The temperature is warming up, plants are peeking through the ground, and trees are beginning to bud. It time to start thinking about spring cleaning. And not just your closet (although it’s a good time for that too), but your kitchen as well. Say goodbye to your winter eating habits and start springtime off on the right foot. Spring clean your diet by following these six steps.
Clean Out Your Pantry
Block out an hour or two to clean out your pantry, fridge, and freezer. If you have unhealthy food on hand it can be hard to resist the temptation to eat it. Get rid of any obviously unhealthy or junk food, including processed snack foods like chips, cookies, candy, instant foods like cake mixes, and sugary drinks like soda or juice. With the rest of the food, take a look at the ingredient list and get rid of anything that features sugar or salt as one of the first few ingredients or that is made from refined grains (white bread, pasta, etc). Toss anything that has a very long ingredient list, especially those with multiple added sugars. Think granola bars, sweetened yogurts, snack mixes, canned foods/soups, flavored popcorns, etc. In general, if comes in a bag, box or package and has more than a few ingredients, it is probably a food that shouldn’t be eaten more than occasionally.
Re-stock Your Kitchen with Real Food
If you are going to eat healthy, you need to have these foods on hand. Head to the grocery store and shop with real food in mind. In general, most whole foods are found in the perimeter of the grocery store: fresh and frozen fruits and veggies, dairy products, lean proteins, eggs, whole grain breads and more. Swing by the center aisles to grab canned beans, lentils, nuts/nut butters and seeds. Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables and fruit, lean protein like chicken, beef or fish (these can keep up to 9 months when frozen), and healthy frozen meals. Fill up your fridge with low-sugar (or plain) Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese wedges or sticks, fresh fruits and vegetables, flaxseed, natural nut butters, hummus and eggs. Replace your processed pantry food with nuts, chia seeds, air-popped popcorn, old fashioned oatmeal, whole grains like quinoa and farro, canned no-salt-added beans, lentils, lean beef or turkey jerky and canned fatty fish like tuna and salmon.
Get a Handle on Portion Control
While measuring portions is important, oftentimes it’s just not practical to break out the measuring cups. Try using your hand instead to measure out appropriate portions.
- Your palm determines your protein
- Your fist determines your veggie
- Your cupped hand determines your carb
- Your thumb determines your fat
Most men should have about two portions of each per meal; women one portion of each. Use your hands as a guide to fill your plate at meals. This is a great starting point, but if you are still hungry, serve yourself more non-starchy vegetables first before reaching for second helpings of the other foods. When you are having snacks in between meals, never eat straight from the package, as this encourages mindless eating. Instead, put the amount that you plan to eat into a bowl or container and put the package away. Look on the label to see what one serving is, and measure of count out that amount. For example, a box of whole grain crackers may have a serving size of 13 crackers. Count out 13, then put the box away.
Swap Out Your Snacks
Use your snack as a way to get in nutritious foods, not just as an excuse to eat. Think fruits, veggies, protein, and healthy fats like nuts and seeds. and foods high in fiber and antioxidants. The best snack is one that provides a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Carbohydrates provide energy, while protein and fat help slow digestion, stabilize blood sugar levels, and make that energy long-lasting. Try these 16 healthy and portable snacks.
Experiment with New Foods
Eating healthy food doesn’t have to be boring. It’s not all plain chicken and vegetables, trust me. There are plenty of ways that you can make your healthy meals more appealing. One of the best ways to stay satisfied with nutritious foods is to experiment and try new things. We all have our go-to meals and snacks, but by mixing it up you’ll find new flavors and textures that will keep your taste buds excited. Try to experiment with ingredients you haven’t used before. Visit different markets, grocery stores, gourmet stores and ethnic markets to find items you haven’t cooked with before. Asian markets are particularly good for exotic fruits and vegetables. If you aren’t sure how to use it, do an online search to find out how to cut it, peel it, and use it. You can also experiment with dried spices, herbs, oils, nuts, seeds, different whole grains, and dried fruits. Aim to try one new ingredient per week and before you know it, you’ll have a whole new lineup of foods in your pantry.
Stock Up on In-Season Produce
With the arrival of spring comes a new crop of fresh seasonal produce (and return of your local farmers market). Take advantage of the abundance of in-season produce and stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Look for asparagus, strawberries, spinach, artichokes, radishes, and melons, all of which are in season during the months of April and May.
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