9 Ways to Eat Healthier This Spring
Simple strategies that won’t leave you feeling deprived.
At the start of spring, you begin to think about shedding a few extra pounds along with your sweaters. Meanwhile, a new crop of fruits and veggies begins to show up at farmers markets, making it easier to stick with those eat-healthy resolutions you may have made back in January (and maybe have abandoned by now). To help you improve your diet in as effortless a way as possible, we asked CR’s resident nutrition experts, Maxine Siegel, R.D., and Amy Keating, R.D., to share their best, easiest tips for eating better right now.
Seek Out Spring Veggies
Artichokes, asparagus, English peas, and radishes are at their peak in spring—and they have some exceptional nutritional benefits.
Artichokes are very low in calories—60 per medium artichoke—but are very filling for two reasons. First, you eat them slowly, which helps you to be more mindful about what you’re eating. They are also a terrific source of satiating fiber—7 grams, which is about 25 percent of your recommended daily dose.
A cup of cooked asparagus supplies many nutrients, fiber, folate, and the antioxidants vitamin E, lutein, and beta carotene.
Fresh spring peas taste nothing like the frozen kind, and are rich in iron, zinc, beta carotene, and lutein.
Radishes are a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables that includes broccoli and kale, which contain glucosinolates, compounds that may help protect against certain cancers.
Veg Out in the Morning
A savory breakfast gives you an opportunity to weave in a serving of vegetables, which will help you meet your daily healthy quota of 2 to 3 cups.
Try a veggie omelet or whole-wheat toast topped with tomato and cucumber, tomato and mashed white beans, mashed avocado drizzled with olive oil, or chopped mango. Add spinach or peppers to your egg sandwich or breakfast burrito, or beets or dark leafy greens to a smoothie. Consider having a sweet potato topped with yogurt and a sprinkling of cinnamon and chopped nuts, quinoa with roasted butternut squash, or whole grains and beans. Leftovers from dinner the night before also make for a quick morning meal.
Make One Healthy Change a Day
Even just a small tweak, such as having an extra serving of fruit or vegetables or choosing nuts instead of chips for a snack can significantly boost your health.
A 2017 study from researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that people who made modest improvements in their diets and maintained them over a 12-year period had a lower risk of premature death. It didn’t take a lot: For example, replacing one serving of processed or red meat a day for a serving of nuts or beans was linked to an 8 to 17 percent reduced risk of early death. Some other ideas to try: Trade soda for water, go meatless one day a week, swap white rice or pasta for a whole grain such as quinoa or farro, and use olive oil instead of butter.
Snack from the Fridge
Fruit, vegetables, yogurt, hummus, cheese, and even leftovers are healthy options that all live in your refrigerator. Compare that with the chips, crackers, and candy that typically reside in kitchen cupboards.
Make choosing a healthy snack easier by stocking your refrigerator with good-for-you options and preparing them ahead of time, such as slicing vegetables or fruit, hard-boiling a few eggs, or stashing leftovers in single-serving clear containers (so you can see what’s in them). Then arrange your refrigerator so that the healthier foods are front and center, making it more likely that they’ll be the first thing you reach for when you’re hungry.
Start an Herb Garden
Fresh herbs are easy to grow—even on a windowsill. If you think of them as more than a garnish, they can bump up the nutritional quality of your diet. They will add flavor to foods, so you can use less salt. And like dark leafy greens, herbs such as basil, oregano, and parsley contain vitamins C and E, folate, and plenty of phytochemicals (antioxidants that help protect against cell damage). Toss a handful of your favorite herb into a salad, soup, or veggie and whole-grain side dish, or make a pesto from various herbs to dress pasta, vegetables, or whole grains.
Break Out of Your Routine at Restaurants
When you eat out, try to order healthy foods you like but don’t eat that often at home. For example, many people don’t like to cook fish at home, so ordering a fish dish in a restaurant can help you boost your intake of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. At the salad bar, load up on vegetables you may not normally cook to add variety to your diet, or ask for extra vegetables instead of pasta, fries, or potatoes with your main course.
Wait 5 Minutes
If you’re tempted to grab a cookie as you walk by a bakery or a handful of jelly beans from a coworker’s desk, tell yourself you can have it in 5 minutes. Then distract yourself by doing something else. Much of the time, the craving will go away on its own.
Document Your Diet
Take a picture of everything you put in your mouth for a day or two to create a visual food diary. Then scroll through the images to assess what you eat and when and see where you might be able to make changes that will help you eat healthier.
Savor the Flavor
It’s not only ice cream and cheeseburgers that can make you swoon with pleasure. Healthy foods can taste amazing, too—think perfectly ripe strawberries; fresh-picked asparagus; a crisp, sweet juicy apple; or fresh corn on the cob. Taking the time to notice the flavors and enjoy healthy foods will help you feel more satisfied.
By Trisha Calvo
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