Stock Your Refrigerator for Weight Loss

Makeover your fridge, make healthier choices automatic.

Your refrigerator can be your best weight loss tool -- or it can help you turn your diet into a disaster. If your fridge tempts you with leftover Chinese food while fruits and vegetables rot, it's time to stock your refrigerator for weight loss!

Keep Smart Choices in Reach

For me, the key to having a diet-friendly fridge is to make healthy foods easy to choose and to keep high-fat, high-calorie foods out of sight (and hopefully, out of mouth!).

I put low-fat, lower-calorie choices like yogurt, turkey slices, reduced-fat cheese, and other healthy foods in clear view, but I stow away less-than-ideal fare (like the leftover pie my Mom sends home with me!) further back on the shelf. I know I am more likely to reach for something smart if I don't see those other choices first.

Make Produce a Priority

If you file away your fruit and veggies into the produce drawer, reconsider: Most produce will store well in see-through, covered containers on the shelves, and you will be more likely to choose them when they are within view. To make produce an even more automatic choice, wash it and chop it up into bite-size pieces before putting it in the containers.

Tip: When storing produce like pepper slices or celery in plastic containers, put a drop of water in the bottom of the container to help keep them crisp.

Make Your List and Stick to It

Here's something really simple, but effective: If it's not in the house, you can't eat it.

No more "just in case company comes" or "I buy it for the kids" excuses! If you are really serious about losing weight, you know deep down that there are certain foods that shouldn't cross your threshold. Fine-tune your grocery list and try to stick to it as closely as possible. Resist promos or buy-one-get-one offers that seem too good to pass up.

Those deals may seem like a bargain while you're at the store, but you will regret them later on when you realize those impulse purchases are undoing your success.

Stock Up on Staples

Always keep the staples on hand for your favorite recipes. Keep a running grocery list on or near the fridge. When you empty a bottle or container from the fridge, immediately add the item to the list; if you notice an empty spot on a shelf, think of what's usually there and make sure it's on the list.

Of course, all the healthiest ingredients in the world won't do you any good if you never have time to cook when meal times comes around. Set aside an afternoon on the weekend to prepare a large batch of healthy meals and then refrigerate or freeze individual portions so you'll always have a healthful, pre-prepared meal within reach.

Make Smart Switches

It's inevitable that you will need to swap most of the higher-fat foods in your fridge for lower-fat substitutes to lose weight, but that does not mean you have to do it all at once. You will find your new eating habits much easier to adjust to -- and stick to in the long-run -- if you make a few changes at a time, rather than going completely cold turkey on all your favorite foods.

For example, instead of buying diet, low-calorie, or reduced-fat versions of everything in your fridge, start with low-fat dairy this week and next week, move on to something else.

Tip: Sometimes, a step-down process is best: I tried fat-free milk some time ago and disliked it so much I swore I'd never try again. Recently, I gradually stepped down from 2-percent to fat-free milk by drinking 1-percent for a while first, which really helped me make the transition.

To Have and Have Not...

It's important to have healthier choices on-hand before you say "So long!" to choices that aren't the best. Here are some ideas for must-haves (and mustn't-haves) in your healthier fridge:

Always Stock Up On:

  • ready-to-eat bagged salads
  • fresh vegetables
  • fresh fruit
  • salsa and/or picante sauce
  • low- or non-fat sour cream
  • low- or non-fat cream cheese
  • 1-percent or fat-free milk or soy milk
  • fat-free butter spray
  • reduced-fat or fat-free mayo
  • reduced-fat or fat-free salad dressings
  • lean protein, such as turkey or chicken
  • lean deli meats, such as roast beef or turkey slices

Reduce or Eliminate Use Of:

  • whole milk
  • regular cheeses
  • creamy salad dressings, e.g. blue cheese
  • soda
  • hot dogs
  • regular mayo
  • butter or margarine
  • chicken or tuna salad
  • regular sour cream and cream cheese
  • lunch meats, e.g. bologna

Single Servings are Smarter

Try to buy individual servings whenever possible. I have found this is really important for me; even if a large container of a food I tend to overeat is a better value, I know I am not doing myself any favors by having it in the house. That's not to say you can't overeat by eating too many individual servings, but you may be less likely to go back for a second when you have that empty container in your hand. Research has shown when we have a visual reminder of how much we have eaten, we are less likely to overeat.

Use Your Refrigerator as a Reminder

Consider keeping a record of your weight loss progress on the fridge door. Whether you post pictures or a graph showing you much your weight has gone down over the weeks, either will serve as an excellent motivation to take a moment and think about what you're doing next time you head to the fridge. This little reminder may be all you need to reach for those carrots instead of the chocolate cake!