Here is one of the most effective ways to stay on track with a diet: Cook at home. But there’s more to a healthy kitchen than a well-stocked fridge and a pantry full of pre-portioned snacks. How you prepare and enjoy your meals matters almost as much as what you’re eating. The following are must-have items that will help turn your kitchen into a loser’s dream:
You can purchase a mini or full-size processor for chopping or shredding vegetables, fresh herbs, and nuts with ease. It will also puree squash into silky smooth soups and let you sneak vitamin-rich cauliflower, broccoli, and sweet potatoes into sauces and spreads. Whip up healthy hummus, pesto, and marinades, too. You can also try a handheld blender; they work well for smoothies.
Any smart weight loss program will call for plenty of vegetables, and a sharp knife will make all that cutting, chopping, and slicing much easier. Make sure you have a chef's knife, a slicer, and a paring/utility knife, plus a sharpener (dull knives make prep work far less enjoyable). Armed with these, you can start your week off with containers full of red pepper strips, celery stalks, and carrot sticks for easy snacking. You can also spend 15 minutes on Sunday afternoon chopping onions, carrots, and celery (aka mirepoix) to keep on hand as a healthy base for sauces, soups, and stews.
Downsize plates and glasses
The average plate size has increased 36 percent since the 1960s. The bigger your plate, the more likely you are to load it up with food. Replace your 12-inch dinner plates with 9-inch salad plates, and then fill them up with high-fiber, low-calorie greens and beans plus smaller portions of rice or pasta and meat.
When it comes to glasses, Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab researchers found that individuals pour more juice into short wide glasses versus tall narrow ones. Remember that when pouring your morning OJ or a Friday night cocktail, and choose a taller, narrower glass (think Tom Collins instead of rocks). But for water, choose the biggest goblet you can find: Many people mistake thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated can help you avoid needless snacking.
This kitschy tool lets you simultaneously wash and dry your greens. Spinach and lettuce will last longer if stored dry.
Mini zip-close bags
Use them to hold individual servings of nuts, dried fruit, granola, cheese, and other easy-to-gobble items.
Olive oil mister
These gadgets allow you to add just a spritz of heart-healthy olive oil without overdosing on fat. Mist veggies prior to roasting them, or add some flavor to salads. You should also keep your pantry stocked with nonstick cooking spray, which allows you to whip up everything from scrambled eggs to chicken breasts without butter or oil.
Micro plane grater/zester
Use this tool to grate small amounts of flavorful cheese into soups, salads, and more. It will also zest oranges, lemons, and limes.
If you don’t like cooking but love coming home to a house that smells delicious, this is the tool for you. Slow cookers can turn basic ingredients such as chopped vegetables, chicken, broth, and spices into low-fat, down-home comfort food. And if you have a hot, delicious meal waiting for you, you’ll be less likely to open the fridge and mindlessly snack while you wonder, “What should I make for dinner?”
A fully stocked spice cabinet lets you add flavorful, calorie-free punches to food. You’ll save on fat and sodium, too. Staples include:
Basil — for pasta and veggies
Bay leaves — for flavoring stocks, sauces, and stews
Cayenne pepper (red pepper) — for a spicy kick
Cinnamon — for hot cereals such as oatmeal or in baking
Crushed red pepper flakes — to add heat to spaghetti, soups, sauces, marinades, and meats
Cumin — for chili or Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern foods
Dill — for fish or potatoes; mix with low-fat yogurt or sour cream for a vegetable dip
Garlic powder — for any recipe that calls for garlic flavor
Oregano — for tomato-based sauces as well as stews and vegetables
Rosemary — for lamb, chicken, potatoes, stews, sauces, vegetables, and fresh breads
Rubbed Sage — for chicken, turkey, stuffing, and pork chops
Thyme — for hearty roasted or baked dishes as well as vegetables