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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 25, 2010

An organized kitchen aids healthy eating


By Charles Stuart Platkin

While there haven't been any studies I know of linking clutter to obesity, I do know that being disorganized doesn't help. Think about the factors that facilitate weight loss: increased physical activity, eating healthier foods, good sleeping habits and a balanced emotional life all related to an organized, clutter-free life.

The fact is that many failed dieters complain that maintaining a diet is just too much work. The amount of information and control required can be extremely difficult to sustain. This becomes especially important when your control systems are weakened like when you're disorganized or stressed.

When distractions compete for your attention, the mental workload can be overwhelming. That alone could be the reason you fall off your diet. Therefore, you need to arrange your personal environment to maximize your chances of controlling your weight and minimize your chances of slipping up.

If your home and office are disorganized and filled with clutter, you're probably spending a lot of time simply looking for things you need. When you get rid of the clutter, you can make room for a small exercise area and have easy access to your gym clothing so you can get to the gym. Think about it: If you spend 10 fewer minutes a day looking for things, you can spend 10 more minutes exercising.

Keep in mind, while you're cleaning and organizing, you're also burning 210 calories per hour not bad. Here are a few key strategies to help you get organized and declutter your pantry; find ideas for other areas of your home at www.DietDetective.com:

1) Take everything off the shelves.

2) Get rid of expired items and foods that have unhealthy ingredients (e.g., partially hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup).

"Trigger foods" also must go. These are your go-to foods that can lead to binges.

4) Clean the shelves and, if possible, paint your pantry white, or some bright color so you can see the foods you have.

5) When restocking the shelves, group like foods together and try to make healthy foods easily accessible so that you reach for them first. Several companies make storage containers and tools to help you get organized.

6) Create an easy-to-use spice section. Spices make bland foods taste great, and should be used as part of your cooking process.

7) Make sure you have the following:

• Fat-free cooking sprays.

• Fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth.

• Rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar to add a lot of zing.

• Canned beans.

• Whole-wheat bread crumbs and flour.

• Soups and other healthy canned foods: It is not cheating to open a can of low-calorie soup or tuna for a fast dinner. Stock up on these foods they're filling, inexpensive and right there when you don't feel like making a big deal out of dinner.

8) Go through your utensils do you really need everything you have? Put things you don't often use on a top shelf where they won't get in your way.

Things you do need:

• Several small plastic cutting boards or mats that fit into your dishwasher.

• Very sharp knives, along with a sharpener.

• A food processor or blender to slice, grind, dice, chop and shred.

• A microwave oven: Great for defrosting meat and reheating leftovers. It also cooks a potato in about seven minutes.

• Pots and pans, readily available and in good working order.

9) Make sure your countertops are clean and free of unopened mail, old newspapers and magazines; they're supposed to be for food prep.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public-health advocate, and founder of www.DietDetective.com.