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21Days of Self-Care: Day 11 - The Kitchen Makeover

Sorry, this kitchen makeover has nothing to do with marble countertops or stainless steel appliances. This is about creating an environment that supports your self-care. Now that you know more about the benefits of whole foods, and what to recognize and be suspicious of in processed foods, we’ll work on making room for more of the good stuff with a kitchen makeover.

Dr. John Berardi, co-founder of Precision Nutrition, provides us with Berardi’s First Law, which states:

“If a food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it.”

The corollary to this law is: “If a healthy food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it.”

Keep healthy stuff near you and convenient; keep unhealthy stuff away from you and inconvenient. The way to put this into practice is the Kitchen Makeover. A kitchen makeover gets rid of the non-nutritious stuff and/or foods that trigger you to make poor eating choices, and replaces them with health-promoting foods.

Start by thinking about what healthy and unhealthy foods are for you. Use the traffic light concept: red-light foods are “no go”, they make you feel sick or trigger you to overeat, you know they’re an unhealthy choice for you; yellow-light foods are “approach with caution”, sometimes OK but sometimes not, maybe not the most nutritious food, but you can eat them in moderation as an occasional treat; green-light foods are “go for it!”, foods that make you feel good mentally and physically, that you can eat normally and slowly without going overboard, things like fruits and veggies, and lean protein.

Unless you live alone, you will need to coordinate with members of your household on this effort. Something on your red-light list may be a yellow-light for a family member, and vice versa. Negotiation and compromise will be in order. (Even if you live alone, you may find yourself in an internal negotiation over keeping some of your beloved red-light foods!) Remember, creating a healthier environment for you also creates one for others; show your family how much you love them! Everyone benefits.

Decide how extensive you’d like the project to be. You might start with one or two cabinets, and come back to the rest later. Or, go for the scorched earth approach and just get it done. Either way, grab a big garbage bag and let’s get started!

Start with eliminating the obvious and easy stuff first: 1) expired food; 2) red-light foods. Dump any food that’s expired, weird colors, and/or furry. (Note: a box of graham crackers dated Sept. 2015 is expired and should be thrown out. A box of Flutie Flakes, regardless of the date, is a collector’s item.) Review what foods are red-light foods for you; if you know or suspect certain foods trigger you into unhealthy behaviors, (hello, cookies, chips, and candy!) get rid of them or at least get them out of easy reach.

Once you have eliminated all red-light and possibly poisonous foods, you have some decisions to make. Put your label-reading skills to the test on all remaining foods; decide whether these foods are worth keeping. Don’t feel bad about “wasting food”. Most of what you’ll throw out, especially red-light foods, barely qualify as food at all, given their low nutritional value. If a food you’re discarding has some value, donate it to a food pantry. If you have a compost pile, “recycle” your discarded food there if possible.

Special note: We are living in unusual times; you may have just stocked your pantry with survivalist non-perishables. Or maybe you have the time now to cook from scratch, and have been stocking your freezer with home-made, whole-food meals. Negotiate, compromise, modify whenever possible. Decide what is “good enough” for right now. Make informed decisions; choose with purpose and awareness.

Over the next few days, we’ll talk about replenishing your kitchen with foods that nourish you and add value.

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