Ah, spring! A season that seems to bring a natural desire to start fresh. You don’t have to revamp your entire way of eating each season. Yet, there’s something nice about tweaking a few things and taking a new approach. Of course, there are many options for eating habit shifts. Here are three fresh ideas to add something healthy to your life this spring.
Many times, when we add something, we’re subtracting something else without really trying. This can lead to dietary improvements that don’t feel like deprivation and provides motivation to keep going. So, here are my suggestions for refreshing your diet for spring. Maybe you’ll find one or two that will work for you this season and beyond!
Start your day with water
You probably know that being adequately hydrated is essential for good health. Also, that water is the beverage that our bodies like best. Water intake is important always, but especially in the warmer months. Starting your day with water (yes, before coffee, tea, or whatever else you typically drink in the morning) can help replenish losses that occur while you’re sleeping. Give yourself a “cue” to drink a glass of water, such as putting your water bottle next to your bed, or placing a water glass where you can’t help but see it before you drink something else. Another idea: tack your morning water drinking habit to something you already do every morning. This is called “habit stacking” and it’s an effective method for starting a new habit. For example, if you brush your teeth first thing, then keep your water bottle or drinking glass at the sink. Or, if you take vitamins or medicine in the morning with water, start using a full glass of water to do so.
Do you need to aim for 8 glasses of water per day? It’s not necessary (experts say to let your thirst be your guide generally), but it’s not a bad estimate of needs. In truth, all liquids and watery fruits and veggies count toward our hydration (see my previous post on this here). If plain water holds little appeal, check out these ideas for ways to jazz up ice cubes and water so it’s more exciting. And don’t forget, the new Guiding Stars Beverage Algorithm evaluates various types of waters, including sparkling water and seltzers, along with many other ready-to-drink beverages.
Get fresh with your snacks
Most people snack at least once a day. In fact, our snacking habit is increasing in frequency and shows no signs of slowing. Snacks can have a place in a healthy eating plan, not only to alleviate hunger or thirst, but to add important nutrients to the diet (check out the short webinar we did for ideas on how to put together healthy “mini-meals”). The problem is when the snacks we choose aren’t high quality or don’t contribute much of anything besides calories, added sugar, salt, or fat. Examples of those would be cookies, candies, some granola bars, and pretzels. These foods are alright occasionally, but not for a daily snack choice. Nutrient-dense snacks provide a lot of nutritional value for the calories. These types of snacks might include vegetables, fruits, appropriate portions of nuts and seeds, and even cereal and milk can be a healthy snack choice.
So, you’re probably wondering what I mean when I say, “get fresh with your snacks.” My point is eating snacks that you prepare for yourself, versus those that come pre-packaged, often means you’ll get more nutrition, less fat, salt, sugar, and calories. You’ll also likely save money. How can this be done? Put together fast, easy combinations of foods and have them prepared for the busy spring days ahead. I shared a few ideas below, but also check out our mini-meals combo list for mix-and-match ideas.
- Homemade trail mix pre-portioned in reusable small containers or snack bags (basic mix: unsalted nuts, dried fruit, sunflower seeds or other seed).
- Prepped fruit salad in the fridge (combine some fresh seasonal fruit or 100% juice-packed canned fruit).
- Homemade energy bites (these Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bumps are a favorite).
Turn over a new leaf
Green is the color of the season. Spring greens are popping up all over, from the lawn to the produce department! Leafy greens are plentiful at the market in spring and early summer, but for many of us, they aren’t ending up on our plates (or in our bowls). This habit is all about trying new things—specifically greens. Each week, you could make a point to purchase some leafy greens and be sure to and try some types that you have never had before.
Greens are a good source of important nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin K, beta carotene (which turns into vitamin A in the body), folic acid, potassium, iron, and calcium, among others. There are so many varieties to choose from, and just as many ways to incorporate them into your diet. Don’t worry, green juice is not required (although is an option)! Aside from salads, here are a few of my favorite ways to prepare leafy greens:
- Sauté a large bunch of chopped kale, spinach, or chard with a little olive oil and finely chopped onion, then season with smoked paprika, salt and pepper, and combine with cooked rice or quinoa for an easy side dish.
- Add two handfuls of raw baby spinach to a fruit smoothie.
- Use leaves of Bibb lettuce as a wrapper for an easy snack of sliced turkey or ham, a piece of cheese, and a couple slices of red pepper.
- Make a tasty soup by chopping a head of escarole and sautéing it with half a chopped onion and Italian sausage. Add broth and cheese tortellini.
- Use Bok choy as the base of a stir-fry mixture.