Spring cleaning is a tradition, but in addition to spring cleaning your house, have you ever thought about doing the same with your diet?
The warmer weather and fresh seasonal foods make this the perfect season to improve your eating habits, so take a look through the following tips to help you to get started.
Begin with Breakfast
Have you heard the saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”?
Well, there is definitely a fair bit of truth to this…
The body requires certain nutrients at the start of the day, and these will do everything from giving you energy to boosting cognitive function.
Do you often skip out on breakfast?
With mornings now being brighter and lighter, this is the perfect time to begin waking up slightly earlier to ensure that you make yourself a healthy breakfast. In order for this to be most beneficial, research shows that you should eat breakfast within two hours of waking, and the meal should count for between 20-35% of your daily calorie allowance.
But what exactly should you be eating?
You ideally want a mixture of carbs, fibre and protein, while making the most of spring’s seasonal ingredients.
Here are a few ideas:
- Oatmeal – rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as folate and potassium, oatmeal can be flavored with milk, honey, fruit and nuts. Steel-cut oats take the longest to cook at around 15 minutes, but these also contain more fiber than other varieties
- Greek Yogurt – contains almost double the amount of protein as standard yogurt, but make sure you opt for a plain variety, adding flavor yourself with spring fruits
- Eggs – a healthy source of protein and nutrients, although try to opt for free-range eggs, as these have been proven to contain higher levels of nutrients than eggs from caged hens
- Almond Butter – a great non-dairy source of protein, but with less saturated fat than peanut butter
Explore Seasonal Food
In order to make healthier foods seem exciting, take a look at all of the fresh, seasonal spring produce that is out there.
Your local farmer’s market is the perfect place at which to do this, as you will likely see so many varieties that grocery stores do not stock. If you find yourself feeling intimidated by all of the new produce available, your smart phone is your best friend in situations such as these. All you need to do is quickly search for the name of the fruit or vegetable you are looking at, before checking out a few recipes and heading off to buy the other ingredients that you need.
Here are a few unusual springtime ingredients to try:
- Morel mushrooms
- Purple and white asparagus
- Green garlic
- Belgian endive
- Broccoli rabe/ rapini
- Fava greens
- Pea shoots
Feeling inspired yet?
Once you have some interesting new ingredients to try, you can then work on basing your meal around these, rather than centering them around an unhealthy starch or processed ingredient.
Try Smoothies and Juices
In addition to all of those interesting unusual ingredients mentioned above, springtime also brings with it classic favorites, such as strawberries, kale, spinach and more.
A great way to really increase your intake of these healthy fresh foods is by blending them up into a juice or a smoothie, giving your body a boost of pure nutrition and fibre.
Here are a few spring smoothie and juice ideas that make the most of seasonal produce:
- Strawberry, banana and mango
- Rhubarb, strawberry, spinach and parsley
- Spinach, avocado, tahini and dates
- Pineapple and Greek yogurt
- Beet, banana and strawberry
What makes this even better is that smoothies freeze extremely well, meaning that you can blitz up large batches in advance and then portion them out before storing them in the freezer. Having healthy smoothies to hand whenever you want one makes it so much easier to stick to a healthy eating plan, as convenience is key here.
On a side note: If you like your tomato juices, you might like to check out its unexpected benefits for skin and hair.
Take It One Food at a Time
When begin spring cleaning your house, chances are that you start in one area and then work your way around.
Well, the same concept should apply to your diet too…
Rather than trying to do a complete overhaul of the way in which you eat, take things slowly and work on changing just one thing at a time.
If you know that you consume too many fried foods, let this be the first food group that you take out, perhaps swapping them for baked versions instead. Experiment with different alternatives, and once you know that you have managed to kick the habit, move on to the next food type in your meals that you want to change.
For many, this might be starches. If you have been eating a large amount of bread, potatoes, rice and pasta, this is another easy change to make. Begin by cutting down on your serving size for each of these, while looking at ways in which you can consume alternatives so that you can slowly remove them from your diet.
Practice Portion Control
The cold of the winter months make it easy to over-indulge when it comes to food, but now that the temperatures are rising once again, you should take some time to examine exactly how much you are eating.
Portion control is so important, especially in this day and age where portion sizes seem to be drastically on the rise.
Here’s a helpful chart for the portions you should be aiming for:
Is portion control something you find difficult?
