4 Simple yet powerful tips to set a healthy kitchen


It is never too late. Thankfully science has proved that every lifestyle disorders i.e- diabetes, overweight, obesity, hypertension, arthritis, thyroid issues, PCOD, anxiety, depression, etc – whatever you have- are very much reversible with lifestyle modification.
That means you have two choices-
1. Continue the way you live along with guilt and with a big box of medicines
2. Bring few lifestyle changes and live guilt free with a possibly lower dosage of less no of medicines
The choice is yours.
If you choose the first one, well, all I can say is- best of luck. And don’t waste your time reading this blog.
But if you are thinking of the second one, I will suggest you begin your journey right now by resetting your kitchen. Yes, having a healthy kitchen should be the first step to achieve your health goal.

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Why do you need a healthy kitchen?

How can you be so selfish? Do you think only you need to stay healthy? What about your other family members – your kids, parents? So if commercial potato chips are junk, bad for you and your weight, it is equally bad for your kids no matter how thin they are. So showing love with a packet of junk is not a smart choice for anybody. And of course while you gift such stuff you also end up getting a small share, right?
Healthy habits are amazing to read but difficult to develop especially when you are surrounded by junk throughout the day. It can not happen when everyone around you is indulging on “junk”. Keep no discrepancy among your family member when it comes to a healthy choice. The thumb rule is simple – what is bad is bad for everybody. So talk to your family members, make them understand the need to developing good eating behavior. Instead of walking alone, walk together.
Let’s start with your kitchen. No, setting up a healthy kitchen is not a daunting task. Few additions, alterations, and removal of basic stuff are enough for this makeover. You may not be able to do this overnight. That’ fine. Take your time to follow these 4 simple steps for resetting your kitchen.

Choose the RIGHT –
• cookware
• storage containers
• cooking medium
• food


Setting a healthy kitchen Step 1. Change your cookware

Do you know your cookware plays a big role in making food “ healthy”? You have various choices for cookware to pick from. A few common materials are- nonstick, aluminum, stainless steel, clay pots, iron pans and ceramic, etc.

Choose the right cookware based on the following criteria –
• it should be convenient to use
• easy to maintain
• maintenance cost should be low
• should not cause any health hazards
• free from any controversies

How about non-stick or aluminum cookware?


Non-stick cookware has become one of the favorite choices for most of us. And why not? It has made our life so easy. It cooks food without sticking to the pan, easy to use and clean. It requires little oil to cook or fry food. Therefore very helpful to make “healthy” foods right?
Similarly, aluminum cookware is a great conductor of heat. Heat up quickly and evenly, cook really fast. Cheap in price.
Now both these cookware has their own share of controversies.

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The surface of nonstick cookware is coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), well known as Teflon. When pans are overheated to approximately 300 degrees C, the coating begins to dissociate releasing byproducts (PFOA- perfluorooctanoic acid). This fume of PFOA has been proved to be a persistent pollutant cause flu-like symptoms. Besides this long use of PFOA has been associated with causing health concern like thyroid issues, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, and even cancer.

Due to these health concerns, Teflon products have been made PFOA free since 2013. But the product quality is always a question especially in the developing countries where laws are flexible depending on the money power. Therefore it is better to avoid non-stick cookware as much as possible.
On the other hand, it is true that aluminum reacts with acidic foods causes the metal to leach into food. But today there are anodized or hard anodized aluminum cookware. Both have a layer of aluminum oxide on the surface which prevents foods to come directly in contact with aluminum and minimize chances of leaching aluminum in food. However, there is another school of thought which says no protection is enough. So the controversy is still there.

What shall I use then?

Therefore instead of taking any risk, it is best to replace your cookware one by one with stainless steel and cast iron. Both are a good conductor of heat like aluminum. They are less or no maintenance cost. Once you purchase a good quality one, will definitely going to stay with you for at least the next 10 years. Since I am personally passing through this phase, I can vouch that this transition is not going to be very easy but also not that difficult. If you have little patience you can get adjusted with your new cookware set soon.

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But I am too comfortable with nonstick or anodized aluminum cookware –

If you want to stick to the non-stick or anodized aluminum cookware then make sure you use a well-branded product. Don’t overheat your non-stick pots. Take good care, wash them gently with water. And replace the nonstick cookware once its coating gets discolored or peeled off. However, repeated change of cookware may not be a cost-effective choice.

How about using aluminum foil?

The amount of aluminum seep into food from aluminum foil is insignificant. But it is better to reduce the use of aluminum foil for cooking especially if cooking any acidic foods- tomatoes or lemons.

Do we have any other regular cookware choice?

You can consider using a ceramic or traditional clay pot for cooking. Both are a good conductor of heat. Ceramic cookware is another fantastic non-stick option having PTFE coating. You need to replace your old ceramic cookware just like other nonstick cookware. Therefore long term maintenance is again an issue and you might find it a little expensive.
Clay pots are the good traditional choice for cooking. The only disadvantage is it may break easily. Otherwise for specific dishes, one can easily use this cookware.

