De-clutter, eat fresh, set goals
By Monique Ryan, MS, RDN, LDN, CSSD
Spring has finally arrived to the Chicagoland area and with more outdoor runs and bikes ahead you likely are contemplating your plans for the 2018 season. Nutrition and body composition goals are usually part of this equation for both health and performance benefits. Perhaps this past winter you fell into some less than optimal eating habits, reaching for comfort foods, and consuming less fresh produce. But with the warming weather, now is a great time to spring clean your diet, especially if any New Year’s food related goals fell by the wayside. It’s time for a reboot and outlined below are some suggested strategies.
- Cut the food clutter
- Start with the freezer first. If you see any ice crystals on a container, it has to go. Any processed items that you may be relying on just a bit too much? Maybe pare choices down to one frozen dessert favorite. The pantry and cupboards come next. Really give it a good look over. If there are too many white flour products, use them up, donate to a food pantry, or toss them out. Get rid of high sugar cereals and other white flour based products. Toss items that you no longer want as part of your daily diet. Of course you should clean up the fridge as well. Give it a good cleaning so that you can stock up on fresh foods.
- Grab a garbage bag or two and take some time to check out what is hiding in your pantry, cupboard, freezer, and the back corners of your refrigerator. Look out for frequent fliers that are overly processed, high in added sugar and sodium, calorically dense, and that contain trans fat. Check labels and if it does not pass- give it a toss.
- “Spring cleaning” does not mean fasting or juicing, it is about getting back to basics with more fresh and less processed foods to better prepare your body for an increase in training. You can start up your 2018 nutrition goals with the preparation of simple, fresh meals. But it can literally start with a clean up in your kitchen.
- Reload your diet with clean eating
- It is fine to use the freezer as a back-up with frozen vegetables and fruits, and uncooked servings of chicken, fish, and other lean proteins. You can hunt for low sugar cereals and stock up on high fiber grains like quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and dried beans as well as nut butters and nuts, and packaged tuna and salmon for your pantry.
- To preserve nutrients don’t cut up or wash produce too far ahead as these food will spoil sooner. Instead prep them the night before for lunch or dinner the next day. You can also stock up on mustard, hummus, Greek yogurt, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice to replace fatty fare. A good standby for a quick meal is a carton of eggs or liquid egg whites.
- The arrival of spring means the arrival of more varied seasonal produce. Eating a rainbow of foods is a great way to load up on fiber, vitamins and disease fighting phytonutrients. Take advantage of all the colorful choices that will soon be available such as a variety of fresh berries, apricots, and plenty of leafy greens for salads and stir-fry’s. The antioxidants in these foods can also help combat exercise induced stress and aid your recovery from hard workouts.
- Invest your time into meal planning and developing a stock and weekly updated grocery shopping list. This actually saves lots of time and money, and can be good for your weight and body composition goals as it keeps you focused on what you came for. Here are few ideas that can go into meal planning:
- Always have a whole grain something at breakfast along with a dairy or dairy substitute and fresh fruit. Protein at breakfast can keep blood sugar on an even keel though the morning so consider options like eggs, Greek style yogurt, turkey bacon, or chicken sausage.
- Pack a lunch for work several days weekly to save on the calories and fat often so prevalent in restaurant choices, and add antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables to this meal.
- Plan to try one new recipe a week or every two weeks. Search on-line for some great recipes or buy a new cookbook. Make one new recipe a slow cooker choice so that you have plenty of leftovers.
- Plan dinners ahead and perhaps even cook a few ahead to reheat at the end of a long day. This can minimize last minute take-out disasters.
- Pack fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and yogurt for snacks.
Keep an eye on daily hydration. Planning ahead and stocking your kitchen with nutritious choices is the first step to a healthy 2018 season. It is time to take hydration seriously again. Dehydration can leave you feeling sluggish and thirst can masquerade as hunger- possibly leading to overeating. While increasing water rich produce in your diet helps hydrate your body, you may need to increase your daily fluid intake, especially so that you can start evening runs well-hydrated. Try to consume 0.5 to 1.0 ounces of fluid per pound of body weight daily. Don’t drink calories, but rather go for green or herbal tea, or make your own flavored water by adding lemon or cucumber slices for a taste change.