Here are a few tips to make things a bit easier:
- Wait ten minutes before reaching for a second helping, as this is how long your stomach needs to signal to your brain that it is full
- Fill your plate with vegetables, salads and stock-based soups, so that you have less room for the unhealthy foods
- Use smaller plates for your meals, as this will instantly cut down on portion size
- If you find yourself craving more food after a meal, have some fruit instead
Cut Back on Sugar
With everything from Halloween candy to Christmas cookies and cakes to Easter eggs, the winter months seem to bring with them an endless array of sugary treats.
However, you are likely already aware that sugar is bad for you, but do you know exactly why this is?
Well, sugar has no nutritional value, and can actually end up interfering with your blood sugar, not only making you feel tired but also leading to diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
Of course, you do not need to remove every single bit of sugar from your diet. As mentioned above, it is important to take things slowly when making changes such as these, especially since you may even experience a slight withdrawal period due to the lack of sugar you will be consuming.
But what do you do when you have that irresistible craving for something sweet?
The answer is simple…
Opt for a healthy sweet treat instead!
Some ideas for this include:
- Fruit dipped in dark chocolate, which is actually one of the foods out there with the highest antioxidant content
- Fruit popsicles
- Fruit sorbets
- Frozen Greek yogurt drops, with the yogurt blended with fruit for sweetness
- A fruit-only dried fruit leather
- Baked apples
- Cinnamon toast with whole-grain bread
- Frozen grapes
- Trail mix with dried fruit and dark chocolate
- Date-based caramels
- Fruit dipped in yogurt and then frozen
As you can see, there are so many options out there!
It may not feel as though these foods properly satisfy your sugar cravings at first, but this is because your body is so used to the excessive sweetness of processed sugar. As you slowly wean yourself off of this, all of these other foods will begin tasting so much sweeter than ever.
Spring Clean Your Pantry
Is your pantry filled with pre-prepared packaged foods?
If so, then spring cleaning your pantry will automatically help you to spring clean your diet.
Not sure where to start?
Begin by placing all of the junk food into a bag or a box. You are likely already well aware of which of the foods are junk foods, whether this may be bags of chips, boxes of cookies or multi-packs of sodas. While there is nothing wrong with a treat once in a while, keeping these within easy reach at home is only asking for trouble.
Of course, throwing all of this junk food out would only be extremely wasteful, so try to donate it to a shelter if you can.
You should also take a look at the expiry dates on all of the products that you have in your pantry, from oils to spices. When it comes to all of these ingredients, the best way to check whether they are still usable or not is by giving them a big sniff. If they smell off, or if herbs and spices have no smell at all, then this is a sign that they are destined for the bin.
Now that you have removed all of these items, you are probably panicking at how bare your pantry looks…
Don’t worry, as you will now be able to stock it with healthy items that will encourage you to improve your eating habits. Try purchasing a bag of an ancient grain, or a new variety of rice, or even an unusual oil or vinegar, to help inspire you to try new foods and recipes.
When it comes to snacks…
There are plenty of healthy options for this too. Nuts and seeds make for great snacks, as does dried fruit, nutrition bars, and air-popped organic popcorn.
Grow Some Food at Home
Spring is the season of growth, making this the perfect time to try your hand at growing your own organic produce. This will really inspire you to eat healthier, as there is nothing quite like the feeling of harvesting and then eating food that you have grown.
Don’t have much extra space?
This doesn’t matter, as you can grow food just about anywhere, from pots on a sunny windowsill to hanging baskets outside your front door.
By sowing seeds now, it will only be a couple of months before you will be able to enjoy your very own homegrown food.
Wondering what to grow?
Here are five of the easiest, and fastest-growing, foods to try:
- Microgreens – these really pack a punch in terms of flavor and nutrition, do not require much light to grow, and will be ready to eat in just a few weeks. You can grow microgreens in just about anything, even an old plastic container, and simply snip some off whenever you want to sprinkle them over a meal
- Herbs – perfect for a window box and so many varieties to choose from. Try a few unusual ones, such as purple basil, garlic chives, and silver mint
- Green onions – these are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, and can add so much freshness to whatever you put them in
- Loose leaf lettuce – another easy vegetable, loose leaf lettuce will re-grow each time you take some leaves off
- Radishes – not only can you grow radishes for the actual root, but the leaves of this plant are also extremely nutritious
Food that has been freshly harvested usually contains higher nutrient levels, as well as a stronger flavor, making all of this effort so worthwhile in the end.
Once you realize how easy it actually is to grow your own food, this is something that you can then explore further and expand on.
If you know that you have been guilty of eating unhealthily over the winter months, then now is the time to own up to this and commit to making a change. It may seem daunting at first, but you will soon notice that you feel so much healthier and better with your improved eating habits, which will then make your new regime so much easier to stick to.