A change of seasons is the perfect time to rethink stale eating habits and make a fresh start. Here’s how to spring clean your diet to revitalize your body and mind.
With the return of warmer temperatures and the sound of songbirds comes the urge to purge—declutter the work desk, clean out the closets and tidy up the garden for a fresh start. But why stop there? It’s easy for some poor eating habits to sneak into our diets during the dark, cold winter when hearty comfort food becomes more appetizing, especially if you came down with a case of the COVID blues. Yes, it was a long winter. So, if you’ve emerged from hibernation feeling lethargic and undernourished, now is the perfect time to spruce up your diet with a few detox tactics. Especially if the goal is to increase your energy levels, improve digestion or bid adieu to a few extra stubborn pounds. But spring cleaning your diet doesn’t require anything draconian and ultimately unsustainable. Instead, you just need to embrace these easy dietary tweaks to truly put a fresh spring in your step.
1. Look on the Bright Side
As we move away from sweater weather and closer to flip-flop season, new crops of fruits and vegetables are springing up, so to speak. And with them a chance to sweep away the dullness of winter and bring back more color to your diet. Eating the full spectrum of the rainbow is a surefire way to take in a greater assortment of health-giving antioxidants. The pigments that lend fruits and vegetables their cheery colors are compounds called antioxidants that help protect our cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. And the more diversity of colorful produce you consume, the better. Research shows that people who consume a wider variety of fruits and vegetables experienced lower levels of DNA oxidation—an indication of free-radical damage—than those who focus on only a handful of plant foods and, in turn, less antioxidant variety.
So, brighten up your spring diet by making it a point to include more color in your meals and snacks, especially locally grown varieties of vegetables and fruits. Upgrade scrambled eggs with grilled asparagus. Scatter juicy strawberries or blueberries on your salads. Cheer up sandwiches with shredded carrot and arugula. Stir a vivid superfood powder like maqui or pomegranate into a bowl of yogurt. And after you’ve had your fill of stews and roasted vegetables, give your diet a new-season overhaul by cooking less. This means not overcooking seasonal produce which allows them to retain more of their nutrition and fresh flavors. Yes, even asparagus can be a delicious and fresh addition to spring salads.
2. In With the New
Reawaken your taste buds by welcoming something unfamiliar into your kitchen. Trying a new food is not only exciting but will also infuse your diet with some of the vital nutrients that were lacking during the deep freeze season. Research even suggests that people who include a greater variety of healthy foods in their daily menu may have an easier time maintaining a healthy body weight. Smoky-tasting whole-grain freekeh, meaty tempeh, tangy kefir, mysterious black rice, creamy sunflower butter, and sweet-fiery Peppadew peppers are all wonderful examples of highly nutritious foods that can infuse your diet with some delicious new blood. If you’re new to chia seeds, go ahead and stir these nutrient-dense gems into your morning oatmeal or try a chia pudding and see for yourself what all the hype is about. And while you're at it, why not incorporate a few new exercises into your fitness routine to shake things up? As temps begin to creep upwards, get outside more often to work up a sweat and soak up Mother Nature’s healing powers.
When you see the first green buds sprout from the earth, use this as a sign to add a verdant touch to your menu. Packed with fiber, micronutrients and antioxidants, you should consider green as the color of health and revitalization. Dandelion greens, fiddleheads, asparagus, and oh-so-tender leafy lettuce are among the edible spring greens you should welcome back into your life. Try a detox smoothie made with Daily Superfood Detox Boost and a handful of baby kale or make a pot of emerald detox soup by blending in wheatgrass powder and early season spinach.
4. Drink Up
Drinking water during the colder months is not always appealing, so fluid intake tends to suffer but with sweaty weather in full swing, it’s an important time to once again take daily hydration seriously. Dehydration can impact your metabolism, leave you feeling sluggish, contribute to brain fog, and can even mask itself as hunger. A good guideline is to shoot for consuming about an ounce of fluid for every pound of body weight each day—even more if you frequently work up a sweat. And remember that sleep is inherently dehydrating, so upon rolling out of bed, be sure to drink about two cups of water to kickstart the rehydration process. Filtered water, seltzer, a body-balancing matcha latte and a superfood smoothie made with a scoop or two of Vanilla & Greens Essential Blend or a spoonful of Hemp Powder can all count towards meeting your daily hydration needs without the onslaught of added sugars. To make plane-Jane H2O more interesting, try sprucing it up with squirts of lemon or orange juice. Carry a refillable water bottle with you if you’re on the go as a reminder to drink up.
5. Make Small Shifts
To side-step feeling overwhelmed, focus on making small adjustments to your diet as opposed to radical changes that are often difficult to stick with. Think of an eating habit you'd like to change and slowly ease into this new ritual for a better chance of maintaining it long-term instead of it just being a seasonal resolution. If you are a speed eater, for example, work on ways to slow down and savor the spring fare on your plate, such as avoiding distracted eating in favor of mindful eating. If you miss the five-a-day mark, think of ways that you can effortlessly sneak more fruits and veggies into your daily routine, such as adding spring greens to a pot of cooked whole grains or adding an extra superfood powder to your breakfast smoothie. If you think too many added sugars wiggled their way into your diet over the winter, then ponder some not-so-onerous ways to scale back, such as selecting plain versions of yogurt and adding sweetness with fresh berries or a spoonful of acai powder.
6. Hug a Farmer
If you don’t live somewhere with a year-round Farmers’ Market, then be first in line when your local one opens once again. There is no better place to get your hands on a fresh batch of new crops that are well-priced and healthier for you. Since most local fruits and vegetables strewn out on wooden tables at markets have been harvested shortly before their sale, they are at peak nutrition and flavor. What a great way to get excited about including more brightly colored veggies and fruits into your spring clean diet and supporting the small-scale farmers who are working tirelessly to bring us nourishing food!? Ideally, seek out growers who are practicing organic and other sustainable farming methods.
Author Bio: Matthew Kadey is a registered dietitian, professional nutrition writer and recipe developer and cookbook author. He is a frequent contributor to dozens of publications including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Vegetarian Times, Oxygen and Triathlete. Kadey is also the author of Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sports and Adventure.