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The food in your fridge can paint a pretty vivid picture of what your diet looks like. And if that picture is full of processed foods and sweets instead of whole-grain options and fruits and vegetables, then it goes without saying that there is room for improvement on your refrigerator report card.
"You can have slender shelves or siren shelves," says Carole Carson, fitness expert and author of From Fat to Fit. "To make better choices, be conscious what you put at eye-level when you open your refrigerator. These should be things like fruits, vegetables, and snacking options like cottage cheese and yogurt."
On top of homing in on which shelves to display your superfoods, Carson also says it's important to fill your fridge with actual ingredients, not pre-packaged foods. "It's easier than you think to cook from scratch, not to mention much cheaper! You'll only use three to four ingredients, and the end result is much healthier than something that is frozen or processed."
You alone have control of your cupboards, yet with a family to please along with a sweet tooth that just won't budge you may find your shelves are often filled with more calorie bombs than flat-belly eats. To keep everyone smiling and your clothes fitting properly, take note of where your eyes go first when you open the fridge, says Gail Rampersaud, MS, RD, LDN. "This is where your healthy foods should automatically go. Push the sugary drinks in the back and replace them with 100 percent orange juice and bottled water, so your instinct is to grab one of them instead."
For those with a kitchen so organized even Wolfgang Puck would be jealous, be mindful of your leftovers. "Even if your fridge is stocked with fruits and veggies, if you put that leftover pizza on the top shelf, what do you think you'll grab first?" says Robyn Flipse, MS, RD. "Package leftovers into single servings and smaller containers that you can take for lunch. Steer clear of foil or takeout containers, as you're more likely to graze and overeat." One thing to wrap up in foil, according to Flipse, is dessert. "If you make sweets less visible, you'll lose interest in a eating it in a few days." And if you just can't say no, throw it away. Even though we were brought up on not wasting food, it's better to toss that sky-high cake from your birthday party than to add unwanted (and unhealthy) pounds to your waistline.
The more healthy choices you have access to, the more likely you'll reach for that apple instead of the potato chips. Make sure your shelves are stocked with these starter foods to start eating healthier today:
Can't give up that scoop of ice cream or occasional sweet, yet having it in the house is a recipe for a dieting disaster? Flipse recommends the below to curb your craving and slash your calorie intake:
Another tip to keep on tap? Eat with a fork. "Most things we eat with our hands are not the healthiest options -- pigs in a blanket, cookies, candy. When you pick up a fork and sit down, you have time to think about what you're putting in your mouth," Carson says.
So the next time you're about to reach for that day-old slice, spend some time giving your fridge a little organization TLC and put a halt to a munching meltdown.
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, December 2011.