It is hard to believe March is here and that spring is just around the corner! As much as I enjoy the winter, I am ready for warm air, flowers and green grass! I am also gearing up for my annual spring-cleaning and so I was thinking that I would offer you some ideas on how to “spring clean” your current diet. Here are some thoughts for you on how to start the transition from warm, winter comfort foods to a lighter fare containing more fresh ingredients.
- Try adding in more green vegetables. Greens are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, zinc as well as vitamins A, C, E and K. Kale, collard and mustard greens, broccoli and spinach are great sources of these nutrients. There are many different ways to prepare them including steaming and boiling as well as my two personal favorites, sautéing them in garlic and olive oil or eating them raw as a salad.
- Try experimenting with different grains. Grains contain high levels of fiber and B vitamins as well as being naturally low in fat. Unrefined, high fiber grains are absorbed more slowly which helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and also provides long-lasting energy. This makes them a very good carbohydrate choice for diabetics as well. One grain I’ve recently started adding into our diet is quinoa. It is a gluten free, high fiber grain that contains a balance of essential amino acids making it a complete protein, a rarity in plant foods. It is also high in the B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, and vitamin E. Quinoa can be eaten as a cold salad dish or a hot dish, which makes it as versatile as rice and pasta.
- Try changing up your usual fruit routine and add in a few you haven’t tried before. Fruits are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants. As with vegetables, the different colors of the fruits are created from chemicals that are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants have been shown to benefit not only heart health but overall health as well. The American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods to obtain the antioxidants rather than taking them in supplement form until more conclusive data are completed. Currently, there is significant research being done on berries of all kinds and their potential to powerfully benefit health. Berries are high in vitamin C and folic acid and are rich in phytonutrients called anthocyanins, the chemicals that contribute the red, blue, and purple color in fruits. The nutrients found in fruits reduce the risk of heart disease, degenerative eye disease, cancer, and bladder infections. These nutrients also may help degenerative diseases of the brain and have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
I hope you enjoy these ideas! Keep checking Chef Piet’s section as he is always posting new and delicious recipes with unique and healthy ingredients to add into your daily nutrition routine.
I will write again soon!
Angelina M., MS, RD, LDN