“.. small wins have enormous power, an influence disproportionate to the accomplishments of the victories themselves” from “The Power of Habit.”
Although eating healthy seems to be a challenge, by taking one step at a time, it can become seamless and a habit.
Disclaimer: This post contains simple everyday habits known to be healthy and worked great for us. Please consult with your doctor/nutritionist before making any change or introducing any new food.
This post is about healthy kitchen habits that form a framework if we are trying to embark on healthy eating. The benefits? Plenty! Of course, we can have a structure for eating healthily. Moreover, with kids around, if we have these healthy kitchen habits in place, it is highly likely that we don’t have to worry about them eating right.
If the family eats right, so do the kids. With the motivation amply evident, let’s dive right in.
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1. Keep Healthy Snacks Visible
We have nuts and seeds in glass containers on the kitchen slab and pantry; our son points to them and asks for them when hungry. Or, asks me to cook something! If we don’t have chips at home, no amount of whining or pestering will help anyone.
Read: “10 Healthy foods to eat everyday.” Nuts and seeds form a part and keeping them visible to all takes care of this list without thinking. Here is a list of a few snacks that you may make and store.
2. Remove packaged, junk food from home!
Out of sight, out of mind! If you don’t have junk food at home, reaching out to them when hungry is out of the question.
Let’s avoid packaged, ready-to-eat food like chips, aerated drinks, food high in salt, processed sugar, harmful preservatives, vegetable oil (rich in Omega-6) . Instead, eating more real food is the key.
3. Prepare Meal-Prep Ingredients over the weekend
When we have many things on our plate, preparing meals from scratch every day can be overwhelming. Eating fresh meals, from scratch is the best for our bodies. However, if you find yourself too busy and ordering food from outside not due to choice but because you are compelled too, meal-prep ingredients might be a good idea. Ingredients are not cooked vegetables and meals stored to eat as is. Instead, they are making only a few things half-way to ease out the work during the week.
Developing the habit of making the ingredients every weekend reduces the time to cook meals every day. Therefore the chances of eating well go up!
Once we have ingredients like onion-tomato-paste for curries, dry-roasted nuts, and roasted flaxseed powder prepared, the chances of us being hungry and eating unhealthy are lower. For more, read the article: “10 Vegetarian meal-prep ingredients.”
Vegetarian Meal-Prep Ingredients
4. Use Good cookware, especially when subject to heat/cold
Another useful kitchen habit is to cook in utensils, which have no adverse effect on our healths. Known bad ones are the ones with Teflon coating, aluminum cookware, and heating in plastic containers. If in doubt, please do a quick research to check if the material is okay to heat/storage.
I’d recommend a self-audit of cookware in the kitchen and figuring out which are known to be carcinogenic or unhealthy otherwise.
Last year, we replaced all our cooking utensils with cast-iron/steel ones. It might be hard to let go, but if your quick research shows the current cookware isn’t right, it’s good to get rid of them as soon as possible. No, no occasional usage. Getting rid is the key.
5. Prepare healthy dips/sauces and refrigerate
Dips and sauces not only provide flavor with meals/snacks but also nutrition. These days I prepare chutneys/sauces because they are rich in minerals or probiotics. We have made it a habit to make them and eat them with meals. Easy, right?
A small note: store-bought pickles and sauces might have preservatives which are not suitable for health – so if you are buying them from the store, be aware, and please read the ingredient list.
6. Eat a Variety of Veggies, etc.!
Diverse vegetables in our meals are essential for our gut – for varied nutrients. You would have heard of “eat the rainbow.” Eat different colors, different grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts. Sticking to one vegetables restricts the nutrients we are feeding to our bodies.
A variety of vegetables keeps meals exciting and helps us be healthy.
A variety of food is good for us as long as it suits our bodies – learned this from my mom, and it is indeed a valuable piece of advice!
7. Avoid Refined Ingredients from the pantry
Three things to get rid of from the pantry are refined wheat flour, refined sugar, and certain harmful oils. Refined flour is high in gluten and low in fiber and can impact our gut health. White sugar can spike our blood glucose levels and, over time, be a stage for insulin resistance.
Oils high in Omega 6s, which can cause chronic inflammation. Also avoid oils high in trans-fat – trans fat or hydrogenated oils are factory-made/not naturally occurring – therefore can affect brain and heart health adversely.
8. Include a diverse range of grains in the cooking
A couple of years ago, the grains in our pantry were white rice, whole wheat flour, and others. They have increased a lot today – new additions being Quinoa to Barley, and Millets among others! If you are trying to incorporate different grains, you may try this Barley salad on the blog and this Oats and Ragi Panjiri Recipe that you might find useful.
The important reason behind that was we were trying to cut gluten and try to cut down wheat! Wheat is still essential in our cooking, but the idea is to diversify! Another significant benefit is the variety of nutrients from the grains and the fact that they are suitable for our gut and overall healths. Some are rich in fiber, and others rich in iron.
I have a goal to expand further and incorporate Amaranth and Buckwheat, among others! I’ll keep posting the recipes and the way to incorporate them into our diets soon. Please stay connected.
9. Keep small cups handy for (not-so-healthy) beverages
Keeping small cups handy for beverages has helped a lot to cut down tea consumption for us. Although we add jaggery and not white sugar to our tea, small cups also help in cutting that down. We have switched to 100-ml tea cups with a thick base which have helped cut down tea (and jaggery) tremendously!