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How to Set Up Your Kitchen for Success

The holiday season has come and gone, it’s the start of a new year, and you’ve made it your goal to start eating right – for real this time. Yet after a few failed recipes, helpless trips down grocery store aisles and late-night pizza runs, you can’t seem to make your goal last more than a few weeks. What are you doing wrong?

Try taking a look at your kitchen. Is it organized? Does it motivate you to stay in and cook more often? Research has consistently shown us that cooking at home improves the quality of our diets by steering us away from carbohydrates, sugar and fat. But how do you even know where to begin when it comes to making this lifestyle change?

Jenny Pitcher, a certified health and wellness coach and registered dietitian nutritionist at OhioHealth, offers some advice on how to stock a healthy kitchen in a way that empowers you to tackle your goals and start making healthy, at-home dinners once and for all. It all starts with knowing what to buy and how to organize it.

Kitchen tools and utensils in container on counter

The Tools of the Trade

When it comes to shopping for kitchen tools, you don’t always need the flashiest new appliance or wackiest gadget. Sticking to the basics will help you get the most bang for your buck and allow you to save up for some of the fancier tools later.

  • Good, sharp knife for chopping vegetables
  • Multi-purpose stockpot
  • Whisk for marinades and dressings
  • Mason jars for easy storage
  • Micro plane grater for anything from lemon zest to parmesan cheese

Open can of diced tomatoes

It’s a Healthy Pantry Party

Your pantry is the foundation for the rest of your kitchen, so make sure you’re stocking it with healthy recipe go-tos, like canned goods and whole grains.

  • Canned Beans, Meats and Vegetables
  • Whole Grains
  • Dried Fruits
  • Broth/Stock
  • Oils
  • Nut and Seed Butters
  • Potatoes, Onions, Garlic

Shopping cart full of food with man looking at freezer aisle food in the background

Fridge vs. Freezer

Buying fresh fruits, vegetables and produce is a MUST when it comes to making healthy meals. If you’re someone who doesn’t go through your fresh goods fast enough, try freezing them instead for some extra staying power.


  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Vinegars
  • Condiments
  • Fruits and Vegetables


  • Nuts/Seeds
  • Grains, Tortillas, Whole Grain Flours
  • Meats and Seafood
  • Fruits and Vegetables

Spice rack

Superstar Spices

Think of your spice cabinet as your kitchen’s secret weapon. In a diet where you’re cutting out fat, salt and sugar, dried herbs and spices are your new best friend. They’ll pack your meals with flavor.

From sweet and savory to hot and spicy, the list below covers some of our favorites that work great for roasted veggies, soups and everything in-between.

  • Basil
  • Ginger
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric
  • Herbs De Provence
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Good Salt and Pepper
  • Honey
  • Vanilla
  • Pure Maple Syrup

Decorate bowl of oranges on table


Now that you’ve armed yourself with the right ingredients, the next step is making sure you can get to them easily. Little things, like making sure you have enough space to prep and store your food and keeping your go-to tools within reaching distance, can make a big difference.

  • Store Healthy Food At Eye Level
  • Keep Citrus Out On The Counter
  • Use Smaller Serving Utensils
  • Clear Your Kitchen Counters – Including Your Table
  • Dish Leftovers Into Containers Before You Sit Down to Eat
  • Keep a Consistent Grocery List – And Stick to It!

Whole wheat quesadilla

Ready to Try It?

These quick and easy meal ideas can all be made with ingredients from your very own kitchen.

  • Baked potato topped with veggies and cottage cheese (or try it with sautéed spinach and leeks!)
  • Eggs with veggies and brown rice (or try it with sautéed swiss chard!)
  • Black beans and brown rice (try adding chipotle peppers!)
  • Salad with canned tuna or salmon or beans (add your own homemade salad dressing!)
  • Whole grain quesadillas with beans and cheese (or try it with kraut!)
  • Chicken breast and vegetable stir fry (up the flavor with a coconut-lime marinade!)

No matter the size of your kitchen, your cooking ability or your healthy-eating habits, it’s all about creating a space that’s right for you and your individual wellness goals. If you’re feeling intimidated, take it slow! Incorporating vegetables or adding a side salad to your existing meals instead of trying to change your entire diet is a great way to put yourself in a healthy mindset.

Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged! Giving yourself some grace to mess up and try new things is the most important thing you can do when adjusting to these changes. With time, you’ll be whipping up healthy, at-home meals in no-time!

 Need some more healthy recipe ideas? We’ve got you covered.