As we usher in a new season, it would be hard not to appreciate the warmer weather, colorful flowers, and overall optimism that spring brings. What was once cold and dreary has now garnered new life. Since spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, spring cleaning is a common way to clear out the old to refresh and rejuvenate for the months ahead.
This is a time I also think about cleaning out our bodies. Cold, winter months leave us craving and indulging in comfort foods, possibly adding on a few extra pounds in the process. Now that spring is here, it’s time to clean up our eating habits and cut away the fluff. Here are seven tips to help you get tidy:
- CLEAR OUT THE JUNK
You may have stockpiled packaged goods to prepare for lazy days and unexpected snow days. Winter is over, so no need to hold on to the past. Get rid of those canned and boxed foods that are full of salt, sugar, and other chemicals and colors that our bodies don’t need. If you have any unhealthy comfort foods and sweets sitting around, those must go, also. Bikini season is approaching. Focus. Donate your non-perishable items to a food bank to assist those who may be in need. I typically live by the rule “out of sight, out of mind.” If you don’t keep tempting foods in the house, you are less likely to slip and fall into a bag of chips or cookies. Aim to keep junk out of the house to keep your eating clean.
- DECREASE THE SWEETS
During the dark winter months, many people crave sweets. Since winter is holiday-heavy, it’s easy to continue indulging in these treats long after removing the last Christmas lights. Unfortunately, sugar is added to most of the foods we eat, which is one cause for our constant sweet tooth. The more sugar you eat, the more sugar you want. And high sugar intake has been linked to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. One way to reduce your sugar intake is to reduce your consumption of packaged/canned foods. These foods normally have sugar added to them to improve the taste. Everything from bread to frozen meals to salad dressings have been sweetened to keep us going back for more.
Here’s a quick check to see how much sugar a food has- look at the nutrition facts label. Divide the number of sugar grams by four. That will give you a rough estimate of how many teaspoons are in the food. Example: A 12oz. can of Coke has 39g of sugar. If you divide 39 by 4, you see it has 10 teaspoons of sugar! A 20oz. bottle has 65g, which is 16 teaspoons of sugar. The recommendation for sugar is no more than 6-8 teaspoons PER DAY. Consider sugar a treat, and try to limit the amount. Keep in mind, the more sugar your body is burning, the less fat it’s burning!
- LOAD UP ON FRUITS & VEGGIES
One of the best parts of spring is the abundance of produce that are in-season. That means these fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak, their nutrient content is at its highest, and they taste the best! The price also drops, so they are easy to buy in bulk. It is recommended to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day to help decrease disease, improve energy, and keep your hair and skin healthy. Some popular in-season choices are asparagus, broccoli, collard greens, fresh garlic, spinach, and strawberries.
- DRINK MORE WATER
Now that it’s warming up, your body will need more water to be fully hydrated. Water helps to regulate your body temperature and carry nutrients through your body. The standard recommendation is half of your body weight in ounces. And if you are outside for extended periods of time and sweat excessively, you need even more. To calculate how many ounces your body needs, take your weight and divide by two. Then, divide that number by 8 to see how many cups to drink. A typical bottle of water has two cups. Have a cup or two of water with each meal and snack to ensure you drink enough throughout the day.
- MONITOR ALCOHOL
As the social scene starts to heat up, alcohol and liquor will be free-flowing. These are empty calories that can quickly creep up on your waistline. Tip? Pace yourself and be selective. Limit how often and how much you drink. Try skipping your after-dinner glass(es) of wine if you know you’ll be attending a social event that weekend. When you get there, sip slow and space out your drinks. Alternate glasses of water after each cocktail. By limiting your intake, you’ll feel your energy levels go up and your weight come down.
- PORTION CONTROL
Sometimes it’s not what you eat, but how much. Most of us are eating super-sized portions, way past the point of being full. To cut back on your potions, use your hand as your guide. Your meat should be about the size of the palm of your hand (not including your fingers). Your carb should be about the size of your closed fist. Then, include 1-2 fists of veggies with your meal. Here’s an easy visual to quickly check your portions. Imagine a plate divided into fourths. One-fourth of that plate should be your meat, one fourth should be your carb, and the other half should be veggies. That will keep your calories on track by keeping your portions the right size.
- EAT FRESH
The best way to clean up your eating habits is to control exactly what you put in your body. Eating fresh and preparing your own food is a great way to do just that. When you prep your own meals, you can limit how much salt, sugar, and fat you add. Plus, you can avoid all of the artificial flavoring, colors, and chemicals that we typically consume in packaged foods. Everything we put in our bodies has an effect, and over time, we start to see the results of our choices. We literally become what we eat. Choose to feed your body high-quality food, and you will see and feel the difference.