Spring is just around the corner, and I am ready for longer days and warmer weather. With the change in season comes the need for a spring clean and time for a fresh start. While we all know about Marie Kondo-ing our wardrobes and reorganizing our living spaces, what do we know about cleaning up our diets? I don’t mean “eating clean” and restricting yourself from foods you enjoy. Instead, think of this as a time to release eating habits that no longer make you feel happy or healthy.
“Healthy” is a relative term that means something different to everyone, so choosing dietary preferences that fit your lifestyle will look different from mine or even your best friend’s. When it comes to making changes in your diet, it’s important to remember that you know your body best. And what better time to make healthy lifestyle changes than at the start of a new season? If your diet has been off track since the holidays, there’s no need to feel bad. Read on for ways to spring clean your diet and refresh for the new season and beyond.
Let go of foods that are no longer serving you
Just like letting go of clothes that you no longer wear, spring cleaning your diet starts with letting go of foods that are no longer serving you. This includes expired food, freezer-burnt items, half-used condiments that are old, and any other foods that you won’t use (looking at you, tahini). If it’s expired, throw it out and take a mental note to not purchase that food again so you’re not wasting food. If it’s not expired but you know you won’t use it, consider donating to a local food bank.
After you have cleared everything out, restock strategically. Keeping your favorite whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and nuts on hand makes it more likely that you’ll create meals packed with fiber, micronutrients, protein, and healthy fats. And it’s a surefire way to make reaching for non-nutritive options much less tempting. I’d call that a win-win. And while we are on this subject, if there are certain foods you don’t like, don’t buy them! It can be easy to feel like you have to stock up on items from the latest wellness trend, but it’s no good having wilted kale in the back of the fridge if you’re never going to eat it.
Opt for in-season produce
Maybe it’s because I romanticize almost everything in life, but one of my favorite things is picking out produce each week. So it comes as no surprise that new spring produce makes me equally excited. Eating in-season produce offers numerous benefits, not to mention it’s often cheaper. This spring, look for apricots, broccoli, asparagus, honeydew, and green beans, just to name a few. When shopping for in-season produce, try to make a list of fruits and vegetables you haven’t had as a way to help keep your diet from feeling monotonous. And remember, you can still reap nutritional benefits regardless of if the produce is fresh, frozen, or canned.
Think about what you can add
Building balanced meals is all about what you can add to your plate, not what you need to subtract. Instead of trying to cut out less nutrient-dense options (which could lead you to feeling deprived), think about how you can add color, fiber, and flavor. This can look like incorporating vegetables into meals such as stir-fries and casseroles, sprinkling nuts and seeds on oatmeal or yogurt, and choosing healthy fats like avocados and olive oil to give meals some flavor. After all, produce gets its coloring from antioxidants, which are key to fighting inflammation. So the more colorful your plate, the more phytonutrients, minerals, and vitamins you’ll consume.
Cook at home more often
It’s been a long day of work and curling up on the couch to catch up on Euphoria with a meal you didn’t have to make yourself sounds oh-so-appealing, right? I totally get it. Takeout is not only easy and convenient but also delicious. However, when you’ve ordered delivery maybe one too many times the past few weeks, it can take a definite toll on your budget and body. So how can you find ways to entice yourself to cook more at home?
For starters, finding healthy recipes you enjoy turns preparing food at home into a labor of love instead of another task on the to-do list. And making a plan ahead of time rather than leaving it until the day of makes it less likely you’ll reach for your DoorDash app. Once you’ve got your go-tos figured out, stock up on staple ingredients to help make cooking at home a foundation of your diet. Buying nutrient-dense foods you know you love sets you up for success and makes preparing healthy meals at home much more enjoyable.
Be more mindful of sugar
From Halloween to Valentine’s Day, there is no shortage of sugary treats. You shouldn’t feel shame in enjoying dessert, but consuming too many added sugars may lead to adverse health effects long term. Instead of cutting out sugar from your diet completely, look for small ways you can cut back. For example, minimizing the sugar added to your coffee or tea or replacing some of your favorite drinks or snacks with “no added sugar” options can help lower the amount of sugar you’re consuming. Reading food labels to better understand what ingredients contain sugar and looking at the added sugar amount on the product can also help you be more successful at reducing your intake. And if your sweet tooth needs satisfying, opt for naturally sweet whole foods like fruit, coconut flakes, cocoa nibs, and unsweetened yogurt.
Water is key for so many general body functions, such as lubricating joints, keeping your skin glowing, and protecting your organs. So don’t sleep on your hydration goals this spring! A general guideline is to drink half your body weight (in ounces) of water each day, although needs may vary depending on outside temperature, exercise, and age. Bringing a water bottle with you is one of the easiest ways to ensure you will reach for water instead of other dehydrating beverages. And if you still forget to drink water throughout the day, using a straw not only makes it more convenient, but you are also more likely to drink more ounces than if you were taking a regular sip.
I completely understand that drinking plain water is not everyone’s cup of tea. There are many ways to flavor your water to make it taste less bland. Try adding mint leaves, lemon slices, cucumber, berries, oranges, or a combination of these to a glass of water. Additionally, drinking non-caffeinated tea or kombucha for a probiotic boost is another great way to meet your hydration needs.
Practice mindful eating
With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season behind us, spring is the perfect time to slow down and focus on how you’ve been eating. Maybe you find yourself aimlessly wandering to the pantry during your work-from-home day or you eat an entire bag of chips while binging your favorite show (relatable). Mindful eating is about being present in the moment and utilizing your body’s hunger and satiety cues to recognize when you are full. Although we all mindlessly eat from time to time, practicing mindfulness around food has many benefits, most notably preventing overeating and learning how to savor your food. This spring, tune into your body’s needs by taking time to slow down during your meals. This can mean sitting down at a table to eat, eating without distractions (mindless scrolling included), and pausing to check for fullness. Ask yourself: Am I still hungry or could I stop here? Take note of what your body is telling you during meals and you just might notice what it’s trying to communicate in other areas of your life too.