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Explore nutrition tips, kids’ meal plans, kids’ activities, recipes and more from pediatric nutritionist, Melissa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE.

My Messy but Healthy Kitchen – Why Perfection Isn’t Always the Best

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My Messy but Healthy Kitchen - Why Perfection Isn’t Always the Best

The inside truth to how a dietitian is in the kitchen. Being messy doesn’t mean your food can’t be healthy!

People often ask what types of foods I keep in my kitchen. They often assume that, as a dietitian, my kitchen must be immaculate and perfectly stocked with fresh produce. But that’s not always the case! I am a real mom and working woman. I know that a kitchen stocked with cans and frozen items can help save time and be just as nutritious, especially when my fridge is running on empty and so am I. Here’s the truth about my kitchen, and why perfect isn’t always best.

Truth: I cook with canned and glass jar foods.

Canned foods can be mealtime lifesavers. I always keep canned (BPA-free whenever available) and glass jars of olives, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, beans, tomatoes, broth, tuna, salmon, and chicken on hand. You can whip up bean salads, chili, or tostadas with beans, easy Italian pasta or soup with canned tomatoes and broth, serve the chili over baked potatoes, bake tuna or salmon cakes, or serve an easy chicken casserole. Plus artichoke hearts seem to be a crowd-pleaser when I’m out of fresh veggies. Do choose low-sodium varieties whenever possible.

Truth: I’m less than perfect at slicing and dicing.

Look, you’re not cooking in a gourmet restaurant or for the food network. Your knife skills don’t have to be perfect! Most foods are cooked and combined with other ingredients, so less-than-perfect slices or an uneven dice won’t even be noticed.

Truth: I only buy the amount of produce I will use.

As much as I love fresh fruits and veggies, I try to buy what I know I will use. And even though I grow swiss chard, zucchini, veggies, fruit, and herbs I still keep frozen veggies in stock and use them! I also keep a few frozen meals in which I combine with fresh vegetables. I buy fresh fruit for snacking but choose frozen for smoothies, desserts, oatmeal, and yogurt. If the produce I purchased starts to go bad, I freeze it or cook it to use later in the week. For pre-washed kale that’s about to expire, I just chip clip it and put it straight in the freezer. When I’m making smoothies, I’ll add in a few frozen leaves.

Truth: I’m messy in the kitchen.

Cooking from scratch can be a messy process! I don’t let that deter me from cooking up a storm. I try to clean as I cook whenever possible, but anything I don’t wash right away waits in a sink full of soapy water until after dinner and after I’ve spent quality time with my family. Yes, I do recruit my family to help to quicken the cleaning process. Also, I keep a bin next to the drainboard for wash clothes and dish towels –which we use abundantly! It’s better than paper towels and helps me keep the kitchen tidier.

Truth: I wing it.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Some of my best creations are unplanned or may even be accidents! You’re likely harder on yourself than any of your family members would be. They may just appreciate any hot meal you place in front of them! If not, recruit them to cook or come up with new ideas. And hey, if something doesn’t turn out absolutely delicious, keep a sense of humor about it. Have a good laugh, order takeout for the night, make sandwiches, or do something fun like breakfast for dinner.

Truth: My fridge sometimes looks like a bomb went off.

Although I try to make it a habit to clean out the fridge every Wednesday, it doesn’t always happen. Using glass Pyrex dishes with plastic lids helps keep the mystery out of leftovers. But when it’s looking bad, I’m just glad it’s loaded with good-for-you ingredients, leftovers, and real food! A messy, well-stocked fridge is better than an empty, clean one.

Truth: I include the whole family.

A messy happy kitchen filled with kids, spills, and laughter is better than a clean and cold one. Welcome your kids into the kitchen and teach them how to be independent. Get them involved in food prep, serving, and clean up. This will also make kids more likely to try to foods you’re serving them! See the Super Crew tips on cooking with the kids.

Truth: I have to remind myself to let kids mess up the kitchen.

When I have my daughter or her friends in the kitchen, I remind myself to lighten up. They’re kids and I might have to step up, but there’s also a lot they can learn by taking the reigns themselves and learning the ins and outs of cooking. There are times I may step in to help clean, but for the most part, I let them see the fun and work involved in making a delicious meal or snack!

Hopefully reading about my kitchen truths has inspired you to let go of perfection and give home-cooking a try. Release yourself from any expectations you may have, and make cooking fun and stress-free!

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About the Author

Picture of Melissa Halas, MA, RD, CDE

Melissa Halas, MA, RD, CDE

Melissa is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a master's in nutrition education. She is the founder of SuperKids Nutrition Inc. Read more about her Super Crew children’s books and her experience as a registered dietitian on the About Melissa and Shop page. Discover how nutrition can help you live your best health potential through her plant-based books and newsletter on Melissa’s Healthy Living.

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