Being a healthy eater does not mean relying on willpower all the time. You can set yourself up for rapid, easy success by setting up your kitchen and your eating habits with scientifically-backed life hacks.
Taking a Winning Approach
Are you giving your healthy eating a fair shot?
When people say they want to be a healthier eater, often they don't set themselves up for success.
My perspective? I decided to quit smoking cigarettes, I would flush the last of my smokes down the toilet. I wouldn’t buy a few packs to keep around the house.
If I decided that I’m going to be less of a couch potato, I might invest in some running shoes. I wouldn’t buy a comfy recliner with a built-in massager and a new 60-inch flatscreen.
These ideas seem obvious when it comes to smoking or exercising, but people often sabotage themselves in a similar way when trying to eat better by having a home environment that is in direct opposition to their goals.
By optimizing your home to promote healthier food choices, you can increase your likelihood of success. I’m going to share with you some powerful tips for overhauling your kitchen to make healthy eating effortless. But before we get into the nitty gritty of setting up your kitchen, let’s have a quick word on why this is necessary.
Willpower alone will not work long-term! While it’s tempting to think that we can achieve an ideal diet on sheer willpower, doing so is unlikely. According to the American Psychological Association, there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest we only have a finite amount of mental energy that gets depleted when we exercise self-control. 1
This theory is called ego depletion, and it helps explain why we end up fizzling out on fad diets or grab some junk food after a taxing day. So rather than drawing from our limited willpower supply to make better food choices, let’s make healthy eating automatic so we can do it for life and spend our precious mental energy elsewhere.
Now that we understand why it’s necessary, let’s prime our kitchens for success.
Healthy Eating Success Hacks
1. Toss out the foods that you don’t want around
This will be different for each person, but let’s assume that most of us want to eat less sugar and processed foods. Throw out all the foods in your fridge and pantry with excessive amounts of sugar, trans fats, and unnatural additives. Check out the ingredient lists on your food. Some unwanted ingredients can hide under a variety of names. For example, sugar may show up as dextrose, fructose, or corn syrup, and trans fats are often listed as hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils. Here is a helpful list of pseudonyms for sugar. Familiarize yourself with all of these terms to know what to look for when doing your inventory.
Also ignore any buzzwords on the front of food packages (healthy, natural, fat-, gluten-, sugar-, or basically anything-”free”) as these can be misleading. Gasoline is also gluten-free, sugar-free, and fat-free. That doesn’t mean you should have a glass with your breakfast!
2. Make healthy foods convenient
Now that you’ve ditched the junk, you’ve got some space to fill. Buy foods that you know nourish your body and that you enjoy. This is a very personal choice, but do make sure that there are lots of fruits and vegetables involved. Make these healthy foods visible because you will eat what you see most frequently. One great way to do this is to keep a fruit bowl on your counter. The Food & Brand Lab at Cornell University has found that people with a fruit bowl on their kitchen counter are more likely to be trim and healthy than those who have a kitchen counter with cereal, candy, or chips.2
Following the same idea, try to make vegetables visible and easy to grab. Have some carrots, celery, and peppers pre-washed and pre-cut and placed in clear containers at the front of your fridge. When you go to grab a snack, these brightly colored foods can catch your eye and make it easy to make a nutritious choice.
3. Make unhealthy foods inconvenient
If throwing out all of your chips--or any other unhealthy food--seems too daunting at first, you can keep some. Just put them in an inconvenient location like above the fridge or in the back of the pantry behind some healthier choices. In the fridge, you can wrap up tempting foods with foil and place them behind your vegetables. When you don’t see these tempting foods all the time, you will naturally find yourself eating them less often.
4. Use smaller plates and glasses
In addition to controlling the quality of our food, we can also change our environment to control the quantity of food we eat. Using smaller plates and glasses promotes smaller portion sizes. By simply having smaller serving dishes, you will decrease the amount of food you need to feel satisfied. 2, 3
Organize your kitchen with these tips, and you can make healthier eating easy. By reducing your reliance on willpower and self-control, you increase the likelihood of keeping up the positive changes for the long haul. And here’s a great bonus: the act of organizing your kitchen itself can immediately prevent overconsumption by promoting a feeling of control and calm in your home.4
So take an afternoon, get up out of that sweet massaging recliner, and set yourself up for a lifetime of healthy eating.