Spring clean your eating habits from winter
With winter overstaying its welcome this year, it’s likely rich soups, stews, pastas and feel-good desserts have become home menu staples. “We tend to hibernate and sometimes stock up on processed foods to comfort ourselves from the cold,” says Gina Sunderland, a Winnipeg-based registered dietitian.
Forget cleaning out closets and scrubbing floors to welcome spring. Instead, start by cleaning up your eating habits. Here’s a seven-step plan to get you started.
Revisit your portions
“Get control of your calories to help manage the extra winter weight you might have put on,” suggests Sunderland. Doing so helps counteract that mindless munching habit you may have slipped into over the chilly months. So put portion control back in play. (Read our tips here on paring back your portions).
Clean out your cupboards and fridge
As Natalie Brown, a White Rock, BC.-based registered dietitian suggests, go through and toss any expired and processed foods to organize your fridge and cupboards for healthier eating. Think about the rule of five, adds Sunderland. “Check the labels on items in your pantry-cookies, crackers and chips and so forth. If there are more than five grams of fat on the label, it’s a good package to toss,” she says. After tossing heavy sauces, dips and snacks, replace them with bowls of fruit, pre-cut veggies, plain yogurt for smoothies and dips and lighter salad dressings.
Slash your salt and sugar
“White sugar is an instant hit to your body and is linked to diabetes, inflammation, decreased immune response, liver fatigue and some cancers,” notes Brown. “And cutting back on your salt lowers the risk of heart disease, since salt stiffens the arteries and makes them rigid.”
“Probiotics help with digestive health, so add in yogurt or a yogurt drink daily,” suggests Brown. It can also help if you’ve been fighting colds and flus throughout the winter. “Many of us have had some antibiotics because we’ve been sick, so adding a probiotic helps rebalance the gut-friendly bacteria,” says Sunderland. Also skip the supplements and opt to get your probiotics from food sources if you can. “Research shows that getting probiotics from food is better used by the body,” Sunderland adds.
Switch up your produce
Tired of apples, bananas and root vegetables? “There are some nice spring produce choices coming out,” says Sunderland. “Some things we see are asparagus, fiddleheads, mushrooms and berries.” Other brightly-coloured produce making more of an appearance at our grocery stores or farmer’s markets include apricots, green beans, broccoli and more. “The more colourful the fruit or vegetable, the more vitamins and minerals it has,” says Brown.
Ditch the dehydrating drinks
Has it been a winter of red wine, lattes and hot chocolate? Time to rethink your drinks. “Start by reducing alcohol because it’s a diuretic and dehydrates the body,” notes Brown. “Cutting back on it will help keep the liver healthy since it is a natural detoxification system for your body.”
Ditto caffeine, another dehydrating drink, as well as those cans of diet pop lining the fridge door. Sunderland suggests replacing any sugar-sweetened pop with a big pitcher of water. (Tip: Add orange, lemon, lime or cucumber slices for a refreshing twist.) “Water helps you get hydrated and flushes out the body of toxins, lets you be more alert, have more energy, control your appetite and increase your metabolism,” says Brown.
Plant a garden
Take inspiration from the produce you’re seeing in the store and plan out a spring and summer’s worth of healthy eating from your very own back deck or yard. “You can already start your seedlings indoors to replant later,” says Sunderland.