This story is part of New Year, New You, everything you need to develop healthy habits that will last all the way through 2020 and beyond.
We've all been there. You open the fridge in an attempt to eat something healthy, only to discover that the bag of spinach purchased last week is limp, brown and totally unrecognizable. And even though we were trying to eat healthy last week, the fridge instead filled up with takeout pizza boxes and discarded ice cream pints -- the antithesis of health.
Well, no more! Organizing your fridge, kitchen and pantry can actually make it much easier to eat healthy -- guaranteeing less food waste and saving you money at the grocery store. Keep reading for the best expert-approved tips on how to organize the fridge.
Toss what you don't need
If a diet regimen or healthy eating plan is your aim, then the first thing you should do is get rid of foods that don't fit into your overarching strategy. "The biggest mistake people make is putting unhealthy foods anywhere at all in their fridge," says Pat Salber, M.D., founder of "The Doctor Weighs In." "So as painful as it is, I suggest doing a thorough fridge-cleaning and throwing away (not giving away) [sugary] sodas, foods loaded with artificial ingredients (all that stuff with unpronounceable names), sugary yogurts and super-caloric foods, including those sitting on your condiment shelves. If it is not there, you can't eat it."
Other foods you might want to consider tossing include juice (which is loaded with sugar and lacks fiber) and commercially prepared salad dressings (which are packed with chemicals and preservatives), says Kimberly Snyder, nutritionist and New York Times best-selling author of the "Beauty Detox" book series and "Radical Beauty."
"Everything you see in your space should be supportive of your goals and reflective of how you want to live," she says. "If it [is] not... just throw it away."
Use the 'out of sight, out of mind' rule
Have a relative with a sweet tooth who refuses to live in a cookie-free home? A simple thing to do is keep unhealthy foods out of view, says registered dietitian Megan Denos, R.D.N. "One easy thing you can do now to make it easier to eat healthy is to remember 'out of sight, out of mind.'" says Denos. "Keep the foods that you want 'out of mind' hidden away and in hard-to-access places."
If you have to whip out a step stool every time you want a handful of chips, you might be less likely to do it than if they hang out on your counter.
Make a plan
Having an organized kitchen starts with knowing what you're going to get when you go food shopping, experts say.
"The biggest mistake people make when organizing their fridge is buying food without having a plan, which usually leads to buying unnecessary items," says Andres Ayesta, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., registered dietitian/nutritionist and owner of Vive Nutrition. "For example, buying five different types of vegetables without really having a plan on how you will cook them or eat them will likely cause them to stay there for a week before you toss them out."
Bottom line? Know before you go: Plot out what you'll use each purchase for rather than throwing random things in your cart.
Snyder recommends stocking up your fridge with staples like leafy greens, healthy veggies, organic fruits, organic free-range local eggs, avocados, raw almonds, chia seeds, unsweetened almond or coconut milk and quinoa, to start. If you need a little additional inspiration, check out these meal prep cookbooks to help give you more great ideas.
Don't overfill it
The amount of food you buy will depend on your household and needs, but it's important to avoid stuffing your pantry and fridge to the gills.
"The biggest mistake people make when organizing their fridge or pantry is packing it so full that they don't even know what's in it," says Denos. "Let's face it: you can't eat food that you don't know is there. In order to eat healthy foods, it's important that you a) can easily see them and b) remember that they are there."
Make both a little easier with these Amazon products to Marie Kondo your kitchen and some tools to help reduce food waste.
Keep the healthiest stuff in your eyeline
Wondering where you should keep your veggies? Not hidden away in the back of your crisper drawer!
"Don't hide produce away in the bottom drawers," says Denos. "It's so easy to forget about all of your fresh fruits and vegetables when they are tucked away in the bottom drawers of your refrigerator. By keeping them out in the open (and at eye-level), you'll remember that you have them and eat them before they go bad."
This also goes for your pantry: if it's at eye level, it will be top of mind. "Keep healthy foods at eye-level (probably the middle shelf of your fridge or pantry)," she says. "Since this is where your eyes will go first, choosing the healthier options will be a no brainer."
Fruits, meanwhile, will "live happily in a basket in plain sight," says Salber. A basket is perfect for making sure you actually see them when you're hankering for something to eat.
Do the prep work.
Once you have your meal plan designed and your food purchased, prep work is the next step to making your life easier. "Get the tedious work out of the way," Ayesta says. "As soon as you do your groceries, prep all your food to have it ready for cooking: pre cut your vegetables and store them in sealed containers like mason jars to preserve them longer, portion the meats you will be eating in the next two to three days in Ziploc bags. Leave foods that last longer in your drawers (usually dressings and canned products)."
By putting this leg work in early, you'll fly through cooking the next few days. If you have special dietary concerns, check out our Paleo meal prep guide and our keto meal prep guide for more ideas. Bon appetit!
This story was written by Kelsey Butler and originally posted at Chowhound.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.