5 Simple Ways To "Spring Clean" Your Diet

Spring is in the air! It is a time that many of us get the urge to do some “spring cleaning”. You know the kind I’m talking about. Cleaning out the closet...organizing the basement or garage...cleaning out the refrigerator.

Spring is also a great time to “ spring clean” your diet. Take a moment to think about what you have eaten the last couple of days. Are you eating foods that are helping to heal your body or are they possibly causing your body harm?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one half of all American Adults have one or more preventable chronic diseases, related to poor food choices and physical inactivity. Wow!!! Did you catch the word “preventable”. You might ask, “How could the food I consume prevent disease?” Your digestive system is responsible for up to eighty percent of your immune response. By changing the food you put in your mouth you can boost your immune system and prevent certain diseases.  So, fuel your body with healthy, whole, nutrient-dense foods to aid in your digestive health and improve immune response.

Try to keep the mindset that every bite you take is either working to heal your body or causing damage to your body. In other words, think before you eat! It just might keep you from visiting the doctor.

You can begin by incorporating healthy food into your life starting today. Keep it simple and take baby steps. Within a few weeks, I am confident you will be feeling energized and ready for summer. Below are five simple ways to “spring clean” your diet.

#1 Drink more water.

Water is a vital component that we all need. Unfortunately most Americans do not drink enough water and stay in a state of slight dehydration. You need plenty of water for fluid digestion...nutrient absorption...waste disposal... optimal brain function...to lubricate the moving parts of the body...and the list goes on and on. The number one question that everyone always asks is how much water should I drink. The answer to that question is not so simple. Instead it is dependant on many factors, like...your age, your physical work environment, amount of exercise performed daily, climate, diet, stress, body type, etc.  Let your body tell you if you need more water by watching for the following signs...dry lips, clogged pores/acne, dark yellow urine, constipation, little or no sweat. If you simply must have a guide about how much water to drink, then start by drinking half your body weight in ounces each day.

#2 Eat more fruits and vegetables

Experts suggest five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Chose high fiber, non-starchy vegetables and fruits low in sugar. Fiber rich veggies can promote healthy gut bacteria and bowel movements. Start slowly and gradually work up to five to nine servings daily. Adding too much fiber at once can cause abdominal upset. Make sure you have vegetables at every meal. Omelets and smoothies are great ways to incorporate veggies at breakfast. Store cut up veggies and fruits for easy snacks instead of processed packaged snacks.

#3 Replace refined grains

Substitute refined carbs (white pasta, sugar, cakes, pastries, and white bread) for whole grains with minimal processing like...quinoa, wild rice, oats. Tuffs University in Medford, MA recently completed two clinical trials in which refined grains were replaced with whole grains. Researchers concluded eating whole grains improved the variety of gut bacteria and improved immune response.  Read labels carefully. Not every label that says “whole grain” is actually true. The first ingredient on the label should be a whole grain and the ingredient list should be short. Healthy, whole grains look close to the way they did at the time of harvest.

#4 Avoid highly processed foods and sugar

Processed foods are loaded with sugar, preservatives, additives, and genetically modified products. Processed foods increase inflammation...upset the balance of gut bacteria...and inhibit the immune system’s ability to respond to disease. Limit packaged foods to those with only whole, clean ingredients. Avoid foods with a long ingredient label filled with words that look like chemicals instead of food. I look for ingredient labels that contain no more than seven whole food ingredients.

#5 Follow the 80/20 Rule

I realize it’s difficult for most people to eat whole, healthy food 100%  of the time, especially if you have let your eating habits get out of control. I get it! We still want to have that occasional favorite treat! Strive to stick to eating whole, clean, healthy food 80% of the time. Even if you eat out frequently, you can make healthy menu choices. Plan out those times during the week (20%) that you know will be tempting and plan when to treat yourself.

Remember, the food you choose to eat could very well be preventing you from developing a chronic disease. So make SMART choices and “spring clean” your diet.

Janet Steward