I was captivated when I saw the term "your kitchen as a health center." It was used by architect and social innovator Susi Stadler, who hosts a provocative blog at www.AtHomeWithGrowingOld.com.
It's hard to deny that positioning your kitchen as the pathway to optimal health makes sense. The folks at the Institute of Medicine would be absolutely delighted if we all embraced the concept of health-focused kitchens. They are the ones who remind us in their 2005 report, "The great advances of genetics and biomedical discoveries could be more than offset by the burden of illness, disability and death caused by people eating too much and moving too little over their lifetime."
Harvard Medical School would be pleased. They partner annually with the Culinary Institutes of America to hold a four-day conference to teach health providers (classes are held in actual kitchens!) about healthful food preparation (www.healthykitchens.org).
I wonder whether we have any local docs planning to attend that conference. It's wonderful when our health practitioners care about this topic, but it's really up to us individually. We are the ones who must make this happen, one kitchen at a time.
Please put aside what you're reading and briskly walk into your kitchen. Put your health issues front and center. Little things you can do immediately may be obvious, such as getting rid of that cookie jar or all those recipe books that focus on sugar-laden desserts. Maybe you'll decide to keep only recipes that display nutritional content and calorie count by portion size.
I know, it's harder to do than I'm making it sound. But then, we're just exploring options. Maybe if you take the toaster off the counter you'll be less inclined to have two slices each morning slathered with butter and jam? Maybe you stop buying jam? Maybe you stop buying processed foods altogether? How about this: double your intake of fruits and veggies and develop an improved understanding of how to store them (www.nutrition.gov).
Try this perhaps? Make your cutting boards more visible to remind you to regularly cut up just-purchased (or garden grown) vegetables and fruits into similar sizes (diced, chunked, julienned) for easy refrigeration and quick access next time you're hungry. (Consider color coding those cutting boards to protect against cross contamination.)
In a kitchen that's a health center, you would eat less salt, so what if you buy a mortar and pestle and put it on the counter where the toaster was to prompt you to blend herbs from the container garden you have (or will have, as soon as you plant it). Grow rosemary: its aroma improves cognition. And it's a lovely companion to summer beverages.
As long as we're exploring options, here's one more. A little over the top, but you never know. There's a house for sale in our neighborhood. It has an absolutely ideal kitchen for these purposes; the people selling that house believe all the things I just wrote about and more. Maybe you could buy their kitchen and we could become neighbors and talk about this topic over a glass of iced tea. You can tell me all about your health-centered thinking. And I'll share rosemary from my kitchen garden.
Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at 541-261-2037 or Sharon@hmj.com