Winters seem to be particularly hard on people’s diets. It’s when we go into mini-hibernation-depression-no-sun-this-sucks mode and just want to sit wrapped in a blanket eating cheese (please tell me I am not alone on this).
The lack of juicy, fresh tomatoes alone makes me want to cry.
Once the whispers of spring start to trickle in, then everyone seems to get some extra pep in their step. However, after a whole season of blanket-cheesing, that step is kind of heavy and our tummies are kind of upset at us.
Thankfully, we do not have to beat ourselves up about this because there are some really easy ways to clean up your diet to feel better and have more energy and joy for the upcoming sunny weather where we all feel a little more human.
#1 Eat More Whole Fruit
Citrus Fruit & Hesperidin
Hesperidin is a cancer-fighting bioflavinoid that helps to reduce inflammation, tame allergies and high blood pressure and even helps with symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome!
Because of its ability to improve circulation, it is great for diabetics and can help prevent varicose veins. Hesperidin is also helpful in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and in maintaining cognitive function as we age.
Another reason to consume citrus fruits as we age is that they have the potential to inhibit bone loss, making citrus an optimal food to consume in order to prevent osteoporosis.
Hesperidin is found in citrus fruits like lemons, grapefruit, oranges and tangerines. Just remember that a lot of people on medications can’t consume grapefruit, so ask your doctor about this if you are concerned.
Most of us have heard of the benefits of lycopene. What you may not know is that the top sources of this extremely powerful antioxidant are fruits!
Supplements do not work in the same way that eating whole foods containing lycopene does. The top food sources are pink grapefruit, tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, and guava.
Although anthocyanin is found in any blue-purple food like blue potatoes, purple cauliflower, purple kale, etc., a more accessible and arguably delicious way to get this flavonoid is in blue and purple fruits like blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes (wine!), pomegranates, plums, strawberries, elderberries, acai, and my favourite — cherries!
Anthocyanin has a strong antioxidant effect to help fight cancer and inflammation. Due to their anti-inflammatory effects, these fruits are excellent choices for a post-strength training snack since they can help to reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery.
An excellent choice for diabetics, these blue heroes help to regulate blood sugar, prevent obesity and improve cholesterol.
#2 Eat Only When You Experience True Belly Hunger
Comfort food is what it is. Chocolate and cheese don’t judge you, chocolate and cheese understand. These foods release feel-good chemicals in our brains that are proven to boost your mood.
And in the depths of winter, we take what mood boosting opportunities we can get!
However, eating for comfort can pay a toll on our health and our waistlines. Often high in calories and fat, many times with simple carbohydrates that spike blood sugar, these comforting choices do not necessarily make you feel comfortable in your own skin in the long run.
Spring is an excellent time to start fresh and begin listening to your body’s natural signals for hunger. Eating only when you experience true belly hunger is a way of being more in tune with the way your body expends energy and needs re-fueling.
Remember that appetite and hunger are totally different things. Your “appetite” can include cravings and tell you that you can eat one more piece of cake. Your hunger is a physical feeling rather than mental and requires intuitiveness.
When you are truly hungry, you will eat food that is healthy and nourishing. A salad, some fruit, a chicken breast or some fish. When your appetite is calling you may think you really need a bag of chips or an extra brownie. If the idea of healthy food isn’t appealing, then you aren’t really hungry.
Try listening to your body’s natural signals and I promise you will feel much better. This is also a fantastic frontline strategy for weight loss.
(Note: If weight loss is your goal, check out this huge and informative post on exercising based on your goals!)
#3 Stop Eating When You are 80% Full
Hari hachi bu.
Umm, …bless you!
The brain takes about twenty minutes to catch up to your stomach’s feeling of fullness. If you stop eating once you feel satisfied, you are much less likely to over eat and feel stuffed.
More importantly than consciously restricting the amount of overall calories you end up consuming, this practice requires you to be mindful of how your body is reacting to your eating habits. It causes you to pay attention to your body’s cues for hunger and fullness which results in a more finely tuned ability to eat intuitively for your individual needs.
