply here. A bowl of cereal or oatmeal, pairs nicely with a piece of fruit. A hard boiled egg with sliced cucumber and a banana. None of those things are tricky to make or require a lot of time.
Now that you've purged your kitchen of not so healthy foods and cleared the countertops, it's time to fully de-brand the inside of the pantry. At the local dollar store or discount retailer you can buy cheap storage solutions for the real food you plan to eat. This is getting down even more to the actual ingredients that should be in your meals. Take the cereal, rice, crackers, and granola bars out of their flashy packaging and store them in clear air-tight containers or bins. You should aim to open your pantry doors and see the actual product you'll be eating. This also helps your brain deduce quickly for example, which items are carbs, sugars, grains, and vegetables. This triggers the more logical meal-planning type of decision making, and you won't be Charmed into eating pure sugar from a little green man offering you sparkly marshmallows. ;)
Please share any suggestions you have on Spring Cleaning your kitchen in the comments area below.