Springtime – who isn’t ready for this season following a long, cold winter? Spring not only reminds us to freshen up our homes but to also take a fresh start, a fresh approach to rethinking old eating habits. It’s the perfect time to do some spring cleaning by making healthy food swaps kick-starting improvements in your health. The more you are able to make healthy eating choices automatic and a part of your lifestyle, the healthier you will become in both mind and body.
- Swap out unhealthy ingredients for healthier ingredients
Reduce added sugars – Avoid sugary beverages and highly processed packaged foods often loaded with added sugars. Too much sugar has been found to increase inflammation in the body upping your risk for diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends keeping added sugars less than 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men. In comparison, one 12-ounce soda has about 8 teaspoons of sugar making it very easy to overdo it. When craving something sweet, choose fresh fruit instead.
Reduce salt – Americans love their salt but to a fault. Too much salt or sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure increasing the risk of strokes or heart attacks. The average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day. Cut back on this amount by 1,000 milligrams and you could lower your risk of heart disease by up to 9 percent. Read food labels choosing foods with no more than 200 milligrams of sodium per serving and choose more whole foods such as fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, unsalted nuts and seeds, and stay away from salty snack foods such as chips, pretzels, and pickles.
Reduce refined grains and processed foods – White flour, white rice, and the like are stripped of healthy fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Look for breads and rice where 100% whole wheat flour or whole grain rice are the first ingredients listed on the Nutrition Facts Label.
- Eat breakfast everyday
It’s time to shake up your wake up by always eating breakfast within 2 hours. Look at it like this: breakfast provides the body and brain with fuel after an overnight fast so you’re literally “breaking the fast.” Studies show that eating breakfast can help prevent weight gain by preventing mid-to-late morning hunger cravings causing you to seek out high-fat, high-sugar foods, and it helps reduce fatty buildup in your arteries, an early sign of heart disease.
Establishing good breakfast habits in childhood is a must and then maintaining them throughout adolescence can help reduce breakfast skipping while developing good eating habits that last a lifetime.
- Eat more mindfully
Be honest, how often do you eat a meal without looking at social media, catching up on emails, or watching TV? How often do you simply focus completely on the food you are about to eat? This is called mindful eating. Mindful eating is taking the time to chew and notice the different tastes and textures of every bite. Not only will you enjoy your meal more but it can help with weight loss and weight control as you often end up eating less as you become more aware of the sensation of fullness or satiety that builds throughout a meal.
- Stay well-hydrated
The most important nutrient we must have daily is water. Water is necessary for helping to circulate oxygen, lubricate joints, regulate body temperature, carry nutrients, and for whisking away toxins. Many individuals are chronically under hydrated which could be one reason why they feel overly tired. Every day, women require between 8 to 12 cups of water and men require between 10-13 cups. Don’t care for plain water? Jazz it up with a spritz of fresh lemon or lime juice. Green tea works too for providing hydration plus it has a bevy of benefits such as boosting immunity.
- Cook more meals at home
There is no better way to avoid consuming too much sugar, salt, fat, or calories than to choose to eat more meals at home. When you prepare meals at home you are in control. Preparing home-cooked meals gives you the opportunity to use fresh ingredients and the ability to boost flavor with herbs and spices rather than salt. Plus you’ll end up serving smaller portion sizes and have more money in your pocket.