For many of us, it has been a long snowy slog this winter. But the end is near, and spring is just around the corner. While it may not match the annual New Year’s resolution everyone makes, spring is also a time of renewal. The scent of flowers begins to fill the air, and we start shedding our layers of clothing… which reminds us that by hibernating for the winter, we now have a few extra unwanted pounds.
Do you have some extra weight that you need to shed before bathing suit season arrives? Then, it’s time to do some spring cleaning in your kitchen. Here are five ways that will shape up your eating habits, and your waistline:
1. Grocery Shop Wisely
If it’s not in your kitchen, you won’t eat it. That may be a simple mantra, but its importance is profound. If you are even the least bit weak when buying snack foods, don’t shop for food when you are hungry. Better yet, go grocery shopping right after a meal. That may be a little difficult – who wants to grocery shop at 7 p.m. after a long day of work? But if you can do it, you may cut thousand of calories a month.
You also need to think about how grocery stores arrange foods. Traditionally speaking, the healthiest foods are around the perimeter of the store. So, if you don’t mind the extra few minutes you may spend shopping, loop around the store for the more important items (produce, meats, dairy, etc.), then go through the center aisles. That way, you won’t get tired and distracted, and hit the check-out line before you get to the healthiest items. Not to mention, if you fill your cart with healthy stuff first, there will be less room for all the junk.
2. Liquidate Your High-Calorie Drinks
One of the quickest ways to rack up empty calories is to drink sweetened beverages. Sure, you can cut out the typical culprits, such as fully-sweetened soda. But, who needs reminded of that? The sneakier assailant is fruit juice. Even if they are 100 percent all-natural, they are still loaded with sugar, sometimes even more than your soda. A glass of fruit juice now and again is OK, but if you make it a regular occurrence, you are adding too many calories.
Water is your savior. It makes up about 70-80 percent of your body, so naturally it’s important. You should always sneak in a few glasses of regular water every day. But, if you really find yourself missing the flavor in your drinks, sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime is a refreshing alternative. Even the bottles that come in flavors, like strawberry or more exotic combinations, are an excellent no-calorie option. But, buyer beware: some manufacturers include sodium. Not only do they taste worse, they add to your daily sodium intake for no good reason.
3. Give Your Fruits and Veggies a Makeover
Most of us love the idea of getting a personal makeover. But, if you give your food a little “sprucing up,” you stand to benefit as well. This may not work for everyone, but I find that if I cut up fruits and vegetables, they are more alluring as a snack than they are in their natural state. For instance, eating an apple is OK, but I don’t often find myself naturally reaching out for one. However, if I make an apple look and feel more like a snack food by slicing them and putting them on a plate or napkin, I can mindlessly eat while I watch TV or surf the Internet.
The same goes for raw vegetables. I usually don’t crave a stalk of celery. But, if I cut it up, mix in some radishes and a dash of balsamic vinegar, now we have a tastier low-calorie snack.
4. Put a “Closed” Sign in Your Kitchen
Stay-at-home-moms and dads, and telecommuters have a diet obstacle the rest of the working world does not: being only feet away from cabinets filled with food all day. Food is a tough temptress to resist, unless you aren’t around it.
When you get home in the evening, try coming up with a plan to establish “store hours” for you kitchen. For instance, you could make 9 p.m. the cut-off time for snacking. It’s not like waving a magic wand, but if you can get used to a time restriction, it may help keep you disciplined.
5. Use Your Oven
Americans dine out more than we should. On top of that, our restaurants pride themselves on how big their heaping helpings are. Don’t let your oven collect dust, give it a regular workout. The more you cook, and the less take-out or dining-out you’ll do, and the less calories you will eat.
March 11th, 2010