After subsisting on a diet of pie, cookies and mashed potatoes for the entire month of December (and if we’re being honest, part of November too), it’s natural to see the start of a new year as an opportunity to commit to eating healthier. Last year, a survey of New Year's resolutions revealed that more than 80% of Americans made fitness and nutrition based resolutions which included losing weight and living a healthier life in general.
But let’s be realistic. Facing such a goal is hard, especially if you rang in the New Year at a party with an open bar and endless bacon wrapped scallops. If gym memberships and juice cleanses have failed you in the past, consider organization instead. Studies have shown that organization can help you lose weight and in turn lead a healthier life. In fact, when your home is organized, you’re more likely to choose healthy food, stick to your exercise goals and experience less stress. Sounds pretty great, right? If you’re looking to give organization for well-being a shot this year, there’s no better place to start than inside your fridge. Here’s how:
Plan Out Your Fridge
The modern day refrigerator is massive. So massive, in fact, that sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to do with all of those drawers and compartments. When it comes to filling a fridge, we all start off with the best of intentions in terms of organization. Some of us stick to those goals, but the rest of us end up with a mess of leftovers, half-used cans of spaghetti sauces and packages of chicken that end up going bad before they can be cooked. Avoid this pitfall by having a plan. Always keep raw foods that need to be cooked (i.e. meat and fish) in the bottom drawers of your fridge. You might be in the habit of using the bottom drawers for veggies, but these should actually go on one of the top shelves. This prevents cross contamination and it ensures that you’ll see them first, which will encourage you to choose healthy, plant based snacks and meals before meat and dairy.
Stop Letting Products Expire
You bought that low-fat yogurt and carton of strawberries with the best of intentions, but after using them once to make a healthy breakfast, they somehow got relegated to the back of your fridge where they ended up spoiling. Breaking this habit is essential if you want to live healthier this year. The solution is organization. There are two ways to accomplish this. First, you can think like a chef and adopt the first in-first out restaurant kitchen policy. In other words, you can move the ingredients which will expire first to the front of your shelves, so that you’ll eat them before items that take a longer time to expire. Because fresh vegetables, fruit and organic products tend to expire faster, this will force you to prioritize them over processed food. Alternatively, you can purchase a refrigerator turntable which will allow you to easily check expiration dates and be more aware of healthy ingredient options.
Keep an Inventory
The idea of an inventory might sound like work, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re fancy, you can create a spreadsheet on your computer or print out a blank one and hang it on your fridge, or you can go old school and use a whiteboard. Whatever your preferred method is, an inventory should state what is in your fridge and can be separated into categories (protein, dairy, grains, fruit, vegetables, fats etc.). It can also include information like the date the product was opened or when it will expire. This is a great organization tool for health if you’re a visual person, as it will help you plan meals by choosing ingredients from an easy-to-read list.
Use Your Freezer Differently
The freezer. Aka realm where ice-encrusted mystery meat in tupperware goes to die. Aka frozen wasteland populated by pizza, chicken nuggets and buffalo chicken bites. If your freezer is home to junk food and salmon filets you got on sale at some point, it’s time to fill it with good stuff instead. Use your freezer for frozen vegetables and fruit—we’re not talking the kind you get in the freezer aisle of your grocery store. We’re talking actual fresh vegetables and fruit that you cut up and freeze. While you’re at it, pre-package ingredients for smoothies and stir-fries and put them in labeled zip lock bags. You can take this one step further by learning the art of meal prep and using your freezer for that. Most people tend to choose unhealthy food because it’s convenient (looking at you, Chinese takeout). Fill your freezer with pre-packaged healthy options and you’ll be significantly less tempted to order a pizza.