Spring Clean Your Diet

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With spring around the corner, most people take part in some form of spring cleaning, whether it be tidying your junk drawers, donating a bunch of  old clothes, or throwing out the expired food in your fridge you just haven’t had the time to go through. This mindset can be used in all the different aspects of our lives, including our diet and eating habits. During the winter months, it can be harder to focus on maintaining a healthy diet when all you want to do is lay on the couch, wrapped in a blanket (burrito-style), and eat warm mac and cheese. This time of year may be a great excuse to start freshening up your diet in ways you’ll hardly notice! The easiest way to freshen up your diet is by substituting foods you already eat for a healthier alternative:

Eat Whole Grains

Now, this may be an obvious one for someone trying to eat healthier, but any starchy grain (bread, rice, pasta) made with whole wheat flour is less processed and therefore better for you than anything made with bleached white flour. If you’re in the habit of eating white bread or white pasta, the whole wheat taste and texture may take some getting used to but is definitely worth a shot. Since you rarely eat plain bread or pasta
without any spreads or sauces, it’s less noticeable, making this the easiest substitution.

TIP: To change your pasta-eating life extensively, try substituting pasta for baked spaghetti squash. It’s lower in calories and carbohydrates and is a
good source of vitamin C!

Lower Dairy Fats

Loads of dairy products have multiple fat content options but some people may be stuck in the habit of buying full-fat products. An easy way to freshen up your eating habits would be to try and lower the amount of fat you’re getting from these products. Of course, if you jump from 14% sour cream to fat-free you’re going to notice it and be less likely to rebuy it, but if you try a reduced-fat version or a light version, you may not notice it as much. Same goes for milk, if you drink 3%, try 2% for one week and see what you think!

TIP: A healthier alternative to sour cream is 0% plain Greek yogurt; this is one of my favorite dairy products because it’s full of protein and low in sugar.

Try Oil Sprays

Frying our eggs or pancakes in butter or greasing pans with butter is something you may think to do automatically. Instead, try out olive oil or vegetable oil sprays to do the same job. Oil sprays are inexpensive, they make less of a mess, and lower the number of unsaturated fats in your meal, so why not give it a go?
TIP: If you don’t think the oil spray would cut it for you, try just switching from using butter to oil in general. A tablespoon of oil contains good-for-you saturated fats while a tablespoon of butter is made up of unsaturated fats (which are bad for your heart).
Here are some other tips that might help you freshen up your diet this

Sugars in Hiding

Most fancy coffees, cocktail mixers, and Starbucks drinks are loaded with sugar. You shouldn’t stop drinking these things altogether, but just be aware that too much sugar won’t do you any good; try to cut down on how often you enjoy these drinks.

Be Aware of Portion Sizes

When pouring a bowl of cereal, eating crackers, or spreading something on your toast, checking the portion sizes is a good habit to have. This doesn’t mean you have to get out your measuring cups and start measuring everything you eat because that’s a sure-fire route to insanity but being aware of the recommended serving size might help you when spring cleaning your diet.
A habit you may want to start thinking about is what size fountain drink, ice cream, fancy coffee, or dinner portion you order when you go out to eat. Most of us have eyes larger than our stomachs (I know I do), so I stick to ordering smaller sizes because more often than not, it’s the perfect amount for me. The larger sizes have me consuming more than I need and usually make me feel sick – so try ordering a smaller size next time and see how you feel after. Don’t get me wrong though, sometimes you really do need an extra-large rootbeer or a huge burrito with extra guac and that’s perfectly fine! Same goes for when you really do need to eat a pint of ice cream because it’s cheaper than therapy. Just try to be aware of your automatic choices.
If none of these tips sound realistic for you, that’s entirely okay! These are just some of the concepts I rely on when I need to keep my eating habits in check. Maybe just try becoming more mindful when you eat. Enjoy every single bite and pair your meals with conversation instead of mindlessly watching TV and shoveling food in. Being conscious of what you eat and how it makes your body feel definitely helps your overall wellbeing. And remember, give yourself credit for taking care of yourself – it’s a skill.
Written by Ana Mota