Spring has sprung! This month’s recipe celebrates the fresh fruits and vegetables that abound during the spring months. Asparagus, mushrooms, and onion all begin their peak season in April, so head to your local farmers' market or grocery store and stock up on these delicious veggies.
During the long winter, it’s easy to fall into poor eating habits. Rich soups and stews often become home menu staples, and we stock up on processed foods to comfort ourselves from the cold. If you’ve emerged from the winter hibernation feeling lethargic and sluggish, now is the time to spring-clean your diet. In fact, nutritional principles of alternative Ayurvedic medicine advise eating with a seasonal rhythm, and the season of spring is the traditional cleansing time.
But “spring-cleaning” does not mean restricting yourself to fad diets such as juice cleanses and detox fasts. It’s about going back to basics with whole, minimally processed foods that will nourish your body and provide it with the nutrients it needs to flourish. So here are four easy tips to freshen up your diet this spring.
1. Cut Out Sugar
Too much of the sweet stuff has been linked to an increase in disease risk, including diabetes. Natural sugars in dairy, vegetables, and fresh or unsweetened dried fruit don't count as added sugars. But corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, dextrose, and other sugar impersonators in yogurt, cereals, granola bars, and even pasta sauces certainly do. Scan ingredients on packaged foods and choose those with little if any added sweeteners. Replace sugary breakfast cereals, flavored yogurts, and reduced-fat peanut butter (which often swaps fat for sugar) with steel-cut oats, plain yogurt, and natural nut butter.
2. Choose Color
Eating a rainbow of foods is a great way to load up on fiber and other disease-fighting compounds. The pigments that give fruits and vegetables their colors are vital antioxidants, which are needed to support the liver in detoxifying the body. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables can also provide an abundance of essential vitamins and minerals. For example, asparagus packs a whopping 114% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) per 1 cup serving of vitamin K, which is important for bone health, and nearly 66% of the RDA of folate, which helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
3. Revisit Your Portions
Controlling portion size is one of the keys to weight management and preventing weight gain. Over the past 50 years, restaurant portions have ‘super-sized’ and we’ve become accustomed to eating larger servings, to the detriment of our waistlines. A few simple strategies can help you cut back on those extra portions. Using a smaller plate for your meals means automatic portion control, as there is less space on the plate. And when ordering or buying food, choose the smallest size of any high-calorie items. If you’re eating takeout food, transfer the right portion onto a plate and put the package away, then sit down and take time to enjoy your meal.
4. Drink Water
The amount of water you consume everyday plays an important role in maintaining a healthy body. Water is important for flushing out waste and bacteria, and it improves the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. It also promotes kidney function and reduces kidney stones by diluting the salts and minerals in urine that cause kidney stones. One idea to get more: Choose it for your main beverage at and between meals. If you’re not a fan of plain water, try a spritz of lemon or lime to jazz it up.
Roasted Vegetable Orzo Recipe
1 zucchini, sliced
1 summer squash, sliced
1 red onion, cut into chunks
1 pound portobello mushrooms, thickly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pinch white sugar
salt and black pepper to taste
4 cubes chicken bouillon
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 (16 ounce) package orzo pasta
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
- Place the zucchini, squash, onion, asparagus, and mushrooms in a large bowl; add in garlic, olive oil and sugar, and stir gently to coat vegetables. Spread vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast vegetables until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add bouillon cubes, wine, and orzo, and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain. Stir in roasted vegetables and Parmesan cheese, and serve warm.
About the Author: Kristin Wallace is the registered dietitian in the Outpatient Clinic at Craig Hospital. Kristin provides one-on-one counseling for nutrition issues related to spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries, including weight management, wound care management, digestive health, and diabetes. Kristin also manages a variety of outpatient nutrition groups that focus on healthy eating strategies, such as healthy cooking and healthy eating on the go. Kristin strives to empower others to be the healthiest version of themselves through practical and realistic lifestyle changes.