Spring cleaning isn’t just for closets, and it isn’t just for spring! During any season, taking a little time to stock your kitchen pantry and fridge full of nutritious, whole foods—and to organize cabinets and drawers full of all the right tools—makes it easier to feed your potential and lay the foundation for optimal health. Here are eight ways to get any kitchen, big or small, in tip-top shape.
Check Cutting Boards
At some point, scrubbing and sanitizing might not be enough. Whether they’re wood or plastic, examine your cutting boards for deep cracks or other signs of wear and tear. “Not only will a good cutting board protect your countertops and knives,” said Aramark Chef Mike Coble. “It will also make healthy food prep safer and easier to clean up.”
Flip the Switch to Whole Grains
Every day more and more studies show the beneﬁts of whole grains.
“Swap out refined grains like white flour or white rice, and load up on whole ones,” suggests Aramark registered dietitian Gaia Di Giacomo. “Try barley in your soup or bulgur in your stir-fry.” Experiment with whole wheat or oat flour in baked goods. Freeze leftover quinoa or brown rice for a quick heat and eat side dish. The possibilities are endless.
We eat what we see. If you want healthy habits to stick, it’s important to put thought into the way you store food. From the pantry to the freezer and fridge, try placing the most nutrient-rich items front and center or at eye level. “It’s okay to keep a couple of indulgent favorites, but needing a step stool every time you want a handful of chips just might keep munchies at bay,” says Gaia.
Keep a variety of in-season fruits and veggies on hand to bring layers of flavor and nutrients to every meal. “When you have asparagus, strawberries, broccoli, mangoes and other fresh produce in your kitchen, you’ll be more inspired to add them to every snack and meal,” says Chef Mike.
Spice Things Up
Cabinet full of spices? Clean out old ones, which may have lost their flavor. Put spices in uniform jars and label them. If you see dried herbs and spices daily, it’s easier to know and use what you have. Get excited by new spices in the store and create new spice combinations. Adding flavor with spices means using less salt, which can help improve blood pressure and heart health.
Plant a Kitchen Garden
Get inspired and plan now for a season’s worth (and more!) of healthy eating from your very own kitchen windowsill. Mason jars make an excellent home for your favorite herbs like parsley, mint, or basil. You may be surprised at just how much can grow in a couple of jars!
Prepare Outdoor Gear
When warmer weather is just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to restock your picnic and barbecue supplies. Keep coolers, ice packs and more than enough outdoor utensils to separate the raw and cooked meats. Another essential? “A proper meat thermometer is a must, whether you’re cooking inside or outside at the grill,” says Chef Mike. “It’s the best way to make sure food is cooked safely to the proper temperature.”
Cooking healthy meals is easy when you stock your pantry with the right staples. “Keep beans on hand for inexpensive protein and fiber, and nuts for heart-healthy fats.” Whole grains like brown rice, oats, barley and wheat pasta are inexpensive staples and have a long shelf life–they can be stored in your pantry for weeks or months.
And remember no kitchen is complete without extra virgin olive oil! Studies show this traditional oil’s fatty acids and antioxidants have some powerful health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease.
Note: Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.