Your Kitchen Can Help You Lose Weight
So you've decided to get healthy and shed the extra weight. Now what? While making the decision to take control of your health is an important step, actually starting can be daunting. So make cleaning out your kitchen and restocking it for your new lifestyle your first goal. Start by tossing out processed foods, refined grains like white bread and rice, and freezer temptations like frozen meals and ice cream. Now you're ready to fill your kitchen with items that will make healthy meals and snacks simple to prepare: From your refrigerator to your spice rack, there are all kinds of foods you should keep on hand to set yourself up for weight-loss success.
Additional reporting by Brianna Steinhilber.
A Fruit Bowl on the Counter
The time period between when you arrive home and when dinner is served can be a tricky one for those on a diet. Having a bowl filled with fruit will encourage you to reach for an apple or banana over unhealthy and caloric, processed snacks. In fact, an October 2015 study published in Health Education & Behavior found that those who kept a fruit bowl on the counter weighed 13 pounds less than their neighbors who didn't. On the flip side those who kept soda, cereal, and cookies on the counter weighed 26, 13, and 8 pounds more, respectively. So keep fruit front and center to encourage healthy snacking: "All fresh fruits are great for us because they're excellent sources of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber,” Palinski-Wade says. Stock your kitchen with plenty of portable, easy-to-eat fruits like berries, apples, pears, clementines, bananas, and grapes.
Healthy Oils (In an Oil Mister)
Making over your pantry’s oil selection, and learning to swap in heart-healthy oil for butter or shortening, is one of the simplest ways to start cooking more healthfully. “Monounsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oil, are a great choice because they have been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol,” says Ruth S. Pupo, RD, CDE, nutritionist at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Polyunsaturated oils, such as corn and safflower, contain omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, and have been shown to decrease blood pressure and triglyceride levels.” Because oils are calorie-dense, invest in an oil mister to spray oil on pans and food instead of pouring it straight from the bottle, which makes it hard to control how much you are using.
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A Loaded Spice Rack
Spices are essential for preparing healthy meals at home, as they provide calorie-free seasoning that adds great flavor to foods while eliminating the need for butter, cream, or excess oil. While it can be tempting to pick up salt and herb blends, many are high in sodium, so pick up a large variety of spices and create your own blends instead. Cayenne pepper is essential: Not only does its spicy taste add a kick to bland recipes, but studies have also shown that it may provide a slight metabolism boost, which is critical in shedding those extra pounds, says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. Herbs such as basil, rosemary, and oregano are great for homemade sauces, baked potatoes, and roasted vegetables. Other healthy spices include garlic, which has been found to help reduce cholesterol levels, and cinnamon, which can help control blood sugar and curb sugar cravings.
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A Well-Stocked Freezer
While sometimes filled with unhealthy frozen meals and ice cream, your freezer can be your best friend when trying to lose weight — if you stock it right. Frozen veggies are just as nutritious as fresh (and often cheaper) and can be defrosted, tossed with seasonings from your spice rack, and served up as an easy dinner side in minutes. Frozen berries are another smart freezer staple that can be blended into smoothies or tossed into oatmeal for an instant antioxidant boost. And don't forget about lean protein: grilled chicken breasts, fish, and shrimp can all be stored in the freezer, ready to be cooked up for a filling weeknight dinner.
Cheap Protein Options
Lean meats and fish are excellent sources of protein, but don't overlook the canned-foods aisle. “Beans are an excellent source of soluble fiber, the type that helps to reduce bad cholesterol,” Palinski-Wade says. “They are also a very inexpensive source of quality protein and can be added to everything from salads to chili to soups and more.” Canned salmon (ideally wild, not farmed) and sardines are other good choices — both deliver omega-3 fatty acids and calcium. Always read labels to make sure you’re buying foods with the lowest amount of additives possible. Before you start cooking with canned foods, remember to rinse them whenever possible to rid them of the extra sodium that comes from the canning process.
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Grab-and-Go Breakfast Staples
You've heard it time and time again: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And when embarking on a weight-loss plan, starting your day on a healthy foot with a satisfying meal will keep blood-sugar levels in check and encourage you to continue to make healthy choices. Many people use lack-of-time as an excuse for skipping breakfast. So that you don't fall into that trap, be sure to stock your kitchen with easy-to-prepare breakfast staples that will take minimal time for you to whip up in the morning. Oats are a fiber-rich option that can be cooked up in no time at all — just add a swirl of nut butter for protein, fresh berries for a dose of antioxidants, or a dusting of cinnamon for a calorie-free punch of flavor. Other easy options that can be whipped up in minutes include Greek yogurt with nuts and berries, whole-grain toast with nut butter, or a smoothie.
Plain Nuts for Snacking
Nuts, like pistachios and almonds, are a healthy snack choice with high-protein content and healthy fats that can help facilitate weight loss and boost heart health, says Pupo. “When individuals consumed 15 to 20 almonds per day as part of a weight-loss diet, they increased weight loss 62 percent more than when following a standard weight-loss diet,” she adds. Keep in mind that nuts are fairly high in calories, so be sure to measure out proper portion sizes instead of grabbing them by the handful. A 1-ounce serving of almonds (23 nuts) and pistachios (49 kernels) both have about 160 calories. In moderation, they can be a great healthy snack or a crunchy salad topping to replace croutons.
Another great standby to have on hand when hunger hits are sliced veggies, which have a satisfying crunch and provide a filling dose of fiber for minimal calories. Take time on the weekend to chop up a variety of fresh veggies — carrots, celery, bell peppers, and radishes all hold up well once sliced — and store them in baggies or containers in the fridge. Not only can you grab a handful between mealtimes or serve them up with a few tablespoons of hummus or salsa, but they'll also be ready to grab on your way out the door so that you always have a snack on hand to keep blood-sugar levels stable.
An Assortment of Grains
Whole grains provide an easy, nutrient-packed base for a variety of meals. And while brown rice may be the go-to, it's only scratching the surface. Ancient grains like quinoa, farro, bulgar, millet, amaranth, teff, and freekeh are all great options that offer up a unique taste and texture to help keep your meals interesting. Experiment with different grains, and choose three or four varieties to always have on hand in your pantry. Season with herbs and spices for a flavorful side dish, top with veggies and lean protein for a filling lunch or dinner, or use as the filling for a healthy burrito.
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A Pitcher of Flavored Water
For many, the hardest things to say goodbye to are sugary beverages like juice, sweetened teas and lemonades, and soda. But these are some of the most important things to toss out of your kitchen. Not only are they loaded with empty calories that don't fill you up, but frequent drinkers of sugary beverages are more likely to develop high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Plus, upping your water intake is key to staying hydrated, which keeps thirst from being misinterpreted as hunger, aiding in weight loss. To make water more interesting, experiment with a variety of calorie-free flavor boosters like lemons and limes, cucumbers, berries, and herbs like basil and mint. Keep a pitcher of flavored water in your fridge where it's easy to see, which will encourage you to drink water throughout the day.
- Last Updated: 10/20/15