The stress of a cluttered kitchen can make you munch mindlessly on fattening snacks, but straightening up may help you slim down.
A study by the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, published in February 2016 in the journal “Environment and Behavior,” found that women who had to wait in a messy kitchen said no thanks to carrots and dove right into the cookies.
Researchers asked half of the about 100 women in the study to wait in a kitchen with newspapers and mail strewn around, dishes piled up in the sink and a choice of snacks in easy reach.
While they waited, those women ate 53 more calories from cookies than the other half, who were offered the same snacks in an organized kitchen.
“The ones in a crazy environment ate about 44 percent more snacks,” said Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of “Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life.”
That’s not surprising, says Kelly Jayne McCann, a professional organizer and clutter coach who teaches online organizing workshops on kitchen organizing for healthy eating.
“Clutter gets in the way of our fitness goals and healthy eating goals,” McCann said.
If the junk in your kitchen might be adding clutter to your waistline, here are 7 tips for streamlining both:
1. Contain Random Clutter
Keeping your kitchen free of clutter might be more important than keeping it sparkling clean, Wansink said.
McCann suggests using a pretty pop-up cloth grocery basket to stash clutter that would otherwise take over your countertops. Start tossing stray items like cell phones, keys and hats into this basket. Each evening, grab the container and put stuff back in the right spots.
2. Make Space for Paper
In the study’s test kitchen, like many homes, a stack of mail sat on the counter. Because kitchens often act as landing pads, junk mail and other paper clutter can be a big problem, McCann said.
Get into the habit of sorting your mail and throwing catalogs, ads and other junk straight into your recycle bin. Buy an attractive, shallow container without a lid that can sit on the counter to hold bills, letters and other papers.
3. Get Rid of Extra Gadgets
Go through your kitchen and donate, give away or sell small appliances and other items you don’t use.
If you can’t decide whether or not to part with that quesadilla maker you got for your wedding, do the “cardboard box test,” recommends Peter Walsh, professional organizer and author of “Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight: the Six-Week Total-Life Slim Down.”
Stash the questionable items in a box. Each time you use one, put it back in your kitchen. If you haven’t used an item at the end of the test period, maybe two or three months, it should go, Walsh said.
4. Straighten Up Your Drawers
Having messy drawers can make it hard to find the simple tools you need to prepare healthy munchies.
“You open a drawer and can’t find what you need when it’s full of clutter,” McCann said.
5. Store Items Based on Frequency of Use
Put small appliances you use daily, like your coffee maker, on the counter, McCann said.
Appliances you use once a week or month, like your food processor, should go on a lower shelf or in a cupboard.. And the stuff you use once a year, like your turkey roaster?
“Store it in a basement or garage or somewhere out of the way,” McCann said.
6. Keep Healthy Snacks in Easy Reach
Put a bowl of fruit on your counter, Wansink recommends.
In a different study that analyzed the homes and weights of more than 200 consumers, Wansink found that those who had breakfast cereal sitting on the counter weighed 20 pounds more than neighbors who didn’t. But those who had fruit sitting out weighed 13 pounds less.
When you get home from the grocery store, take 15 minutes to wash and prep fruits, veggies and other healthy snacks, McCann said. Then put them in clear glass containers near eye level in your fridge.
“Store them front and center,” McCann said.
7. Take a Breather
If you don’t have the time or ability to organize your kitchen right now, take a mental break, Wansink recommends. The study also found that people who thought about a time when they felt in control of their life before they waited in the messy kitchen were far less prone to stress snacking as those who recalled a time when everything felt out of control.
“It might work to take a deep breath, pause and reset your thinking,” he said.