Getting Organized: The Kitchen
The kitchen is where you make or break healthy eating, so it’s essential to organize your supplies for success. How you set up your pantry and cabinets can encourage healthy cooking.
- Make room: Get rid of gadgets and small appliances that you no longer use to make room for tools that serve you better.
- Tools that help: Food scales and measuring cups and spoons can give you a sense of how much you’re eating, but they can also create clutter. Stash the small stuff in an easy-to-reach drawer and keep the scale somewhere you’ll remember to use it. “You don’t have to be wedded to [these tools] forever,” says Diabetes Forecast Food Editor Robyn Webb, MS, LN. “But it helps to learn portion sizes.”
- Flavor boosters: Make it easy to add flavor without salt by storing vinegar, spices, and flavor-boosting tools within easy reach. A microplane—a handheld mini zester—deserves prime drawer space because it allows you to grate small portions of such flavorful foods as Parmesan cheese and ginger.
- Plastic risers: Susan Weiner,MS, RDN, CDE, CDN and coauthor of The Complete Diabetes Organizer: Your Guide to a Less Stressful and More Manageable Diabetes Life, recommends using clear plastic risers to store food on shelves. Not only are they space savers, but they’re cheap and allow you to quickly find what you need.
- Shoe bags: Hanging a clear plastic shoe bag on the back of a pantry door is one way to keep your individually portioned snacks in one place, says Josel, a professional organizer and Weiner's coauthor.
- Kid Tip: For children with diabetes, keep all snacks in allotted bins in the fridge and cabinets so kids can grab an individually portioned, carb-labeled snack. “That’s great for children because it really gives them a wonderful independence,” says Josel. Just be clear on whether you expect your child to check in with you before eating so you can oversee insulin dosing.
- Grocery list: A list helps in two ways: It allows you to inventory what you are planning to prepare for the week so you can get everything you need. And it prevents you from duplicating what’s already in your freezer or pantry. “[Not planning] will bust not only your financial budget, but your calorie and carb budget as well,” says Weiner. The average supermarket has about 45,000 different items, she says. With a list, you’re less likely to be sidetracked by tempting treats.
- Family input: You have to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to your list, says Amy Tokos, a certified professional organizer and member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. “The way to create a good list is to have some sort of tool that the whole house can add items to,” she says. A dry-erase board is easy for all family members to update. Snap a photo to use while shopping.
- Apps: There are hundreds of smartphone apps to choose from when it comes to grocery lists, and some provide recipes and ingredients for various diets, such as low-carb, low-calorie, and vegetarian meal plans, says Tokos. A few popular apps include AnyList, Grocery IQ, and Paprika. Some grocery stores have their own apps and printouts that you can get from their websites, says Weiner, but some people may prefer old-fashioned pen and paper.
- Easy Access: You may find yourself with less strength and dexterity in your hands. Tori Goldhammer, MS, an occupational therapist, says there are some options to help with tasks in the kitchen. Opting for electric can and jar openers instead of hand-cranked versions, sliding things across counters rather than carrying them, and using a cart to wheel meals to the table all make cooking easier when you’re dealing with dexterity problems. It’s also important to find a place to sit down while preparing a meal.
If you have vision problems, appropriate lighting can help, says Goldhammer. Lighting under the cabinets can add contrast and help you better see the edges of a table or counter.