Your kitchen will make or break your weight loss results.
A kitchen stocked with the makings for healthy meals and snacks will keep you on track, even when late-night cravings strike. On the flip side, a kitchen filled with unhealthy munchies will derail your weight loss efforts every single time.
So what should your cupboards hold and what should be off limits? I’ve designed this self-guided kitchen raid to help you sort out the good from the bad.
Go ahead, grab a garbage bag, print out the list below, and then head to the kitchen.
Let’s start with the fridge, the heart of your kitchen. If you find something in your fridge that is on the “Dump this” list, then you know what you have to do. Get that garbage bag ready.
Dump this: Beverages with high fructose corn syrup or sugar. Drinking calories is one of the quickest ways to gain weight, so quickly rid your fridge of any beverage that lists HFCS or sugar on the ingredient list.
- Replace with: Water. It is a well known fact that most people are partially dehydrated, a condition that is harmful to your health and wreaks havoc on your weight loss efforts. Keep plenty of cold water on hand for proper hydration. Herbal teas and black coffee are another great alternative for low calorie beverages.
Dump this: Rich dairy products. I know that cream cheese tastes amazing, but fat-filled dairy products are extremely high in calories and should not reside in your fridge. Eliminate high-fat cheese, milk and yogurt from your kitchen.
- Replace with: Fresh Vegetables. The produce drawer in your fridge should be overflowing with colorful nutrient-rich veggies. In fact, your fridge should hold more veggies than the drawer can hold. Veggies are filled with fiber, vitamins and nutrients and are a vital part of a healthy well-rounded diet.
Dump this: Fatty meats. It is important that you be selective about the meats that you eat. I may tell you that chicken is a great source of protein, but if you take that as a license to eat fried chicken everyday then the benefit of the protein will be lost in all the extra fat calories.
- Replace with: Lean meats. Skinless chicken breast, lean ground beef or turkey, white fish – there are numerous choices when it comes to lean meats. Pay attention to where your meat comes from and buy free range/organic/grass fed whenever possible.
Dump this: Fruit-flavored yogurt. I hate to break this to you, but that cute individually packaged yogurt is going to do more harm to your waistline than you think. More than 50% of the calories in fruit-flavored yogurt come from sugar. Check out the ingredient list and you likely find both high fructose corn syrup AND sugar.
- Replace with: Plain low-fat yogurt, Greek yogurt, or low-fat cottage cheese. If you love yogurt, then get the low-fat plain version. You can even chop up some fresh fruit and stir it in. Another option is to have a scoop of low-fat cottage cheese with chopped fruit on top.
Next let’s take a look into your freezer. Anyone who has walked the freezer aisles at the store knows how plentiful frozen temptations are. How does your freezer measure up?
Dump this: Ice cream. We may as well get this one over with. Hiding a gallon or two (or even a pint) of your favorite ice cream “for a rainy day” is NOT a good idea. Save yourself from that temptation and don’t buy ice cream.
- Replace with: Frozen fruit. When your sweet tooth starts acting up, throw an assortment of frozen fruit, yogurt, and protein powder into the blender and whip up a healthy fiber-filled smoothie.
Dump this: Frozen Pizza. This is another one of those items that is just too tempting to keep around. Why would you bother to make a healthy dinner when a frozen pizza is calling your name? Ban frozen pizza from your home and watch as your waist starts to shrink.
- Replace with: Turkey or Veggie Patties. For quick dinners keep your freezer filled with lean turkey patties and veggie patties. Serve on a bed of brown rice or on a whole grain bun.
Dump this: TV Dinners. I doubt that you need me to go into too much detail on this one. The next time that you are tempted to buy a pre-packaged frozen meal, please turn the package over and read the nutritional facts. You will be shocked by the staggering number of calories and less-than-healthy ingredients.
- Replace with: Home-made Portioned Meals. Spend some time on the weekends to cook up healthy meals, and then freeze them in portioned containers. Lentil soups and chili, for example, freeze really well. Then throughout the week you simply need to reheat and enjoy.
Dump this: Frozen Breakfast Food. French toast, waffles and pancakes are popular items in the freezer aisle. Don’t fall for the pretty photos and tasty-sounding names. These items are highly processed and contain loads of unnecessary sugar.
- Replace with: Sprouted Whole Grain Bread and English Muffins. It is just as easy to throw a slice of sprouted, whole grain bread into the toaster as it is a frozen waffle. Spread it with some natural peanut butter and pair it with a piece of fruit. Now that’s a much healthier breakfast.
Last, but not least, we come to your pantry. This may be the most painful part of your kitchen raid, since most junk food ends up here. So take a moment to give yourself a pep talk before grabbing that garbage bag and opening your pantry.
Dump this: Sugar-filled cereal. If sugar or high fructose corn syrup are listed as ingredients on your cereal box, it’s got to go. Sugar-filled cereal is basically another form of junk food, and will only add inches to your waist.
- Replace with: Plain Whole Grain Oatmeal. There is a huge difference between instant, sugar-filled oatmeal and whole grain oatmeal.
Dump this: Refined/White Bread/Rice/Pasta. These highly processed products promote weight gain and a plethora of other health problems. Do not buy “white” bread, rice or pasta – especially if you want to lose weight.
- Replace with: Whole Grain Bread/Rice/Pasta. Whole grain is the best choice you can make. It is filled with healthy fiber, and is less likely to contain harmful, waist-expanding ingredients.
Dump this: Chips/Crackers. While refined chips and crackers are fun to munch on, the extra calories will quickly add up. Do yourself a favor by not allowing these into your pantry.
- Replace with: Almonds. The key to making this snack a winner is to practice portion control. Place a handful of almonds into individual bags for pre-portioned snacks.
Dump this: Packaged Sweets. I don’t really have to explain this one, do I? Cookies and cakes and candies shouldn’t be a regular part of your diet, so keep them out of your house. It’s one thing to enjoy a dessert once in a while, it is quite another to routinely eat processed sweets at home.
- Replace with: High quality dark chocolate. Be sure to practice portion control here, but dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and fiber and the darker kind tends to be lower in sugar. Enjoyed in moderation it can contribute to your good health.
That completes your self-guided kitchen raid. I encourage you to raid your kitchen every couple of months as a way of keeping yourself on track. Talk with your family members about the healthy changes that you’re making, and try to get everyone’s support.
Here’s your grocery shopping cheat-sheet. Take this with you as a reminder of what to buy and what not to buy.
Don’t buy food items that:
- Are filled with sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
- Are highly processed and contain unidentifiable ingredients.
- Are full of fat.
- Whole, fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Whole grains.
- Lean proteins.
Emily is a Certified Personal Trainer and Yoga Instructor who has been successfully helping people transform their bodies and their health since 2005. Owner of Portland Fit Body Bootcamp and Emily Johnson Fitness, Emily is one of Portland’s premier fitness experts. She believes that true fitness is a holistic lifestyle that incorporates not only an efficient exercise routine and a balanced nutritional approach, but also a commitment to cultivating a positive outlook, developing one’s strengths, and challenging one’s comfort zones in order to dramatically improve health and quality of life, while consistently growing and improving.
Emily is a Certified Personal Trainer and Yoga Instructor who has been successfully helping people transform their bodies and their health since 2005. Owner of Portland Fit Body Boot Camp and Emily Johnson Fitness, Emily is one of Portland’s premier fitness experts. She believes that true fitness is a holistic lifestyle that incorporates not only an efficient exercise routine and a balanced nutritional approach, but also a commitment to cultivating a positive outlook, developing one’s strengths, and challenging one’s comfort zones in order to dramatically improve health and quality of life, while consistently growing.