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Kitchen makeover: Put on your seatbelt with a kitchen cleanout!

As we’ve seen, our physical and social environment affects our eating decisions. Today, we’re going to improve an important part of that environment: Your kitchen.



So take your time to read, digest, absorb, and then take action.

If you need to wait until this weekend, no problem. Get a general idea today and then tackle this over the next few days.


Berardi’s First Law (John Berardi is the founder of Precision Nutrition)

Berardi’s First Law states:

“If a food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it.”

The corollary of Berardi’s First Law is:

“If a healthy food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it.”


Your surroundings: Your “trusted safety system”


Keep healthy stuff near you and convenient. Make your routines and environment support your fitness journey.


Keep unhealthy stuff away from you and inconvenient. Make it hard for unhealthy stuff to get to you. If it doesn’t help you reach your goals, you don’t need it near you.

Today we’re going to put that into practice with a kitchen makeover to see how you can make Berardi’s First Law work for you.


Why a kitchen makeover?


A kitchen makeover gets rid of the non-nutritious stuff and/or foods that trigger you to make poor eating choices.

Then it replaces the junk with a bounty of health-promoting foods.

A kitchen makeover helps you stay in control and on track.

You don’t want to be deciding between ice cream and spinach while standing in front of the fridge at T-minus 15 minutes to dinner time. Food decisions in our kitchen need to be foolproof.

A kitchen makeover makes things easy.

When you have a clear structure and a trusted system, you don’t have to think. You can just execute. And it’s simple.


Step 1: Prepare


Prepare your tools, your Owner’s Manual, the people around you, and your plan of attack.

Prepare your tools

Get a few big garbage bags, and your compost bin if you’ve got one.


Prepare your Own Manual

Think about what “healthy” and “unhealthy” foods are for you.

We like the “traffic light” concept: Red-, yellow-, and green-light foods.

Red-light foods are foods that are just bad news for you. Maybe they make you feel sick, or they trigger you to eat too much, or you know they’re an unhealthy choice for you, etc. Red means “no go”.


Yellow-light foods are foods that are sometimes OK, sometimes not. Maybe you can eat a little bit without feeling ill, or you can eat them sanely at a restaurant with others but not at home alone, or you can have them as an occasional treat, etc. Yellow means “approach with caution”.


Green-light foods are foods that make you feel good mentally and physically, and that you can eat normally, slowly, to a relatively easy 80% full. These are usually things like fruits and vegetables, lean protein, legumes, etc. Green means “go for it!”

Each person will have a slightly different list of red-, yellow-, and green-lights. 


Prepare the people around you

Go back to the lesson on building your team. If you live with other people, you might need to sit down with them and have an open, respectful discussion about what you’re doing.

Negotiate creative strategies and solutions if necessary.

For example:

  • Have a designated shelf or cupboard for “your stuff” and “their stuff”.
  • Agree to only purchase small quantities of red- or yellow-light foods — enough for an occasional special meal, no more. (In other words, no more buckets of peanut butter or pillowcase-sized bags of chips.)
  • Instead of banning all family favorites, try agreeing to have them a little less often.
  • Etc.


Figure out how you can get what YOU need to succeed, while still respecting others’ needs and wishes.


“Quick tip! Healthier environments for you also create healthier environments for others. Creating a healthy kitchen benefits everyone.”


Prepare your game plan

Be strategic and thoughtful about this. Have a plan of attack, and roll it out in a way that meets YOUR needs and YOUR life situation.

Think about:



  • How extensive you’d like to make this. You can tackle something small now, and then return to the project in a few weeks. Or you can go scorched-earth/Extreme Kitchen Makeover reality TV on it. It’s up to you.
  • What triggers YOU to make food choices. Notice and name what drives YOUR food decisions.
  • What YOU need to be your best self. Create a helpful environment for YOU.
  • How to communicate this to anyone else you share your space with. Think about how everyone else in your household can benefit as well. This may be a great chance to have a family discussion. Or you might sell this as a cleanup project that will make everyone’s life easier.



This is an experiment. You don’t have to “get it all” at once. You’re just trying something new.


Step 2: Red-light foods — terminate with extreme prejudice


Start with eliminating the easy stuff first:


  • Red-light foods
  • Expired foods


Review what foods are red-light foods for YOU.

For most people, red-light foods are processed foods such as candy, chips, cookies, etc.


