Spring Clean Your DietBy Jane Grant, Registered Dietitian
Spring is officially here! As the weather starts to warm up many of us start thinking of spring cleaning our closets and homes. Some of us are even inspired to take advantage of the longer days by getting involved in some outdoor activities like walking or biking. This is the perfect time to spring clean your diet. Most of us are aware that a healthy diet is the cornerstone of healthy living. A few simply changes can lead to big health rewards making you feel energized and renewed.
Let’s take a closer look at our eating habits and make changes that will work for you. The first thing you want to do is take a good look in your refrigerator and cabinets and evaluate the food items you have on hand. Over the winter months you might of stock up on comfort foods, convenience items and snacks. This is a good place to start “house cleaning” and reduce these items from your home. These items would be processed foods, items that are high in sodium, sugar, fat and refined grains (white flour or rice). Snack foods like cookies, chips and crackers are often made with white flour, high in calories and fat and provide little if any nutritional value. Cutting down these items in your diet is a great place to start.
Include more of these items into your diet and feel energized with good nutrition:
Include More Fruits and Vegetables! Take advantage of the fresh produce this season and add more nutrient dense foods like avocado, berries, cherries, and leafy dark greens like arugula, chard, kale and spinach. Not only do they add a lot of flavor and color to meals, they provide us with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Most people don’t include enough fruits and vegetables in their diet.
Don’t Forget Whole Grains! Studies have shown eating more whole grains could lengthen your life by reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Look for the Whole Grains Council’s “100% Whole Grain” stamp and check ingredients for terms like “whole wheat or whole oat”. Also experiment with grains that you’ve never tried before such as quinoa or wild rice, each week. You might discover a new favorite!
What about Nuts and Seeds! When you’re looking for a satisfying snack try a small handful of almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin or sunflower seeds. These items are a good source of protein, fiber and heart healthy monounsaturated fats as well as minerals. Studies have suggested they can help lower cholesterol levels. Use them on your salads instead of croutons, favorite muffins or try sprinkling them on your oatmeal or yogurt. Just watch your portion sizes to avoid eating more than you attended too.
More Water Please! Water is vital for every organ system to function, helping to circulate oxygen and eliminate toxins. Our bodies are made up of 60% of water. Take your body weight and cut it in half that is how many ounces of water you should be drinking every day. Part of the natural aging process we start to lose our sense of thirst so it’s important to keep ourselves hydrated.