Spring Back into Health: 5 Healthy Diet Tips

Woman holding fresh leafy vegetable

Spring’s arrival lets us know that warmer temperatures, longer days, and blooming flowers are finally within reach after shortened gray and cold winter days. We anticipate trading out those heavy sweaters and long fireplace-focused evenings for short-sleeve shirts and backyard barbecues. Plans to clean living spaces of unwanted, unused stuff and clutter is another annual ritual providing great satisfaction after a long winter of hibernation. This time of the year also presents another perfect “spring cleaning” opportunity:  the opportunity to clean up our eating habits in the National Nutrition Month.

With obesity, heart disease and diabetes alarmingly on the rise among younger populations, now it’s more important than ever to examine you and your family’s diet and instill healthy eating and nutrition.

Below are some tips to spring clean your diet to help you and your family establish healthy, life-long nutrition and eating habits.

1. Purge your pantry and refrigerator. Now is a perfect opportunity to rid your kitchen cabinets, pantry and refrigerator of expired foods and packaged items loaded with processed ingredients.

Expired items should be thrown out. Read labels and get rid of foods loaded with sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup and those loaded with high sodium and sugars.

Replace cookies, crackers and processed snack items with minimally processed foods like nuts, seeds, natural almond butter, whole fresh fruits and veggies, and plain yogurt with fresh fruit to satisfy you and your family’s hunger pangs between meals. 

2. Add a rainbow of colors to your plate. After a winter diet of comfort foods, casseroles, and warm pie, rid your mealtimes of such high-calorie menu items that can weigh you and your family down. Instead, opt for some of spring’s abundant gifts from nature that are great sources of nutrition, vitamins, fiber and disease-fighting compounds.

Less than 10% of our country’s population eat the recommended daily requirement of fruits and veggies servings. Fresh whole fruits and veggies are packed with powerful antioxidants and vitamins that taste great while providing many nutritional benefits.

Wash and cut fresh veggies and fruits and put them in easy-to-reach resealable baggies in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator so family members can help themselves to a healthy snack. Have hummus, plain yogurt, or raw veggie salsa as dip options. 

Explore your local farmers’ markets for new fruits and veggies to add to your weekly meal repertoire. Prepare seasonal veggies simply to retain valuable nutrients:   serve fresh on their own or as part of a salad medley, steam or roast with fresh herbs, or combine two or three into a tasty, colorful side dish coupled with a lean protein like chicken or fish.

Strive for three or more colors on your plate each meal and one or two colors for snacks. Not only will you add vital nutrients, you and your family will gain energy and be healthier.

3. Prepare what you eat. Eating in helps you save calories, sodium and money. Dining out on average adds 253 more calories and 16 extra grams of fat consumed than a meal prepared at home.

Make sure you focus on preparing meals featuring nutrient-dense whole foods. Choose a balance of whole grains, lean (low-fat) proteins, whole fresh fruits and vegetables, probiotics for gut health, and fresh herbs and spices for flavor. Eliminate added sugars, salt, refined grains and unhealthy trans fats.

Eat breakfast daily to avoid the 10 a.m. rush to the workplace snack machine. Pack work and school lunches daily with healthy, non-processed food options. Create a weekly dinner plan that avoids the 5 p.m. panic that oftentimes results in fast food or takeout. Spend time on weekends prepping foods for the upcoming week’s dinners to cut prep time. Designate one weeknight meal as “meatless” as an easy way to reduce risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Make dinner an all-inclusive activity for the entire family. To spark cooking excitement, enroll in a cooking class or buy a new desired kitchen gadget.

Use a smaller 7-inch plate for meals to maintain portion control. Have family members get food from the stove instead of putting food on the dinner table to reduce likelihood of seeking out second (or third) helpings. Sit down with your family and mindfully eat without distractions (TV and cell phones) to avoid consuming additional calories.

In-home food preparation can help reduce you and your family’s risk of diseases like cancer, heart disease and premature death of other causes.

Cut calories while increasing nutrition:

  • Examine food labels for hidden sugars and sodium, particularly in pasta sauces, yogurt, cereal and granola bars
  • Add whole grain pasta and bread options
  • Use lettuce instead of crackers with healthy dips like hummus, plain yogurt and veggie salsa
  • Create salad dressings and marinades with healthy fats like olive oil, vinegars, fresh herbs and citrus or berries
  • Top salads with fresh blueberries, strawberries or mandarin oranges instead of bacon bits, high-fat cheeses and croutons
  • Add fresh berries and raw nuts to oatmeal and yogurt
  • Snack on raw nuts, baby carrots or celery.

Dining out should be an occasional treat. If you and your family head to your favorite restaurant, immediately have your server box half your meal to avoid temptation of over-indulgence. Pay attention to calorie counts and ingredients when ordering. Make healthful requests (no salt, reduced fats) when ordering – most non-chain restaurants willingly comply.

4. Grow your greens -- and more! Home-grown produce is a great way to add healthy foods to your diet. Gardening is known for its many health benefits:  it provides healthy doses of exercise and nutrient-rich produce for snacks and mealtimes, the opportunity to de-stress, plus it lessens anxiety and depression. Even if you don’t have a backyard, you can still plant produce and herbs in patio pots or window boxes. 

You can reap the most reward from your gardening efforts with these high-yielding, easy-to-grow options: tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, bush green beans, peppers, strawberries and herbs like basil, cilantro and parsley.

Enlist help from the kids with weeding, watering and harvesting, or better yet, let them each have a small plot to grow their favorite veggies. Spotlight your garden yield in a weeknight dinner or two. Reach out to your gardening neighbors to initiate a mini, street-wide farm market where you swap garden gifts.

5. Drink plenty of water. Water provides the body with the hydration it needs to help it perform its many jobs, including the all-important one of ridding the body of toxins, including excess sodium, a major contributor to heart disease risk.

Beverages including sugar, artificial sweeteners, syrups, caffeine and alcohol interfere with hydration and should be either eliminated or enjoyed occasionally.

Add some healthy spark and interest to simple plain water by infusing it with freshly cut fruit or brewing caffeine-free green tea for an added dose of immunity-boosting antioxidants. You can also add water-rich produce to your meals and snacks like lettuce, celery, apples, grapes and citrus to avoid dehydration.

By the time we realize we’re thirsty, our body is already experiencing effects of dehydration.  Have your family take refillable water bottles with them daily to encourage hydration. Track water intake to consciously stay hydrated. Drink a full glass of water before mealtimes to avoid eating extra calories. Increase water consumption after exercising or other strenuous activities, especially those done outdoors, to avoid dehydration.

If you want to discuss how to spring clean your health through healthy nutrition with a professional, contact your local Capital Women’s Care team. We have the resources and information to get you on track.

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The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.

 

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