This prevents over eating and consequently, helps you maintain a healthy weight.
#4 End Restrictive Eating
This is a big one and probably not the most popular stance. In a world where people make money off of the desire for quick fixes and secret formulas, talking about eating everything in moderation is boring and old news.
Fancy fads like Keto and Paleo are HUGE money makers for bloggers and the diet industry as a whole. Latching on to herd mentality and selling a whole diet culture is highly lucrative. People buy in and buy in hard. It’s almost scarily cult-like.
Whether it makes me unpopular or not, I refuse to advocate for restrictive diets that nearly eliminate any major macro or food groups.
There is an unhealthy trend for people, especially women, to fear foods.
We develop a scarcity mentality towards food that causes us to crave those foods even more. When we inevitably fail, we beat ourselves up.
Why weren’t we more motivated? More determined? More able to resist temptation?
I’ll give you a hint…
It’s not you.
It’s the diet.
Science has shown us that willpower is a finite resource (read more about that here). Every day has several challenges that force us to make decisions. Why add all of that stress to something that should be as joyous as eating?
Yes girl, you should ENJOY your food!
#5 Eat To Fuel Your Activity
Whether you just make it out to walk the dog or you are a powerlifter, you should consider your activity levels when you choose your meals.
A person who runs, lifts weights, or trains for competitions is going to have vastly different nutritional needs than someone who has a desk job and doesn’t make it out to exercise much.
There is no judgment here on how much you move your body, but you could benefit a lot from pairing your dietary habits with your physical needs.
If you exercise a lot, you should eat a lot.
The old adage of “eat less and exercise more” in order to lose weight is highly flawed. This is a sure path to burn out, overtraining, and failure. You will not get results this way, at least not lasting ones, and you risk damaging your health and metabolism.
If you move little, you should eat less.
This doesn’t have to be a set in stone way of life. You can fluctuate these patterns of eat more, exercise more and eating less while you aren’t exercising all that much during times of your life that either allow for more activity, or times where you are swamped with work and obligations, or sick or just not feeling mentally well enough to exercise (we all have those days/months/years).
Some people go further with this and specifically cycle their carbs. Since carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel for activity, this makes sense. It can be semi-restrictive and overly complicated, though. If this interests you at all, check out this Pinterest board with all sorts of carb-cycling recipes and information.
#6 Plan Your Meals & Snacks
This is something many of us aspire to do but never get around to much of the time. However, it is highly worth it.
Even if you just give yourself a basic plan of which ingredients you’ll use, it makes grocery shopping more streamlined and you will save money and limit food waste.
The important part for your diet is to plan what you will eat in moments of weakness. Typically for people, this is in the evening.
If you try to tell yourself you will not eat snacks after dinner but then you always end up reaching for that bag of chips or box of crackers, then simply STOP trying to beat yourself into submission and plan to have a healthy snack. Plan out exactly what you will eat while watching The Handmaid’s Tale (highly recommended!) and leave those Triscuits where they are.
#7 Prep Ahead
I don’t know about you but after a long day of work, child wrangling, and dinner making, the last thing I feel like doing is prepping breakfasts and lunches for the next day.
Grabbing leftovers out of the fridge is sometimes an option but it is a huge scramble in the morning and adds stress to an already under caffeinated event (not ideal!)
Prepping even some of your lunches, breakfasts, or both on the weekend can save you a lot of time and money and is absolutely ideal if you want to eat healthier, more well-balanced meals.
Instead of grabbing a muffin from the drive-through and lunch from the deli, you can create simple, delicious meals at home to eat all week.
Despite what you see on social media, you don’t have to make something ethnic and fancy and super pretty. Just cook up batches of protein, veggies, and carbs, add seasonings and sauces to your taste, and pack them up in containers ready-to-go.
Check out this post for prepping proteins, including seasoning recipes, meal ideas, tips, tricks and delicious combos for variety and nutrition!
Check out this post for prepping veggies, with seasonings, meal ideas, sauce recipes and more.
#8 Eliminate Distractions
Believe it or not, eating in front of your phone, TV, or computer can contribute to weight gain.
