Eat Well to Be Well: Take a look inside a health-promoting refrigerator

Before reading any further, get up, open your refrigerator and take a look inside.

What did you see? A peek inside your refrigerator can be a revealing look at how well your health goals are being met. Is it clean, well-organized and stocked with plenty of healthy foods? Or is it more of a disarray of takeout containers and old produce rotting in a drawer, while soda, juice, creamy dressings, and packages of hot dogs grab your attention first?

If it’s the latter, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there and it only goes to show, there’s always room for improvement. When trying to be healthy by losing excess weight or managing a health condition, it begins by placing healthy eating within reach whenever you open the refrigerator door. Besides, your chances of eating a nutrient-rich diet are only as good as your food supply.

Here’s a look at smart tips to makeover the inside of your refrigerator for successful healthy eating:

Start by completely cleaning out and organizing your fridge

Throw out moldy or limp produce or out-of-date food. If your fridge door is jam-packed with sticky bottles and jars, either give them a good scrubbing or check their expiration date and toss. Replace condiments full of unhealthy fats, sugar, and sodium, such as mayonnaise, ketchup, and creamy dressings like ranch or Thousand Island, with fresh and flavorful salsas, hummus, herbs, and pesto.

Organize foods by type

Purchase clear containers to separate food into categories: snacks, fruit, veggies, dairy, condiments, and leftovers. “See-thru” containers allow you to easily find healthy foods right away. Display your healthiest foods front and center making them the star cuisine to be feeding your body.

Pre-prep foods in advance

Once you’re home from the grocery store, rinse fruits such as berries, grapes and cherries, pat dry with paper towels, and store in clear containers or baggies. Fruits such as melons or pineapples can be cut up and placed in see-thru lidded containers. Fresh veggies should also be cleaned and trimmed if necessary. Make snacking on veggies easy by prepping veggie bags for the week. Fill them with baby carrots, sugar snap peas, sliced peppers, cut-up broccoli, cauliflower, and cherry tomatoes. This makes them primed and ready-to-go for lunches or as a pre-dinner snack. Placing fresh fruits and veggies in visible sight reminds you to choose them first when hunger cravings strike.

Make drinking water fun

Water is the best beverage to be drinking, hands down. The time has come to rid your fridge of sugary sodas, juice, and energy drinks. But if plain water is not your thing, then make it more exciting. If you like that bubbly sensation of a carbonated beverage, try plain or flavored sparkling or seltzer waters for a change of pace. Or how about filling a pitcher with water and infuse it with natural flavors by adding fruit, vegetables, or even herbs. Whether you use lemons, limes, berries, oranges, cucumbers, or mint, find a flavor you like and drink up.

Stock lean protein

Avoid processed meats full of unhealthy fat and sodium such as bacon, sausage, and salami, and replace with lean protein sources. Choose chicken breast, salmon, tuna, lean beef, and eggs. Do pre-prepping for the week by baking or grilling chicken, or beef sliced as a protein source added to leafy green salads or for a mid-week stir-fry. Keep hard-boiled eggs in sight to slice for salads, as a quick breakfast, or use as a mid-afternoon high-protein pick-me-up.

Make dairy options healthy

If your meat and cheese drawer is overflowing with overly processed cheese spreads, slices or cheese-like products, time for an overhaul. Instead go for Greek yogurts, cottage cheese, low-fat milk, and part-skim mozzarella cheese sticks, upping your game for choosing smart calcium-rich dairy foods.

Maintain your healthy refrigerator

Once your refrigerator is clean, organized and stocked with healthy foods, take time each week to keep it that way. Choose a day of the week to not only wipe away spills but also to scan the contents of your refrigerator and toss any items that have gone bad. Before heading to the grocery store, always check what you already have on hand to prevent overbuying.  Use up fresh produce to prevent waste by including them for snacks or added as sides to meals.

Make your refrigerator your ally in reaching good health

Now that you know what the inside of a health-promoting refrigerator looks like, what steps do you need to take? Whether a complete revamping or just a few changes are needed, the foods found in your refrigerator are either your ally or enemy in helping you reach health goals. By having a “healthy” refrigerator, you’ll be more likely to make the best food choices for long-term good health.


Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Kansas, and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and institutional management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for local clinics, an adjunct professor at an area community college where she teaches basic nutrition, and a freelance health and nutrition writer. She is the author of The Nourished Brain: The Latest Science On Food’s Power For Protecting The Brain From Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook. Visit her website at www.eatwelltobewellrd.com.


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