Bottom Line –

Stainless steel and cast iron pots and pans are completely safe without any health-related controversies. These are a great conductor of heat, cook evenly. Almost zero maintenance and durability makes it actually a pocket-friendly option. These are the best choice for regular cooking. Think of gradually replacing other cookware with cast iron or stainless steel pots and pans.

Setting a healthy kitchen Step 2. Pick the best storage containers

Do you store your groceries in colorful plastic containers? I know, plastic containers are everywhere. It is flexible, cheap, durable and extremely useful. But at the same time dangerous to your health.

Why not plastic?

Our plastic food containers, plastic bottles, plastic packaging materials (cling film too) contain various toxic chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, etc which leach into the food over time, particularly at elevated temperatures. You will be surprised to know that the leaching process is accelerated by repeated washing of such containers. There are multiple studies showing how BPA and phthalates enter our body and create numerous health risks. BPA gets into our body and mimics reproductive hormone ‘estrogen’ thus often it often referred to as xenoestrogen. It produces hormonal imbalance, trigger autoimmune response which associates a long list of complications – thyroid issues, PCOD, type 2 diabetes, decreased sperm count, cardiovascular diseases, etc.

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But I use an only expensive plastic container which is BPA free –

Companies are smart, really smart. To tackle the situation, they have come with new plastics labeled as “BPA-free” where BPA has been replaced by BPS (Bisphenol-S) however, the research found both have quite a similar health risk.

What to do?

You need to be careful so that raw or cooked food should not come in contact with plastic. Heating food in plastic containers is the most damaging. Heat accelerates the leaching process of plastic and makes the situation worst. Five basic changes to make a huge difference in health.

Replace your –

1. plastic bottles with either stainless steel or glass or even with earthen pots.

2.plastic food storage containers or serving utensils– plates, bowl, cutlery from plastic to glass/steel/ ceramic/ brass/ clay pot whatever you feel convenient.

3. plastic bag of any size with cloth bags. Get a big cloth bag along with small cloth pouches to shop and keep individual groceries and vegetables. Don’t worry you will find small cloth pouches in the market or online. Just look for it.

4. plastic straw with a steel/ bamboo one. In fact, if you are reading this that means you have grown up, you can start using your mouth instead.

5. plastic disposable plates, cups, spoons, etc with paper/ bamboo/ leaf plates/cups or bowl. Remember, plastic cups not only harm you but also increase non-biodegradable waste on our planet.

Bottom Line –

Plastic is not good for keeping any cooked or raw food/ drink. The health hazards of plastic have been proved repeatedly. Replace all your plastic containers, bottles, straw with steel/ glass. Plastic bags with cloth bags, Plastic disposable items with paper/ leaf/bamboo materials. straw with some other non-toxic, suitable material like glass/ steel/ paper/ leaf/ cloth, etc.

Setting a healthy kitchen Step 3. Choose the right cooking medium

Are you using refined oil for regular cooking? You must be mesmerized by the popular claims like “heart healthy”, “rich in omega-6”, “full of antioxidants” etc.
Soybean/ rice bran/ sunflower/ safflower/ corn/ canola oil, etc are the refined oil available 
easily in the market. They are comparatively cheaper in price. One liter of refined oil costs between Rs 70/- to 120/-. You will be shocked to know that these popular oils are inferior in quality which kills all the oil benefits while processing. 

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The truth of refined oil –

The solvent extraction method is used to make refined oil. In this method, high heat and chemical treatment is applied to extract the oil. During this process, oil losses all its vitamins and minerals. Fatty acid chains break down and the oil becomes unstable.
Later, various other chemicals are used to neutralize the color and odor of the oil. Then preservatives and additives are added to increase its shelf life. Therefore refined oils are colorless, tasteless, odorless liquid.
As it, losses all its nutrition during processing, vitamin A and D are fortified. Please note, this fortification is not that helpful as fortified vitamins generally do not get absorbed in our body.

Refined oils are high in unsaturated fatty acid especially in omega 6 fatty acids which become unstable in higher temperature after a certain time. Therefore refined oils are considered as one of the major culprits for chronic inflammation, which most likely leads to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

What to use in my healthy kitchen?

Cold pressed oils or kachhi ghani oils are the best option for cooking oil these days. In this method, oil is extracted by pressing the seeds in a traditional way using ghani at a lower temperature. Therefore oil manages to retain it’s color, odor, taste, and nutrition (vitamins and minerals).
One liter of cold pressed/ kachhi ghani oil may cost between Rs. 150 -1000/- depending on the type of seed/fruit.
After almost banning coconut oil/ ghee/mustard oil/ groundnut oil for last two decades, now studies are tagged coconut oil and ghee as a superfood for its wonderful fatty acid composition saturated fat, medium chain fatty acid, etc. Mustard oil has been found to be the most heart-healthy oil due to its fantastic combination of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids.

