SPRING CLEAN YOUR DIET WITH THESE HEALTHY FOOD SWAPS AND DIET TECHNIQUES
EVEN IF YOU WERE DILIGENT THROUGHOUT WINTER AND KEPT YOUR CALORIE INTAKE IN CHECK WITH PORTION CONTROL AND BETTER FOOD CHOICES, THERE ARE STILL NUMEROUS WAYS TO SPRING CLEAN YOUR DIET.
Any conventional spring cleaning approach entails getting rid of the clutter and anything else that isn’t working for you, and implementing better options, whether that’s better habits or better choices.
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START WITH WHAT YOU DON’T NEED
With this in mind, the first step in any diet spring clean should focus on elimination – or at least cutting back on the foods that don’t support your goals and you don’t need in a healthful eating plan.
Start with the basics, like processed foods and sugar, and try to cut back on alcohol and stimulants like caffeine.
The best way to eliminate these foods from your diet is to remove them from your home. Once you’ve identified the targets, throw away whatever you find in your fridge and pantry and don’t restock them at your next grocery shop.
REFOCUS ON NUTRITIONAL VALUE
But cleaning up your diet as the seasons change is not just about the food choices we make (or don’t). It is also the ideal time to address the imbalances we create when omitting important food groups during winter.
For instance, a lack of ‘living’ food due to the absence of salads and other fresh, raw foods such as fruits and vegetables means our bodies may lack certain nutrients and important enzymes. And you can compound the issue if you treated winter illnesses with medicines like antibiotics.
The ideal way to get your health, vitality and energy levels back on track for a super summer and swimsuit season is by implementing few easy food swaps and diet techniques to spring clean your winter diet.
GETTING BACK TO BASICS
Spring is the ideal time to refocus on seasonal eating as there is generally an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available at this time of year.
Try to add more local seasonal produce to your diet during spring as these foods offer the most nutritional value as they more likely ripened naturally.
Out-of-season produce generally comes from regions that are ‘in season’. This means they’re transported over long distances and it takes time to reach their destination, which can degrade their nutritional content. These foods are also generally gassed, irradiated and preserved in wax to extend shelf life.
For these reasons, seasonal foods are generally also more flavoursome, especially if you can source them direct from the farmer at organic produce markets.
The more common seasonal foods available in South Africa during September, October and November include:
- Cape gooseberries
- Sweet melon
Eating as close to nature as possible in spring should also include as much fresh organic meat and dairy, fish, nuts and seeds as possible.
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SPROUT SOME LIFE
Another way to boost the nutritional content of your spring diet is to sprout some living food in your home.
Sprouting beans and seeds is easy, and spring is the season to do it. These living plants are packed with beneficial enzymes, minerals and vitamins, and you can use them in numerous ways to boost the nutrients you get from your daily diet.
Adding them to smoothies, protein shakes or fresh salads are all great ways to literally add life to your meals. They are also great snack options on their own.
And getting your thumbs green with some basic sprouting may even inspire you to start a veggie patch at home, which is a great way to get more fresh produce in your diet with some simple crops like herbs, leafy greens and baby tomatoes.
REBALANCE YOUR DIET
It’s easy to lose track of an appropriate macronutrient balance during winter when your primary focus is perhaps eating for warmth and comfort.
As such, an important step in every diet spring clean is a re-evaluation of your macronutrient balance and a readjustment towards the most appropriate balance for your goals and your genetics.
A common issue during winter is an overabundance of carb-laden meals. That means shifting to a lower-carb diet can often have an immediate impact on weight loss and other important health markers.
Following a lower carb diet in general or implementing various carb manipulation techniques such as carb cycling or carb backloading, helps to improve our insulin sensitivity, which boosts our metabolic function and can promote sustainable weight loss.
- How to carb cycle: Alternate between days of low carb intakes and higher carb days. It’s a popular option because it’s easier to adhere to and boosts energy on high-carb days.
- How to carb backload: Limit your carb intake throughout the day and consume most of your carbs in your post-workout meal.
Couple carb-conscious eating with portion control and a slight calorie deficit of no more than 500 calories a day, and you generally have a formula for diet success.
CHANGE YOUR HABITS
To truly be effective and deliver the results you want, every successful diet spring clean also requires an overhaul of your less-then-healthy eating habits, like those weekday takeouts or mindless snacking.
While takeouts are delish and convenient, and have their place in any realistic eating plan, they tend to contain more calories due to the larger portion sizes while offering less nutritional value.
So give your diet the spring cleaning it deserves by staying in and cooking healthier meals with fresh, wholesome ingredients, and healthier cooking methods like grilling or air frying.
Committing to make home-cooked meals the foundation of your spring-time diet and relegating takeouts to indulgences over the weekend or on special occasions will help you cut out poorer quality foodstuffs from your diet. You may even find that this way of eating also leaves you feeling less bloated and more energised.
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MIND OVER MATTER
Another helpful and healthful habit to cultivate in spring is mindful eating. This is practise is about being present during the eating experience and noting your body’s hunger and satiety cues to determine when to stop eating.
Focusing on what you’re eating and the process itself by eliminating distractions, slowing down when eating and paying attention to how the food tastes and feels also creates a more pleasurable and rewarding experience.
More importantly, getting in touch with your hunger cues will help limit the mindless snacking that can happen over winter when we spend more time at home.
And mindfulness helps us better understand whether a hunger pang stems from a physiological need for food, be it for energy or recovery, or if it is caused by an emotional trigger or boredom, in which case we should rather focus on the root cause than the act of eating itself to avoid mindless overeating.
SPRING CLEAN YOUR GUT
Lastly, don’t overlook the importance of revitalising your gut and other elimination organs. Supporting your body’s natural detoxification process will make you feel revitalised and energised when combined with your more healthful diet.
The best way to support your digestive system is with an adequate fluid intake, predominantly in the form of water and herbal teas, sufficient fibre from foods and supplements, and beneficial supplements like digestive enzymes, prebiotics and probiotics.
A few tips to spring clean your digestive system include:
- Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and assist the natural elimination process.
- Eat sufficient fibre from fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds and psyllium husk to support health digestion and gut transit times.
- Add more fermented foods to your diet.
- Increase your consumption of raw foods rich in enzymes to aid digestion and nutrient absorption.
- Reduce or cut out alcohol as it can affect the digestive and nervous systems.
- Lighten the load on your digestive system by not eating to the point that you feel overly full.