In The Kitchen Of The Future, Eating Healthily Will Be Second Nature
Last week, we explored how the communities of tomorrow (and in some parts of the world, today) promote health by bringing residents closer to their neighbors and the surrounding nature. A beautiful example of mbg's You. We. All mentality, it got us thinking about how we can optimize our homes for wellness, regardless of our ZIP code.
According to Veronica Schreibeis Smith, a "building biologist" who designs spaces in response to wellness trends, there is plenty we can do behind closed doors to support a healthy lifestyle. After hearing the chair of the Global Wellness Institute's Wellness Architecture Initiative's industry forecasts at a conference earlier this year, where wellness kitchens were identified as a trend, we caught up with her to learn more about how the homes of the future will be better for us and better for the planet.
How your home's design influences your health.
Smith insists that architecture has the capacity to change our behavior. For proof, look to the rise of biophilic design—the art of crafting buildings that mimic nature in order to put inhabitants at ease. Hallmark biophilic principles (think: open floorplans, natural light, plant integration) are popping up in the offices of Amazon, Google, and Etsy to foster productivity and creativity, and Smith predicts that they will come to our homes next.
Homeowners are already starting to seek out spaces made using natural materials like stones and woods. "Right now, a lot of people are realizing that you can't be truly healthy when you're surrounding yourself with synthetic materials," Smith tells mbg. "It's just like our food: The more processed our surroundings and materials are, the worse off we are."
She points to research showing that our heart rate and blood pressure lower when we're surrounded by reminders of nature, but our fight-or-flight response can kick into high gear when we're in synthetic environments. "Of course, nobody is going to die or be hurt in a synthetic environment, but more people will start gravitating toward places that truly help them thrive and operate at their full capacity."
In addition to letting us opt in to nature, wellness homes allow us to disconnect from technology. Many of the homes Smith works on are wired to make it easier to completely shut off the power in places you spend a lot of time, like the bedroom. They encourage real-life connections with plenty of shared spaces. No detached guest suites here.
The one room that could use a major revamp.
Smith says that one room in particular is overdue for a wellness-inspired redo: the kitchen. A well-designed kitchen can set the stage for healthy eating habits, after all.
Smith predicts that more home cooks will soon be able to store fruits and veggies in a range of humidity- and temperature-controlled units instead of relegating them to a cabinet to rot. This will ultimately extend the nutrient value of our foods and make us less likely to waste it. "We work with refrigeration systems that have a range of temperatures that are easy to control and cupboards that have glass doors so you can see all of your food. That prevents waste too because it reminds you when perishable things are going bad." She adds that indoor gardens are another hallmark of the wellness kitchen, as are built-in compostors.
At the end of the day, wellness kitchens should entice people to cook with natural, healthful ingredients—preferably alongside friends and family. "If you're eating a vegetable-rich diet, there is a lot of prep that goes into it, so you want there to be surfaces that are easy for many people to work on," she says, explaining that kitchen hot spots like islands can have adjustable heights to get all members of the family working at the same time.
How to craft a healthy kitchen—without having a wellness designer on speed dial.
Even if you don't have the time or money for a complete overhaul, there are plenty of ways to make your kitchen more nourishing right now. Here are a few tiny tweaks that Smith recommends:
- Declutter the top cabinets, and consider taking off the doors to reveal open shelving. Open shelving up above is soothing to the eye, especially when it's filled with spices, herbs, or plants.
- Place a water purification system to your kitchen tap to filter out potentially harmful chemicals.
- Add some more seating to your kitchen to encourage family members to gather and get involved with food prep.
- Put healthy food on display, and opt for glass cabinetry if you have the choice.
- Consider adding a small herb garden to your windowsill or pantry.