Spring cleaning your diet
Spring is a season of new beginnings. Green grass starts to sprout, trees bud new leaves and the tedious spring cleaning around the house ensues. This is also a good time to give your diet a spring cleaning. Winter meals are usually hearty, warm will keep you nice and full, which isn’t as appealing as the weather starts to warm up. Now is the time to shake out of the habits of winter, declutter the pantry and refrigerator, and add in fresh spring produce and color back into your diet and onto your plate.
The spring cleaning begins with going through your pantry and refrigerator and getting rid of food that is past the expiration date. On average, opened condiments can stay in the refrigerator for three to four- months. Opened cans of tomatoes and salsa have an opened shelf life of five days. As you are going through your food, look for calorie-dense spreads, dressings and sauces. Ask yourself, “Do I need to add this to my meals?” A majority of the time the answer is no and a lighter alternative can be used. Instead of using a full-fat ranch dressing, try a light ranch dressing or mix a ranch seasoning packet with non-fat Greek yogurt. Another area that can be a sneaky source of calories and sugar is cereal, so be sure to read the ingredient list of your cereal. If the first ingredient does not contain the word “whole” you are eating a refined grain and are missing out a good source of fiber. Also, take a look at the sugar content of the cereal. The current recommendation for daily sugar intake for adults is about 25 grams or 6 teaspoons. Don’t waste it all on your cereal!
Once you’ve decluttered your pantry and refrigerator, it’s time to fill it up with fresh spring food. Spring is a great time to buy fresh produce. Here are some fruits and vegetables that are sure to lighten up and add color to any meal:
Artichokes have two harvests, in the spring and fall. But the best producing harvest of artichokes is in the spring. Artichokes have powerful antioxidants that can help improve memory and protect you from cancer and heart disease.
Arugula will taste the best when it’s harvested in cooler temperatures. When the temperature increases, it causes the leaf to have a bitter, unpleasant taste. Add this zesty green to your salads and receive the benefits of added fiber, folic acid, vitamin A, C and K.
Asparagus is in its prime to add to meals in the spring and is harvested March through June. Asparagus helps with cognition by providing folate, as well as vitamins A, C, E and K. It also acts as a natural diuretic, getting rid of excess fluid and salt in the body.
Beets are harvested fall through spring. Afresh beet will still have its green leaves attached. Beets can help lower blood pressure, have some anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, and promote detoxification in the liver.
Grapefruit will be sweet and juicy until mid-June. Once the temperature gets too high, grapefruit loses some of its sweetness. Grapefruit is packed full of vitamin C, which may help decrease inflammation and the formation of cholesterol making this heart healthy. However, if you are on blood pressure medication, cholesterol lowering medications, immunosuppression drugs, a vasodilator like Viagra, or antiarrhythmics, check with your doctor to make sure the grapefruit won’t interact with your medications.
Navel orange season ends in the spring, so now is the time to get your fill. A well-known nutrient in oranges is vitamin C. The fruit also has antioxidants that help decrease inflammation and can decrease formation of cholesterol.
Strawberry peak season is April through June. Strawberries help decrease cardiovascular diseases, help regulate blood sugars, and can help prevent certain types of cancer such as breast cancer and colon cancer.
It’s a great time to take advantage of the spring weather and go to farmers markets, grill out, give your diet a good cleaning, and enjoy being outside
—Katie Lambert, RD, LD