11 Tips for a Healthy Refrigerator Setup

August 2021

by jamie beeson

Leftover chips from last week's barbecue sitting on top of your fridge...a Costco box of ice cream sandwiches next to the popsicles from the playdates...s’mores ingredients and hotdogs from camping...you've got yourself a collection of summer treats hanging around. Granted, summer's not over, but we're all feeling it coming to an end. And we are starting to think of school routines, fall sports, and a change of pace...again. September is like New Year's Resolution Jr. We get back to routines, restart what we left behind for the lazy, crazy days of summer, and start thinking about healthy habits again. 

One way to do this is to give your pantry an overhaul and your refrigerator a makeover. Set up your refrigerator to support your fall fresh foods reboot and use these 11 tricks to formulate your plan of attack. 

1. Take stock of what's inside. Pull everything out and separate the better-for-you foods from the rest. Make sure you have more healthy fats, high-fiber, and low sugar foods than others. If not, consider gradually reducing the number. 

2. Choose more "no sugar added" dressings, condiments, sauces, and spreads instead of the regular version. 

3. Hide desserts or treats. Stow away indulgent foods in the crisper, so they're "out of sight, out of mind." Most of the time, healthier foods like fruits and vegetables are more perishable and should be kept where you can see them. (On average, Americans waste about $10/week on produce that spoils.

4. Put frozen treats in a basement or garage freezer, making them less convenient and saved for special occasions (or a Friday fun night.) No extra freezer, stuff them in the back. 

5. Organize by "more" and "less." Divide your refrigerator into different sections of "choose more often" and "choose less often." This could be by shelf or on the same shelf, always keeping healthier foods up front and less-healthy foods toward the back.  

6. Substitute organic, whole, fresh, lean ingredients where you can. Some examples include Adam's peanut butter for Jiffy, organic butter for margarine, lean meats, chicken, and fish for ribs, fresh fruit for fruit cups, etc. 

7. Make healthy eating fun for the family by color-coding foods with stickers. Use green for heart-healthy and red for less healthy. Let the kids give themselves a heart sticker every time they choose a healthy option and reward them for their healthy choices. 

8. Make healthy food appealing. Keep an indulgent topping or accompaniment next to healthy food to make it more appetizing. For example, the Hope brand makes some amazing cashew dips. Put the roasted garlic cashew dip next to the fresh-cut veggies. Next time you want a snack, you'll be more likely to eat something healthy if the mixed nuts are next to the Greek yogurt or cucumbers are next to a hummus, ready to be mixed together. 

9. Prepare leftovers as a meal for the next day. Put the entree with the vegetables and other side items in a container and cover for lunch or dinner to create a balanced, quick-fix meal. It's a simpler version of "meal prepping." 

10. When you return from the grocery store, prepare foods as ready-to-eat meals or snacks. Cut up vegetables and fruits and store them in containers so they're prepared for the next meal or when you come looking for a snack. If you don't buy snack items in pre-portioned sizes, make your own with snack-sized baggies to eliminate eating directly out of the bag. 

11. Freeze fruit for fun. Freeze bananas, grapes, and cherries to make them more fun to eat. Next time kids want a sweet snack, offer them frozen fruit rather than ice cream. 

The fridge is just one place that needs a new setup, don't forget your pantry and cupboards. A lot less-beneficial foods hide in there, like those delicious s’mores ingredients. A pantry overhaul is helpful to do simultaneously with the fridge makeover. Fresh start, fresh foods, fantastic fall! 

Originally printed in the August 2021 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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