By Susan Bowerman, M.S., R.D., CSSD, CSOWM, FAND,
Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training, Herbalife Nutrition
There is nothing more satisfying than heading into spring with a major cleaning of your home. It’s a time for “out with the old and in with the new” and to tackle all those projects you put off during the dark winter days. Spring is also a time to recharge your body by reviewing your diet and health goals as well as cleaning out bad habits or poor dietary choices. Here are five tips to add to your diet clean-up routine.
Be Very Very Green
You may have heard that dark green leafy vegetables are some of the most nutrient-dense foods around, but may not know why these are fabulous additions to any meal. Green vegetables are packed full of fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Foods like spinach, kale, Swiss chard and bok choy can boost your intake of iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium and folate, as well as vitamin K to support bone health and vitamin C to support immunity – all for very few calories.
If you have ever traveled to a country outside the U.S., you may have noticed that our food portion sizes are extra-large compared to those abroad. Americans are known for eating large servings and not following recommended serving sizes. As a result, our waistlines have greatly expanded, and over 40% of our population is considered obese. One easy way to clean up your eating habits is to reduce your portion size. Put less on your plate, save extra food for leftovers, or take home a doggy bag when dining out.
You’ve probably been told to drink more water but haven’t appreciated the benefits of water, beyond simply keeping you hydrated. Nearly all our body’s systems rely on water to function correctly. It helps regulate body temperature, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, serves as a lubricant for our joints, and moistens tissues in our eyes, nose, and mouth. While you may have heard that you need as much as 8 glasses of water a day, but needs can vary depending on your age and activity level.
Planning your meals each week – especially dinner – can save you money and time, but can improve your nutrient intake as well. When you don’t take time to plan, take-out meals and fast foods can slip into your meal schedule for an easy and quick solution. But these meals may provide more calories, salt, sugar and fat than those you prepare yourself. Instead, keep several go-to recipes that you know everyone in the household enjoys, and keep healthy basics in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. When you think about your food dollars, use them to buy the most nutrients you can. You’ll want spend your them on fresh or frozen veggies and fruits, low fat proteins and dairy and whole grains
Some basic advice for building a healthy meal calls for filling ½ your plate with fruit and vegetables, ¼ with healthy protein, and the other ¼ with whole grains.
Even after cleaning up the diet, many may benefit from a nutritional boost that supplements can provide. Ideally, we would get all our nutrients from foods, but our fast-paced lifestyle and eating on-the- go doesn’t always allow time to eat healthily. That is where supplements can play an important role in filling in gaps, particularly for nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, fiber, and vitamins A, C, D and E which are often lacking in the American diet, or to target specific needs such to support brain, heart or digestive health.
As the weather starts to warm up, it is a great time to spring into action and get your body in shape for more activity and bathing suit season. Just as cleaning up your house makes your environment feel refreshed, cleaning up your diet can be a great way to restart your healthy lifestyle.