Bottom Line –

Pick ghee along with kachhi ghani mustard oil, coconut oil, sesame oil or filtered groundnut oil- according to your tradition and present location. Change your cooking oil in every two months. Avoid refined oil as much as possible.

Setting a healthy kitchen Step 4. Replace “junk” with “healthy” foods

You need to avoid junk at all cost. It is only possible once you stop buying them. No not only for you, for your kids and other family members. Good food is good for everybody, right? Then similarly junk is junk for every family member irrespective of their age or body weight.
Only once you stop buying them, you will get to see the multiple tasty other options. Not before that for sure.

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Why not junk foods?

All most all packaged and processed foods are bad for your health for 4 obvious reasons
1. Loaded with processed sugar and refined salt to make you addicted
2. Loaded with cheap refined oil– mainly soy oil. This is one ingredient you will find in every packaged food. Soy oil is unstable in high heat, which breaks the fatty acid structure in it and releases free radicals in our body.
2. Loaded with chemicals and preservatives to improve the texture, flavor, color and shelf life of the products.
4. No nutrition left after the ultra-processing technique. Fortification with vitamins and minerals does not help in most of the cases as these artificial sources are generally not utilized in our body.

In other words, these packaged foods are empty calorie without any beneficial nutrients. Study shows that all these high sugar containing foods damage the intestinal lining and leads to leaky gut which in turn trigger an autoimmune response and leads to develop thyroid issues, hormonal imbalance, obesity, diabetes, and other lifestyle diseases.                                                                                                       

Junk foods are addictive. There is no “little bite”. Once you have the first bite, you will get tempted to have the second and the third bite.

What are junk foods ?

There are two types of packaged foods as per the advertisements.
1. Normal packaged and processed foods
2. “Healthy” packaged and processed foods
You will be shocked to know foods which are promoted as “healthy” or “natural” (read: all fruit juice, energy drink, diet chips, etc) are also loaded with added sugars.

You can categorize these packaged foods in largely 4 groups
1. Breakfast cereals – cornflakes, muesli, instant oats, brown bread, etc
2. Snacks – instant noodles/pasta, bhujiya, namkeen, chips- baked or fried, protein bar/ health bar, biscuits, cookies, ice cream, frozen dessert, cake, muffin, donut, and other sweet or savory baked items, etc.
3. Juices and other carbonated drinks – Cola or other carbonated drinks, packaged fruit juices, energy drinks, iced tea, coffee or milk-based beverages like lassi, etc
4. Sauces, dips, dressings – sauce/ ketchup, mayonnaise, dips, jam, jelly, processed cheese, various salad dressing, etc

Do you read the ingredient list?

Well, if you are smart then food companies are even smarter. A recent study says that 74% of packaged food hide the added sugar in their food label. Food companies use more than 61 types of added sugar to make their product irresistible and addictive to their consumers. Ranging from common names such as sucrose, high fructose corn syrup to barley malt, dextrose, maltose, rice syrup, etc are used frequently to add the extra punch to all the packaged junk.

Replace the junk with a homemade healthy snack – but where is the time?

Yes, healthy homemade snacks are the best and essential step to make your kitchen healthy. Wondering what to make? I have some ideas for healthy snacks, summer drink and instant breakfast cereal for you. Do try them.
Plan your week menu on weekends and invest an hour to make 2-3 items. Yes, most of the cases healthy snacks, instant breakfast cereals does not take much time to make. If you have house help, train him/her to assist you. All you need doable planning and motivation. Once you start doing this you will also start loving it.
Homemade versions of snack or any food are way better than any packaged and processed food for 5 obvious reasons-
1. quality is ensured
2. least processing so retained most of its nutrients
3. no unnecessary usage of sugar, salt, and oil
4. no preservatives and chemicals
5. tasty and guilt-free eating is ensured

Bottom Line –

Stop buying packaged and processed foods. Start making its homemade version. Do a little bit of planning over the weekend and start investing an hour a week to prepare and store your favorite snack for the week.

Summary

You must make your kitchen healthy. It feels great. Stay motivated and bring these small yet powerful changes to turn it to a healthy kitchen.
Use stainless steel or iron cookware for cooking. They are completely safe and perfect for the Indian style of cooking. Replace all your plastic storage container with glass or steel. Start using cloth bag replacing the plastic one. Use a healthy cooking medium for cooking. Ghee, kachhi ghani oil as per your current location and tradition are the best option. Finally, stop buying any packaged and processed foods. Make the homemade version doing little planning.
If you can manage to bring these four changes, half of your health battle is won. Go guilt-free and develop these healthy habits not alone but along with your family. “Health is wealth” not only for you but for all.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Madhuleena says:

    Very informative read. A comprehensive post.. super helpful!

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