March 16, 2015

Spring is the perfect time of year to review your diet, remove the bad and add the good. It’s not about eating less; it’s about eating more of the foods that will give your body the healthy energy it craves. Here are six ways to get your diet in shape for the spring and summer.

Just say no to processed foods.

Michael Pollan, author of the bestselling book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, summed it up best when he said “Don’t eat food with more than five ingredients, or with ingredients you can’t pronounce. Eat only food that your great-great-grandmother would recognize as food.” The Mayo Clinic recommends shopping the perimeter of your grocery store: you’ll find the fresher foods here – i.e. produce, meat/seafood, dairy case – helping you to better control the fat and sodium in your diet.

Add more fruits and veggies to your diet.

Focus on all the wonderful, healthy foods you can start adding to your diet now. Check out the CDC’s Fruit and Vegetable Calculator and calculate your fruit and vegetable recommendations based on your calorie needs for your age, sex, and activity level. Aim to exceed your recommended levels, and explore adding fruits and veggies you’ve never tried before to add a bit more variety to your diet.

Focus on healthy fats.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats actually lower disease risk, so make a point of adding more foods high in good fats to your diet. Olive, canola, sunflower, soy, and corn oils as well as nuts, seeds, and fish are all rich in healthy fats. For more information on how to use healthy fats in the home kitchen, check out these tips from Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard School of Public Health and Amy Myrdal Miller, M.S., R.D. of The Culinary Institute of America.

Skip added sugars.

Too much added sugar in your diet can significantly increase your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in January 2014 (JAMA: Internal Medicine). The American Heart Association recommends no more than about 6 teaspoons per day for women. Check out the AHA’s list of tips for cutting down on sugar in your diet.

Choose whole grains.

Skip the white bread and rice and go for whole grains to up your intake of dietary fiber, iron and B vitamins. Look for products containing whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice, or start making your own. The amount of grains you need to eat depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity; to see where you stand, visit the USDA’s guide to recommended daily whole grain amounts. The Whole Grains Council offers a slew of great recipes that harness the power of whole grains.

Reduce meat consumption.

Several studies have shown that people on plant-based, vegetarian diets tend to have lower body weight and body mass index (BMI) while fruits, veggies and whole grains have been shown to protect against cardiovascular disease. Visit Meatless Monday for vegetarian recipes as well as tips and tricks for transitioning to a vegetarian diet.