Developing healthy eating habits (and sticking to them) can be tough. It’s easy to cook nutritious meals for a week or two, but one stressful day can throw you off your game. Luckily, there are plenty of simple tricks that can make healthier living a lot easier.
Yes, Pinterest is a helpful resource for finding healthy recipes and workout inspiration, but it’s also full of great ideas for kitchen organization and meal planning — two keys to cleaning up your diet. With a quick trip to the store for some supplies, any of these 12 projects are easy to tackle in no time.
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1. Pre-portion snacks.
Over-indulging in snackable foods is one of the easiest ways to accidentally sideline a healthy diet. Mindlessly munch from an open bag of nuts or popcorn, and boom — there goes today’s calorie allowance! Eliminate binges by packing individual portions as soon as you bring those favorite snack foods home from the store. Plastic sandwich baggies work well, but investing in some small reusable containers will eliminate waste (and save more delicate goods from being crushed during transportation).
2. Store healthy foods front and center in the pantry.
Studies show that keeping unhealthy snacks out of sight may decrease our likelihood to indulge. Placing healthy foods front and center makes them convenient to grab, and office storage bins are the perfect tool to help organize your go-to’s. Store those pre-portioned snack packs, bars or fruit at eye level in your pantry, and grab one or two for the day to have on hand before hitting the road.
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3. Stock the fridge with a smart snack bin.
Keep protein-packed options like hard-boiled eggs, single servings of hummus or Greek yogurt cups easily accessible in the fridge with a dedicated snack bin. Having those nutritious bites ready to go makes you more likely to snack smart, rather than go digging for that leftover cupcake or queso dip (keep those hidden away!).
4. Tape nutrition labels to food containers.
Reusable clear plastic containers keep pantry staples fresh and organized. For those items you always keep on hand (rolled oats, rice, pasta, etc.), invest in sturdy plastic containers with easy-pour spouts. But don’t stop there: Before throwing away the original packaging, cut out the nutrition and instruction labels and tape them right onto the containers. Having this info on hand makes tracking calories and keeping portions in check that much easier.
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5. Pre-pack crockpot meals for fuss-free dinners.
On hectic weeknights, cooking something healthy for dinner can be hard to prioritize. But if you have an extra 30 minutes on your day off, it’s possible to prep a week’s worth of healthy crockpot meals (and save yourself stressful evenings later). Pack the ingredients for each meal in a freezer bag, label it with the recipe name and cooking instructions, and stash it away. Every morning, pick your meal of choice and set your slow cooker before leaving the house. By the time you get home, there will be a hot (and nutritious) dinner waiting for you.
6. Put together smoothie packs for easy on-the-go breakfasts.
Smoothies are a convenient nutrient-dense breakfast option, especially when eating on-the-go. Instead of getting out all the bags of frozen fruit each morning, pre-portion ingredients into individual plastic baggies once a week and have your smoothie mixes ready to go — all you’ll have to do is add liquid and blend! (Pro tip: Add a scoop of protein powder for even more energy in the morning.)
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7. Make your own Lazy Susan to organize spices.
Two cake pans and bag of marbles is all you need to get rolling on this project. DIY Lazy Susans are an easy way to organize smaller pantry or fridge items such as spices or condiments. They’ll keep everything in one place, and you can access whatever you need with a simple swivel. The healthy upside: Adding herbs or low-calorie condiments (think mustards and vinegars) brings a ton of flavor to dishes without upping the salt, fat or calorie counts.
8. Create a conversion guide right in your cabinet.
Keeping portion size in mind is essential for maintaining any health or fitness goals. But sometimes, those measurements can be downright confusing. An easy solution? Turn the inside of a kitchen cabinet into a measurement conversion table and storage center. Vinyl decals work well for a super-clean look, but a steady hand and paintbrush (or marker) would work just as well for something a bit more permanent. You’ll never have to dig through drawers to find the quarter-cup measure again!
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9. Plan your meals for all to see.
Planning your weekly meals ahead of time is an easy way to keep nutrition goals in check and reduce the “what’s for dinner tonight” stress. A centrally-located cork or chalk board is the perfect way to keep your meal plan easily accessible. The key here? Make sure it’s easy to switch around the meal cards so you don’t feel lost if plans end up changing.
10. Organize ingredients by days of the week.
No days off? We feel your pain. Doing the shopping and creating a meal plan are just two parts of creating a well-oiled kitchen machine — organization is also hugely important. To keep your plans on track and avoid accidental indulgences, try storing ingredients for each days’ meals in their own containers. This way, you’ll never get to Thursday’s dinner and think “Hey, what happened to the shredded cheese!” Plus, you’ll never have to dig through the fridge for ingredients — or forget to add them to the meal — again.
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11. Re-focus your freezer.
It’s easy for ice boxes to turn into deep, dark black holes filled with who-knows-what that’s who knows how old. Keep your frozen goodies fresh and easily accessible by organizing everything into well-labeled accessible bins. Depending on the model and size of your freezer, the bins you choose will vary. We suggest taking some measurements and drawing a quick sketch of the space you have before heading to the store (with that measuring tape!) to look for options that will work for your kitchen.
12. Use a CD rack for sound container organization.
Neglect your leftovers container drawer for too long, and it can turn into a war zone. With all the different shapes and sizes, it’s impossible to keep everything organized and easy to find. That is, until this trick! A CD rack is ideal for organizing all of those plastic container tops so they’re easy to grab. Keep the containers themselves stacked by shape and size close by and you’ll be packing up leftovers in no time.
Originally published April 2015. Updated September 2017.
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