As the weather gets cooler and daylight hours get shorter, our thoughts start turning toward the holidays. (There are only 65 days to Thanksgiving, after all!) That inevitably gets us pondering our holiday hosting plans. How many guests should we invite to our table? What should we serve? Do we need to make any changes to our kitchen based on previous holiday hosting experiences? And how much will it all cost – both in terms of dollars åand dings to our health regimens?
These are significant questions – and time is running short to decide on your answers. Here are suggestions on large and small kitchen products from three professionals with relevant expertise. Each was sent questions to elicit email responses, shared here.
“Everything you eat impacts your health,” declares functional medicine practitioner and author of Eat to Treat, (Atria Books, October 2023) Maggie Berghoff. The good news, she points out, is that cooking meals at home gives you total control over what you are consuming. “Food should be nourishing, healing and give us energy versus causing us to be bogged down, anxious, bloated and feeling sick and tired.” What you cook and how you cook can have an impact – particularly at hectic times of year like the holiday season when you’re already stressed and vulnerable.
Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design at The Home Depot agrees. “The foundation of a healthy lifestyle starts with the choices we make in the kitchen,” she points out.
That starts with having a well-planned, well-equipped and well-organized space for creating healthy meals. As Northern Virginia-based kitchen designer Anna Gibson notes, “Coming into a clean and organized kitchen helps bring the joy of being in the space and makes it much easier to prep and cook.” There’s no more important time of year than the holiday season, when you and your home are both stress-tested.
One of your most important categories for a kitchen that facilitates healthy cooking, entertaining and eating is your cooking appliances. “For the last few years, we have been converting clients to use induction stoves and cooktops,” shares Gibson. It’s not only a greener solution, it’s also faster and healthier, she observes, especially for households with elderly persons and children. (Whatever cooking surface you choose, the designer urges homeowners to pair sufficient ventilation with it!)
Fishburne suggests ranges with air frying capacity and double ovens to help you prepare more health-enhancing food at the same time. There are many cooking appliances with healthy modes like air frying and steam cooking built in. “Steam cooking gently cooks the food without destroying its nutritional value, and some studies have found that cooking with steam may actually boost the nutritional value of our food,” Gibson adds.
Berghoff is bullish on freezer capacity, she says. “In fact, I could use a whole refrigerator-sized freezer. The reason is that I’m a busy working mom and it would be highly beneficial if I had more room to prep healthy, anti-inflammatory meals, snacks, breakfasts and even desserts to keep in the freezer, to grab throughout the weeks and months.” She notes that you can prepare and freeze smoothie ingredient bags, mini zucchini or egg muffins, casseroles and healthy, organic nuggets to defrost as needed for meals and snacks. Ample freezer capacity supports this.
If you’re not remodeling your kitchen – and it’s doubtful you could complete a full project in time for the holidays – you can add a spare freezer in your basement or garage.
Berghoff also likes her multi-cooker for easy, healthy meal prep, plus an electric frother and blender for healthy drinks, she says. Fishburne points to two popular countertop appliance categories as helpful in healthier meal prep. One is an air fryer oven, which can make popular holiday side dishes with significantly less fat. “This small appliance is great for baking, frying, roasting, dehydrating, reheating, toasting and grilling your favorite dishes, all at an unprecedented speed,” the retail executive comments.
“When it comes to healthy cooking, a rice cooker might not be the first choice that comes to mind,” she adds. “However, beyond its name, a rice cooker offers versatile functionality. Many models excel at steaming vegetables, while some have settings for preparing foods such as soup and oatmeal. This hardworking small appliance also makes it easier to switch out white rice for heart-healthier choices like quinoa and barley.”
Fishburne also suggests a slow juicer, which offers more benefits compared to standard models, she says. “Because of the gentle slow juicing process, which generates less heat, both the flavor and nutrient content of the juice are better preserved. As a result, you can typically store this type of juice in the refrigerator for three to five days, while still enjoying its quality.”
One of the unfortunate byproducts of this busy season, with kids in school, and more guests and germs circulating in the house, is potential illness. “Installing a touch faucet stops the transfer of germs in instances like washing your hands after handling raw meat,” Fishburne comments. It can also stop cold and flu germ transmission, as both of those viruses can live for extended periods on hard surfaces.
Even hands-free faucets can dispense less-than-healthy water, as a recent federal study pointed out. Whole house filtration is one solution Gibson has been specifying, she says. “This way, all the water coming into the kitchen, including the water dispensers and ice maker, are now double and triple filtered.”
Berghoff wants home cooks to use healthier tools. “If you’ve not yet made this change, it is pivotal and makes such a difference. Get rid of all the plastics in your kitchen and replace with glass,” she advises, citing food storage containers, water bottles, even baby bottles and sippy cups. “Swap traditional non-stick pans with cast iron or ceramic ones. Opt for stainless steel baking sheets and baking grade silicone.” Even things like parchment paper, aluminum foil and plastic wrap have healthier, non-toxic versions, she comments.
Beyond health-enhancing countertop appliances and cookware, Berghoff is a fan of organizing tools. “I feel like if you walk into a clean, aesthetic, organized kitchen, you just feel clean, refreshed and energized.” It allows you to have a mentally fresh mindset when you’re in the mindset of cooking something, and a pleasing environment to work in. You have to get rid of kitchen clutter, she instructs, which includes expired items and foodstuffs that are not going to contribute to your wellness goals. Clearing out your fridge, freezer and pantry before starting your holiday shopping seems like a smart strategy.
Fishburne adds, “If someone wants their healthy cooking and eating and New Year’s resolutions to stick, one excellent item to consider is a digital kitchen food scale. By incorporating a food scale into your cooking routine, you gain control over portion sizes, calorie intake, and the nutritional quality of your meals, making it easier to stick to your healthy eating resolution.”
We’re moving into the season of temptation, a tough time for those committed to healthy eating. “Setting yourself up for success makes it so much faster and more motivating,” Berghoff advises. “The healthier you are, the healthier you feel, the more healthy choices you want to make and it just keeps getting better and easier when you stick with it.” That sounds like a recipe for a successful New Year’s Resolution kickoff too!