Not because of any weird waves or electrobesity gremlins, but simply because you are not focused on your food.
Humans have an innate need to enjoy their food. When you are staring at a screen, this becomes virtually impossible (see what I did there?).
You cannot focus on feelings of fullness (remember #3?) when you are distracted by filling out a quiz telling you what type of pizza you are. It just doesn’t work.
Not only will you be more likely to eat more at that meal, but you will also eat more later on.
This is because you haven’t fully registered the event of “eating” and you will seek out that feeling by eating again later.
So the science has it, put down your phone and focus on your meal.
(It should go without saying that if you are eating with other human beings, you should never have your phone in your face in the first place. It is rude and a surefire what to kill the intimacy in any relationship).
#9 Take Your Time
This isn’t just a pet peeve because spending hours on a meal just to watch it get scarfed down in seconds is demoralizing.
Taking your time while eating has a myriad of benefits.
- improved digestion
- better hydration
- more control over portion intake
- easier to recognize feelings of fullness
- increased meal satisfaction and satiety
- less rush and feelings of stress
Slowing down and taking the time to chew thoroughly and enjoy our food is a very simple and highly effective way to clean up your diet today.
#10 Add Volume
Focusing on food that packs a lot of nutritional punch, fiber, and protein, for fewer calories, is a sure path to meal satiety, less hunger and cravings, and managing your weight.
Adding a lot of high fiber vegetables and fruit to your meals is the simplest way to do this.
You can add shredded zucchini and egg whites to your oatmeal, zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash to your pasta dishes, and eat foods with a high water content to accomplish this.
Here is a list of ideal high volume foods:
- boiled potatoes
- lean meats
- Greek yogurt or skyr
- cottage cheese
- veggies and fruit (of course!)
#11 Take it Outdoors
Multiple studies have shown that getting outdoors helps to relieve stress and depression. This carries over into eating al fresco as well.
Eating while stressed causes difficulties with digestion. When your body is in flight or fight mode from a hard day at work or dealing with children, the proper hormones and signals aren’t sent to aid in enjoying and digesting food.
Being outdoors also helps to improve concentration and soft focus, leading to greater meal satiety and enjoyment.
And don’t forget about the all-powerful Vitamin D! Food sources are very hard to come by, so being outdoors while you eat has the added benefit of helping you get your recommended dose of this important vitamin.
#12 Spit it Out
One of my stand by’s and something I tell people who express difficulties not eating food placed in front of them or any food that is easily accessible (that damn co-worker with the Skittles on her desk!).
If it isn’t 100 percent enjoyable and delicious, spit it out.
If you are concerned with food waste, then you probably shouldn’t have put it in your mouth in the first place. A piece of cake or a mini quiche isn’t the best way to prevent food waste. These things are high in calories and low in nutrition, making them a frivolous way to use up ingredients.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating these treats, as long as you actually REALLY enjoy them.
If it doesn’t taste as you hoped, get rid of it. No need to have it go to waste on you by adding unnecessary calories. Let the garbage can take one for the team.
#13 Eat Together
Make mealtime more social by eating with family and friends. Not only will you be less likely to distract yourself with a device, but you will (hopefully!) feel more relaxed and happy.
Research shows that eating together helps us make better food choices, maintain a healthy weight and eat more nutritiously. Adults who eat with family and friends tend to eat more vegetables, eat less at restaurants, have lower body mass indexes, and have improved nutrient intake.
Moreover, there are added benefits for children and teens who have family meals. These include:
- better diet
- better academic perfomance
- less risk of eating disorders
- higher intake of fruit and vegetables
- less intake of sugary drinks
- less likely to smoke, use drugs, or get into fights
A Different Way to Spring Clean
So there you have it, 13 ways to make a change in your diet this spring so that you can feel great and get ready for all the fun and sun to come! (it WILL come! I promise!)
Don’t enter into spring and summer feeling groggy and sluggish. Use these tips to feel energized and fresh for a new start!
What do you look forward to most about the spring and summer months? Do you practice any of these diet tips? What is one that you think you can implement now to start feeling better? Comment below!