10 Ways to Spring-Clean Your Diet
By: Laurie S. Herr | Friday, March 16, 2018
A change of seasons is the perfect time to rethink old eating habits, make healthy food swaps and get a fresh start—in spring or any time of year
Seems like every spring, the urge hits to clean out, spruce up and simplify. We fling open our closet doors and toss out old shoes and sweaters, ready for a fresh start. So why not spring-clean your eating habits, too? Say goodbye to old routines and lighten up with nutritious foods—plus healthier, smarter ways to eat.
1. Cut Back on These Foods
Alcohol. Booze takes a toll on your liver, the main organ that "detoxes" your system. It also acts as a diuretic, so it's harder to stay hydrated. Stick to the recommended limits of one drink a day for women, two for men. Try club soda with a splash of juice for a refreshing mocktail.
Added sugars. Sodas and packaged foods are often loaded with hidden added sugars, upping your risk for obesity and heart problems. The American Heart Association recommends keeping added sugars under 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 teaspoons for men. One 12-ounce regular soda has about 8 teaspoons of sugar, so it's easy to overdo things fast. When you want a sweet treat, reach for fruit instead.
Salt. Americans eat an average of 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day. Cut 1,000 mg out every day and you could lower your risk of heart disease by up to 9 percent, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Refined grains. White flour, white rice and the like are stripped of healthy fiber, vitamins and minerals. Check food labels carefully and look for foods that list whole grains as the first or second ingredient.
Processed foods. Prepared foods with long lists of ingredients load you up with sugars, salts and unhealthy trans-fat. Pass them up and make room for more healthy, whole foods instead.
2. Eat More of These Foods
Fruits and veggies. They're colorful, low in calories, rich in nutrients and antioxidants, and can help prevent heart disease—what's not to love? Make vegetables the star at dinnertime: start with veggies you have on hand or what looks good at the market, add a protein and starch, and you're set.
Whole grains. Eating more whole grains may help you live longer by reducing your risk of cancer, heart disease and premature death from other causes, according to two large review studies in 2016. Try one new-to-you grain, such as quinoa, amaranth or wild rice, each week.
Healthy fats. Eaten in moderation, some high-fat foods—think avocados, nuts, eggs, fatty fish, olive oil, dark chocolate and cheese—are super good for you. Experts at the Harvard School of Public Health say eating more of them can help curb cravings for processed carbs. Whip up a batch of guacamole, or add a little cream to your coffee now and then.
Probiotics. Have you fed your microbiome lately? Foods rich in probiotics help keep your gut healthy by feeding the "good" bacteria. Some good sources: yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and some cheeses.
3. Eat Breakfast Every Day
Mom was right: a good breakfast fuels your day. Studies show that eating breakfast can help prevent weight gain. And according to a 2017 study in Spain, people who skipped breakfast had more fatty buildup in their arteries, an early sign of heart disease.
4. Pull Back on Portions
It's easy to let serving sizes creep up during the winter months—everyone indulges over the holidays, right? Make spring a time to cut back to healthier portions. Tip: Use smaller plates and serve dinner from the stove rather than on the table.
5. Eat More Mindfully
Recent research suggests that mindful eating—taking the time to chew and notice the different tastes and textures of every bite—can help with weight loss. You'll eat less to feel full and enjoy your meal more. Always in a hurry? Set the oven timer for 20 minutes, then sit down for a more leisurely lunch.
Water is vital for the function of every organ system, helping to circulate oxygen and whisk away toxins. If you don't like drinking plain water, jazz it up with a spritz of lemon or lime. Green tea works too, and has a bevy of health benefits—from boosting immunity to fighting cavities. Try swapping a cup of coffee for green tea instead.
7. Clean Out Your Pantry and Fridge
Go through your cabinets and look for foods that come in boxes. Swap crackers or chips for crunchy veggies. If you rely on prepared meals like mac and cheese or canned soup, find an easy recipe to make your favorites from scratch.
8. Cook More at Home
Skip dining out and save on calories, sodium and money. Use fresh ingredients and boost flavor with herbs and spices rather than salt. Bonus: You'll serve up smaller portions, too.
9. Plan More Meatless Mondays
Forgoing meat even just once a week is an easy way to lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Studies show that people who eat a plant-based diet also tend to weigh less than meat-eaters.
10. Plant a Food Garden