How to Design Your Kitchen to Encourage Healthy Eating
Check out these wellness-inspired kitchen design ideas depending on your space, interests, and goals.
When it comes to planning a room in your home, you might instinctively consider the moods or habits you'd like the space to inspire. Maybe you try to create an office space that promotes productivity and a bathroom that borrows elements from a fave spa. Or perhaps you, like many people, are looking for a kitchen that inspires healthy practices.
The growth of today's wellness movement along with new advancements in appliances have contributed to an increased interest in kitchen design, says Dak Kopec, Ph.D., M.S. Arch., an architectural psychologist and associate professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. As a result, modern kitchen designs have become very important to the overall resale value of a home, he adds.
Resale aside, the design decisions you make can potentially inspire you to stick to healthy habits and promote healthy living, confirms Kopec. "Kitchen design can have an effect on use, choice, and behaviors." For example, if you have plenty of counter space to spread out and the tools to make cooking easier, you might be more likely to follow through with, say, a goal to meal prep more often. What was once an overwhelming task (ugh, all of those ready-to-fill containers fighting spots on the counter in your old shoebox apartment), can suddenly turn into a positive and productive experience. (Have the kitchen design down but need a little inspo? Check out this 30-day meal prep challenge.)
If you're hoping to achieve a kitchen that's suited to your wellness aspirations, here are some kitchen design trends worth checking out.
ICYMI earlier, design decisions can in fact affect your behaviors. So, the right layout might make meal prepping more convenient or allow your family to gather for longer meals (and, thus, more together time!). "The question a good designer asks within the design process is: 'Does the kitchen design allow for ease of use?'" says Kopec. "If yes, then people are more likely to use it."
In terms of spacing, this can mean choosing a kitchen setup that allows you to "maneuver easily and without harm" when working in the kitchen, he says. Maybe that means placing cooking, cooling, and cleaning stations together in a triangle that's out of the way from household traffic patterns or adding a designated pastry center near your oven for easy baking. (Related: Easy Ways to Make Healthy Eating More Accessible for Yourself and Others)
On that note, a lot of people have been opting for an open layout, says Kopec. "The open-plan kitchen, dining, and living room afford the opportunity to engage in more complicated and nutritious food preparation while multitasking with the family." Since the area isn't closed off, it's easier to communicate or transport food across prep and dining areas. And when cooking isn't a logistical nightmare, you might feel more motivated to whip up something nutritious from scratch rather than gravitate to whatever's easiest (and not necessarily the healthiest).
You can customize your counter space to suit your cooking style. "One request that's becoming more popular is a galley sink," says Shea McGee, interior designer and half of the husband-wife duo behind Studio McGee and Make Life Beautiful. "It's a huge sink that two people can use and is a very optimized food prep station." You can incorporate sections dedicated to drying racks, cutting boards, and more — another way to make cooking more efficient and potentially more appealing. (Related: Hacks That Make Healthy Cooking Easier and More Fun)
New appliances are constantly popping up, so how do you decide which one is best for you? Consider what would make your life easier given your cooking habits. Along with space planning, the amount of technology you incorporate will factor into your kitchen's ease of use, says Kopec — but more isn't always better. "Some people embrace technology while others find it frustrating," he notes.
Maybe after some soul searching (and, let's be honest, HGTV binging) you realize that simpler is, in fact, better, so you'd rather work with just an oven and stove. But if you're someone who thinks the latest tech will enhance and not detract from your cooking experience, you might want to invest in gadgets such as the Kohler Setra Single-Handle Voice Activated Pull-Down Sprayer (Buy It, $400, homedepot.com), a faucet that responds to voice commands, or the Samsung FamilyHub Refrigerator (Buy It, $3,598, homedepot.com), which has a touch screen that tells you when food expires (based on when you crossed them off a shopping list you created) or plan a meal based on what's inside.
If you're not interested in anything requiring installation, there are plenty of countertop appliances that also incorporate new tech. One example? "We've seen a trend with more and more clients requesting steam ovens," says McGee. "They're not a direct replacement for microwaves, but they have the ability to cook your food without any of the flavor loss." So if the thought of microwaved leftovers keeps you from batch-cooking healthy meals (and reducing food-waste!), a steam oven might make the idea more palatable. The Sharp Superheated Steam Countertop Oven (Buy It, $398, homedepot.com) combines steam and conventional, radiant heat to make foods crispy on the outside without drying them out.
If you're interested in both an air fryer and an Instant Pot, consider a device that does both, like the Instant Vortex Plus 7-in-1 Air Fryer Oven. (Related: The Brava Smart Oven Will Replace Literally All of Your Kitchen Appliances)
In addition to smart appliances, there's another health-inspired kitchen design trend that's worth noting: putting food on display. "The use of herb gardens and transparent refrigerators are intended to promote visual enticement to healthier foods," explains Kopec. If you're trying to fit in more servings of fruit or vegetables, having them right where you can see them might impact your decision making when you're searching for a snack. (See: How to Start an Indoor Herb Garden)
Thoughtful Organization Schemes
In addition to design, how you organize your kitchen can also impact your habits, according to McGee. "If we can, we love designing the bottom, counter-level cabinet with an outlet to conceal juicers and blenders while keeping them extremely accessible," she says. So if you'd love to make more nutrient-packed smoothies but rarely touch your blender given it's currently tucked away in a hard-to-reach location, this kitchen design idea might be something to consider.
On a more micro level, many people have been paying more attention to how they store their food. Google searches for "fridge organization" spiked in September 2020, according to Google Trends, indicating a sudden increase in interest in the topic compared to normal search tendencies. (Yes, that was the month that The Home Edit debuted on Netflix.) For some, taking on a pantry or fridge reorganization project can help make healthy foods seem more attractive and convenient. (Related: How the Simple Act of Reorganizing My Fridge Changed the Way I Eat)
The Bottom Line
Whether you're planning your kitchen design from square one or just rearranging what's already there, you can easily make impactful decisions. Take it from McGee: "Whether people find encouragement during the design process or with organization, creating functionality in the kitchen is the simplest way to promote healthy living in the home."