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Six Tips to Spring Clean Your Diet!

Tis the season for spring cleaning. Now while that gets most of us thinking about dusting off the shelves and organizing the closet, we have a new approach that can truly put a fresh spring in your step. Our motto: spring cleaning starts in the kitchen! With tips on what to toss, swap, and spiffy up, you can have your diet all dazzled up just in time for the new season. Feeling ready to freshen up your fridge? Let’s go!

SIX TIPS TO SPRING CLEAN YOUR DIET:

1. Design a colorful fruit bowl – Swap that candy bowl or cookie jar for a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter. Registered Dietitian, Anna Rossinoff, points out that, “ We eat what we see in front of us.” So make the healthy choice the easy choice by brightening up your kitchen with a bright bowl of produce. Let the beautiful colors inspire you to reach for fresh fruit when you’re craving something sweet after dinner or need to grab a quick bite on your way to work.

2. Organize veggies at eye level – Rearrange your fridge to make veggies the first thing you see. Rather than hiding your veggies in the deep, dark corners of the crisper where they’re too often forgotten, keep them at eye level. Those visible veggies will happily remind you of their presence each time you open the fridge.

3. Wake up with spring green smoothies – We know green smoothies are a great way to jump start your day with fruits and veggies, but it doesn’t always have to mean adding spinach or kale. You can toss in a handful of spicy arugula or baby chard and bright, fresh herbs like basil, mint, or lemon thyme. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, Rossinoff suggests you try a dandelion green smoothie! She explains, “These flavorful greens are known among herbalists as a natural detox agent for the liver, plus they’re packed with calcium, iron, fiber, and disease-fighting antioxidants.”

4. Get sugar savvy – Added sugars are lurking in the most unsuspecting places, including supposed health foods like granola, low fat salad dressings, and flavored yogurts to name a few. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 24 grams (6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day and for men no more than 36 grams (9 teaspoons). Unfortunately, most of us would be considered over-achievers in this category. Sift and sort through your fridge and pantry with an eye on the ingredient list to spot added sugars by their many names, including cane juice, syrups, sucrose, dextrose, glucose, fructose, molasses, fruit concentrates, honey, and more.

5. Energize with whole grains – Although carbohydrates have received a bad rap recently, the truth is, not all carbs are created equal. Refined products, like white bread, white rice, and white pasta can make our blood sugar levels jump and then plummet, leaving us feeling tired and sluggish. Rossinoff recommends whole grains instead, which she notes “have been shown to improve digestive health, weight management, and blood sugar regulation, helping to provide us longer lasting energy throughout our day.” While we tend to resort back to what’s familiar and popular (brown rice, oats, and quinoa), why not explore some new textures and flavors the next time you’re fixing a salad, hot cereal, or stir-fry. Some of our new favorites include buckwheat groats, millet, farro, and freekeh.

6. Go live with sprouts – Rather than our standard methods of cooking, most whole grains and legumes can actually be prepared in a raw, live method known as sprouting. In just 2-4 days, you can transform dried mung beans, lentils, quinoa, chickpeas, wheat berries, and more into a sweet, crunchy topping that’s packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, and digestive enzymes. The process couldn’t be easier. Simply add your grain/legume/seed of choice to a mason jar, pour in at least twice the amount of water, cover with a sprouting lid or cheesecloth, and let soak at room temperature overnight. In the morning, rinse and drain, then place back in the covered mason jar, and store upside down in a bowl in the cabinet (or any room temperature place away from sunlight). Rinse and drain twice a day to keep moist until you see small white tails that have sprouted. Now they are ready to enjoy as a nutritious topping to liven up your soups, salads, or hot cereals. Once sprouted, store in a covered mason jar in the fridge and consume within a few days.

Take some time this weekend to give one or all of these spring cleaning tips a try. In terms of getting a healthy start to the season, there’s no better place to start than your kitchen.

Anna Rossinoff, MS, RDN, LD, is a Guest Expert with The Heart’s Kitchen.

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