What does YOUR fridge look like? Did that question just make you cringe? Would you be proud or embarrassed to open your fridge to a guest? Don’t worry no version of fridge-police are heading to your home today!
When we think about making “lifestyle” changes it can feel quite overwhelming to know where to start. It is such a broad goal, no wonder we feel confused about where to begin. Let’s spend some time talking about the biggest appliance in our kitchen- the refrigerator. After all, we do spend a lot of time in and out of that place, right? First, I would like you to consider spending about 30 minutes or maybe a little more, cleaning out your fridge. Take everything out, wipe it down, throw away things you don’t need or want (including those take-out condiments you have kept on hand for the past 3.5 years that you thought you would use for sure), and place everything back, in a nice orderly fashion. When we take ownership and pride in something we tend to have more buy-in. Our fridge and pantry can make or break our goals for healthy changes.
So here are some transition tips to make your fridge a convenience store (without paying a cashier, of course!).
Invest in GOOD glass containers! I know we all have 37 mismatched plastic containers in a cabinet somewhere in our kitchen. They may even fall out onto your head every time you open said cabinet. Well, they may be your prized collection that took many years to fulfill, but in the name of starting fresh, I would like you to consider INVESTING (has much more meaning than just spending money) on good glass containers. There are SO many options. But the ones I purchased about three years ago are prep naturals glass containers. No need to get the same, just wanted to give an example.Glass containers are more durable and in my opinion, keep the food fresher, longer. If you read my article in July’s newsletter titled “Habits- Hard to Make, Easy to Break” I talked about cutting your raw vegetables and washing and prepping your fruits that go in the fridge before putting them in the fridge. When your fresh cucumbers, peppers, carrots, broccoli, celery, strawberries, blueberries, melons, you name it, are washed and prepped and placed in these containers imagine how nice and easy it is to see what is available when you open the fridge door. It is super important to place the packed glass containers at eye level. Start training your eyes to see the variety of colors and fresh options when you first open the door. In my last article, I also mentioned some healthy dips to go alongside your fresh produce. I promise you- you will not regret getting good glass containers!
Do you like eggs? If you answered yes, keep reading. If you answered no, skip to #3. Every other year the news deems eggs to be healthy other than unhealthy, copy and paste for all eternity. You just can’t keep up sometimes. I am here to tell you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with eggs unless of course, you do not like them or you are a vegan. For everyone else, they are a great source of vitamins, minerals, protein, and have zero carbs. The 213 mg of cholesterol in a large egg’s yolk is what has tripped up scientists for many years. They once thought that the cholesterol in food correlated with the cholesterol in our body. But, finally, they discovered that saturated fat has a much greater impact on blood cholesterol. Eggs can come in many different varieties. Small to extra-large, brown or white, caged to pasture-raised, $1-$7 per dozen. It is your choice which you prefer. Of course, we know you get what you pay for. You will get a much more golden yolk filled with omega-3s in the free-range and pasture-raised. Ok back to the point of this tip. Consider buying an extra dozen eggs during your next grocery trip. When you get home and again before you put them away, boil some of the eggs, maybe 3-5 to start. Place the hard-boiled eggs in your fridge for a quick and easy protein source. In a rush?- grabbing a couple of eggs and a piece of fruit can be a balanced on-the-go meal. This option will be sure to keep you on track much better than the bagel, Danish, or high-calorie breakfast sandwich at the drive-thru.
Prepping meals, keep it simple The concept of prepping meals can be daunting. What do I buy? What seasoning? What combo? Try not to over-complicate it. You really only have to make 3 choices: a protein (chicken, pork, turkey, beef, fish, tofu, etc.), a starch (potato, beans, lentils, peas, rice, pasta, etc.), and a non-starchy vegetable (spinach, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, etc.). Let’s break down some options and cost for a minute…Let’s say you purchased a pound of chicken, let’s take an average cost of around $4 (people tell me they can get it for $2 at Aldi which I have personally never seen) or you could pay upwards of $6 depending on brand and organic vs not. So a pound of chicken is 16 ounces. A typical serving of protein is about 4 ounces. 16 ounces divided by four equals 4. So we will get 4 servings out of that purchase. Pick your favorite seasoning, Cajun, ranch, hot sauce, salt/pepper, and throw it in the oven to bake. Done. I am a sweet potato fan. Sweet potatoes are generally cheap. I get them at Trader Joe’s and spend about $1.69 for 2 pounds. One medium potato is a serving and you’re sure to get more than four in a 2-pound bag. The easiest way to prep a sweet potato is in a microwave for 4-5 minutes or you can bake them. Either way, choose your method then they are done. Back to Trader Joe’s, I like to get this big bag of frozen green beans for prep purposes. It is a total of 8 cups of green beans which is nice because I can use 2 cups per serving and it costs $1.99. I “invested” in a pot with a steam basket because I steam a lot of veggies and it was worth it to me. So throw them in, wait until tender and you’re done.Grab four of your lovely glass containers, four ounces of chicken in each, one sweet potato in each, and 2 cups of green beans. Grab the lids, snap x 4. Place in the fridge and there you have four meals ready to go in your new home convenience “store”.Total cost comes to $1.92 per meal (that includes using the cost of a full bag of sweet potatoes). When is the last time you spent under $2 for a meal out of your home? It does NOT have to be complicated. Prepping meals helps you stick to your plan and not rely on your stomach to decide what is for lunch, which we all know can be a dangerous thing.
Some last tips:
Remember to keep all produce in sight. The Middle, main shelf is best.
Protein, especially if it is meat should go on the bottom shelf just in case juices leak.
Healthy dips, low-fat dairy, yogurt, natural nut butter, eggs, are some other healthy additions to your newly cleaned fridge.
Start slow and keep it easy. Don’t get overzealous. The smaller and slower the changes the easier it is to stay on track with playing the long-game.
Now think what foods that you would typically purchase out of convenience and the cost associated with it.
Also, there is a good chance that the sodium, fat, sugar, and/or calories are elevated.
So now, instead, let’s start loading our fridge with a rainbow of colors and foods that will fuel us and serve us. Now go and make yourself proud to show off that fridge!
Kristen Garron RD, LDN, CDE
Director of Group Education. Kristen joined IDS in 2018 after working for seven years as a clinical dietitian in a community hospital and eight years as lead instructor for a diabetes self-management education company. With a knack for making complex issues seem simple and relating to people with a strong sense of empathy, group diabetes education has become her specialty and her passion. “I think it’s important to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere,” says Kristen. “Everyone at IDS is that way – with patients and with each other. It’s tough enough living with diabetes; the least we can do is make those around us feel like family.” A graduate of LaSalle University (go Explorers!), Kristen majored in Nutrition while earning All- Conference honors in division-1 lacrosse. In keeping with IDS tradition, she remains very active with distance-running and weight-lifting. Kristen lives in West Chester, PA with her husband Tim, daughters Grace & Sadie, and dog Kirby. She enjoys traveling (visited 30 of 50 states and more than a dozen foreign countries so far), scrapbooking, and being outside with the kids and Kirby.