Remember: We don’t have “rules” about “good” or “bad” foods.

But we DO make informed, grown-up, and honest choices.

So if you know or suspect certain foods trigger you into unhealthy behaviors: Get them out of easy reach.

Make that stuff go away… or at least hard to get to. Safety first!

If you have alcohol in the house, it’s your call.

Past a certain point, alcohol will cut into your recovery and start messing up your hormones.

So you decide how much drinking is right for you, and what you’re prepared to trade-off.

(We recommend limiting drinking to 1–2 drinks per night, at most. Unfortunately, most women’s bodies don’t deal very well with alcohol.)

If the idea of cutting back on your booze freaks you out, stop and think about that for a minute.

Of course, also dump any food that’s expired, weird colors, and/or furry.


Step 3: Read ALL labels carefully


After eliminating obvious red-light and possibly poisonous foods, now you have to make some informed choices.

Gather some data to decide on your next steps.

Check ALL labels. Read them carefully.

Never assume any product is “healthy” or “natural” or “crap-free”. Manufacturers are sneaky!

When in doubt ask yourself a few questions:


  • Does this food come in a bag, box, or plastic package?
  • Does it have more than a couple of ingredients on the label? (If reading all the labels feels a bit overwhelming, don’t worry. Tomorrow we’ll give you a handy label-reading guide.)
  • Can you pronounce all of those ingredients?
  • How far away is this food from what it used to be? (And do you even know what it used to be?)
  • Is this food perishable? Just about anything good for you goes bad quickly.


Based on your findings, decide whether these foods you’ve evaluated are worth keeping.


Step 4: Trade-offs


Once you’ve eliminated some obvious triggers and foods full of industrial chemicals, now you get to the negotiation stage.

What are you willing to keep… with modifications?

What is an effective compromise for others in your household?

Is there a way to arrange things so everyone wins?


For instance:


  • Is there a way to “upgrade” familiar favorites to healthier versions?
  • Can you try making things like salad dressing from scratch?
  • Does having a small amount of yellow-light foods make it easier to have green-light foods? (For instance, does a sprinkle of croutons or splash of store-bought dressing make it easier for you to eat a salad? Then keep those things.)
  • Can you put red-light foods into a place that’s hard for you to get to, but relatively easy for others who aren’t willing to part with them?
  • Can you all agree to keep “treats” that others like, but you don’t find to be triggers? (e.g. if your spouse likes chips, but you find them “meh”, consider that a potential win-win situation.)


Be reasonable and mature. Know yourself.

What do you need? What do others need? How can you balance those things while still staying on track to your goals?

What is “good enough” for right now?

Whatever you choose, choose with purpose and awareness.


Step 5: Recycle, dispose, compost


Don’t feel badly about “wasting food”.

Most of what you’ll throw out as red-light foods and yellow-light foods aren’t actually foods.

If a food that you’re discarding has some value, donate it to a local food bank or soup kitchen. Or if possible, toss it in the compost and feel good about giving back to the earth.

Otherwise, it goes in the garbage. Sayonara, self-sabotage!


Step 6: Consider what to add


Your fridge and pantry might look a little desolate after getting rid of the unhealthy foods.

They won’t be empty for long because you’re going to fill them back up with healthy, muscle-building replacements for the garbage you just unloaded.


Take a moment to notice:


  • What could you add to make healthy eating easier and more convenient?
  • Do you need any more equipment? (For instance, good knives or Tupperware?)


Eating well isn’t just about “taking stuff away”. Mostly, it’s about adding good stuff and enabling healthy routines.

(Kinda like living well — it’s about adding value, rather than just making your world smaller.)


The Kitchen Makeover in action

If you’d like to see one way to do a kitchen makeover, here’s a home video of Lisa, one of our Precision Nutrition Level 2 Coaching Certification students, working through a kitchen makeover with her best friend, Jenifer.


Notice how they:


  • Talk through what the makeover might involve
  • Go through and decide what to do with each food, and why
  • Do some meal planning, based on things Jenifer likes
  • Stock up on healthy goodies
  • Talk about what the process was like, afterward, and think about what they learned


Next, we’re going to show you how to hit the store, read labels, and become a healthy shopping ninja.

Healthy eaters have healthy homes. Healthy people ensure that their environment supports their goals.

Changing your surroundings is one of the best ways to start your journey to living better.



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