Spring is a time of regrowth and renewal. As the sun begins to shine and the temperature rises, we begin to open windows or clean the yard in order to prepare for a new season. Tis’ also the perfect time to “spring clean” your diet, transitioning from common comfort foods of winter to nutrient dense foods of spring.
Begin with your food supply. Open the freezer and fridge and throw away any foods that may have freezer burn and expired items. Some foods do not have an expiration date; the USDA provides an extensive list of foods and estimated expiration dates.
The next place to inspect is the pantry. Following the same method as above, remove all expired food items. Check the shelf life of the following items: flour is good for 1 year; opened cereal is good up to 3-4 months; rice should be replaced after 6 month; canned soups will last up to 12-18 months.
Once you have cleaned out the food supply, you can now replace winter-based “comfort foods” with nutrient dense, functional foods found in spring. Nutrient density is the amount of nutrients per calorie in food. Winter foods such as casseroles or hot chocolate tend to be high in calories and limited in nutrients. If we compare a cookie to cut vegetables such as carrots, the cookie provides more calories than the carrot, however the carrot provides more vitamins and minerals compared to the cookie.
Switching from caloric dense foods to nutrient dense foods can be simplified during spring due to the abundance of new fresh produce. Try several of these examples in order to “spring clean” your diet: Stews can be replaced with fresh soup such as gazpacho. Instead of bread try quinoa or brown rice and replace chips/crackers with kale chips. Substitute cookies with fresh cut vegetables stored in individual plastic bags, ready to snack on with your favorite hummus. Casseroles and caloric dense dishes can be replaced with a kale or spinach salad dressed with asparagus, peas and your favorite type of seafood. Lastly, replace hot chocolate and high calorie drinks with sparkling water infused with cucumber and mint, strawberries, cherries, blackberries or grapefruit with mint.