After months of cold weather and comfort food, spring is the natural time to reset your diet. For some, letting heavy pastas give way to fresh salads comes oh so effortlessly. For others, clean eating requires a little more forethought. We fall into the latter group. If you want to make your own lunches, snack smarter, and stock your kitchen with the best produce, protein, and healthy fats, but don’t know where to start, consider this your spring-cleaning checklist—the eating edition.
Scroll through to start eating clean!
Clearing out your kitchen so it’s free of any refined foods is a great place to start. Get rid of sugary cereals and breakfast bars as well as pretty much anything white. Your body has to work harder to digest white flour, which is already stripped of many key nutrients, including fiber. Switch to fiber-rich whole grains, and try subbing a vegetable in where you would normally eat pasta, potatoes or rice. For example, try using spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles instead of actual pasta and pureeing cauliflower and turnips instead of mashed potatoes.
Using the wrong oil in your cooking is one of the easiest ways to sabotage an otherwise healthy dish. Stay away from vegetable and seed oils, like canola, soybean, safflower, and corn oil, along with processed alternatives like margarines, all of which are high in cholesterol-raising trans fats. Only eat and cook with fats that nature made, like olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed ghee or butter. These options all contain nourishing monounsaturated fats and omega-3s.
Not ready to commit to one of those serious cleanses? Take a less drastic approach with apple cider vinegar (or ACV). Add one teaspoon of high quality ACV to a small glass of water and drink it before each meal to stimulate your digestive acids. Even just a tall glass of water with fresh-squeezed lemon first thing in the morning can give your system the boost it needs. And while you’re at it, cut out all non-water beverages. Staying away from dehydrating caffeinated drinks, sugary beverages, and alcohol is one of the easiest and most effective ways to detox naturally.
Swapping pizza for plain grilled chicken breast is a step in the right direction, but probably not sustainable in the long-term. You can make any lean protein, green veggie, or whole grain more delicious by utilizing fresh herbs and spices. More than that, many herbs and spices have detoxifying properties and aid in digestion. In fact, rosemary stimulates the liver (your body’s detox center) to help clear out the toxins. Also stock up on flavorful parsley, cilantro, ginger, turmeric, garlic, and curry.
Leafy greens tend to get all of the nutritional attention, but be sure to incorporate bitter greens into your diet too. Foods like arugula, mustard greens, and dandelion promote natural detoxification in the liver, the organ responsible for metabolizing fats, balancing hormones, and regulating cholesterol. Bitter foods also active your taste buds, which stimulates enzyme production to aid in proper digestion and nutrient absorption. And bitter greens, in particular, are packed with fiber and help your body digest fats better.
How many times have you settled for a less than nutritious lunch just because it was convenient? This season, make a point to change that by bringing your own lunch to work. Always cook (whether the night before, or on the weekend) to have leftovers. Leftover vegetables on top of grains or greens never fails. It’s also important to get healthy fats and protein in at lunch. Stock your desk with nuts and seeds, which you can add to any salad or bowl. And keep canned fish, like wild salmon and sardines, in the office kitchen. Even if you don’t have time to prepare a salad, you can scoop tuna or wild salmon with cucumber or zucchini slices.