Spring Clean Your Diet, Satisfy Cravings

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If warmer weather and fresh air send you into tidying mode, don’t forget your pantry. Spring clean your pantry and refrigerator and you’ll make better food choices and improve your health in the long run.

Count on Color for Protecting your Body

The colorful compounds in fruits, vegetables and grains protect plants from diseases and pests. In your body they help protect your tissues including skin, bone and muscle, from harm. Think of all forms of produce and grains in a variety of colors (see below). Fresh, frozen, 100% juice, dried or roasted veggie snacks and dried fruits with no added sugar (I often turn to figs and raisins when I want something sweet).

Here’s an example of of what color can do for you:

Orange fruits and vegetables may be protective against bone loss.

Black, deep red and dark purple produce and grains (examples: black rice, purple carrots, 100% grape juice made with Concord grapes, 100% pomegranate juice) are good for artery health; they help expand arteries to accommodate greater blood flow (very important for maintaining healthy blood pressure).

Dark greens are good for skin and eyes. They can help eyes adjust to bright light and also support night vision. Some examples include spinach, kale, turnip greens, collard greens, broccoli, zucchini, Brussels sprouts and romaine lettuce.

Add Snacks that Satisfy Hunger and Taste

When you want to satisfy hunger, look for foods high in protein and fiber. If you want to satisfy hunger and taste at the same time, consider options that fulfill your cravings. Looking for salty and crunchy? Beanitos hint of lime chips are amazing with guacamole. Searching for something sweet? Yogurt parfaits, granola + milk (Purely Elizabeth’s and The Toasted Oat are 2 of my favorites). There are also a number of bars that satisfy hunger and taste at the same time. Check out the newest Luna bars including chocolate dipped coconut (you won’t miss Mounds or Almond Joy). Find a few other crave worthy options here.

Discover Missing Nutrients

Vitamin D has been the rage for years but there are other nutrients that are ‘shortfall nutrients,’ those most of us do not consume in adequate amounts. Among them are potassium and magnesium.  Potassium is important for healthy blood pressure, nerve and muscle functioning and removing waste products from cells. Branch out from bananas and consider including leafy greens, carrots and potatoes and citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits for potassium. Think out of the box with kale chips, roasted carrots and potatoes or slow cooker vegetables with potatoes. Magnesium is  necessary for muscle and nerve functioning, blood sugar control, bone health, blood pressure regulation, energy production and normal heart rhythm. It also helps with sleep and muscle relaxation. Get a little more magnesium with beans, nuts, seeds, dark green leafy veggies, avocados and potatoes.

In addition to focusing on the food mentioned here, place foods you want to consume at eye level and treats you want to eat rarely in the back of the cabinet or bottom of the freezer out of sight and reach. Chances are, you’ll forget they are there.

 

Better for You Snacks

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Several times a week I am asked about healthy snacks – what can I eat between meals to satisfy my hunger and fuel my athletic performance (or workday!). And, as Nancy Clark says, it is a good idea to think of eating a “mini-meal” vs. a snack. The word meal conjures up thoughts of whole grains, fruits, veggies and lean sources of protein whereas the word “snack” may make us think of the snack isle at the grocery store. So, fill up on smaller meals. Here are some great options from RD-to-be Sara Shipley from the University of Central Oklahoma:

  • Oatmeal with low fat milk and a spoonful of almond butter or peanut butter. Bob’s Red Mill is minimally processed and has a chewy, nutty flavor. (personally, I’m a big Quaker fan but I’ll try Bob’s one day!).
  • Greek yogurt. If you need it sweet, buy plain yogurt and drizzle a little honey on top or mix in a little bit of jam. Add granola or walnuts for crunch or or Yogi granola chips.
  • Edamame with a side of red grapes. Cook the edamame (it takes 5 minutes max and it is a great source of fiber and protein) and sprinkle a little sea salt on top. Pair it with red grapes for a sweet & salty combo.
  • Trail mix. Make it yourself or pick up a bag of healthy trail mix. If you are a DIYer, mix together an equal amount of dry roasted almonds, pumpkin seeds (great for magnesium), dried cranberries and golden raisins. Add any other nuts as desired.
  • Whole grain cereal. If you are concerned about your vitamin & mineral intake, add a little cereal to your nutrition plan. Most cereal is fortified and whole grains are a great source of antioxidants and fiber. My new fav: KIND Healthy Grains.
  • Mini toasts with goat cheese and sliced pears. Try spreading an oz or two  of soft goat cheese on several whole grain Melba toasts with thinly sliced pears for a tangy, salty, crunchy snack.
  • Guacamole (or salsa) with chips. Avocados are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats so pairing guac with whole grain chips works well (if you are worried about portions, check the individual servings of guac in some stores – I found these in Target).
  • Hummus and Sweet Bell pepper. Try slicing a red, yellow or orange pepper for a sweet flavor and pair it with hummus. Tribe original or, I love Sabra with roasted pine nuts!
  • Warm soup (many come in low sodium varieties) with 3-4 whole grain melba toasts. Try V8 butternut squash soup – great for the Fall and Winter!
  • Crackers and cheese. Kashi whole grain crackers with Laughing Cow cheese – a delicious combo!
On the Sweeter Side:
  • Graham crackers with a spoonful of ricotta. Spread the ricotta on and drizzle honey on top if you really want to up the sweet ante.
  • Jell-O Sweet Temptation French Silk chocolate pudding with a handful of raspberries (this time of year you can thaw frozen raspberries very quickly on the shelf or in the microwave).
  • Sandwich thins with a spoonful of Nutella and sprinkle of peanut butter chips. Place under the broiler for 1 minute and melt.
  • Core a red apple and place it in a microwave bowl. Cook in the microwave for 1-2 minutes to soften. Add a spoonful of peanut butter into the middle and zap again for 45 seconds. Dig in to your mini apple-peanut butter pie!
  • Kettlecorn with cinnamon and sugar (DIY) or Popcorn Indiana’s version (their holiday one drizzled with chocolate is so good!).
  • Banana frozen yogurt DIY. Add 2-3 frozen bananas (chopped) into a blender with 1/2 cup lowfat milk. Add 3/4 cup ice and blend until smooth. Add chocolate chips or granola for a topping.
  • Chopped figs with brie cheese on whole grain crackers. A little messy but it sure is good!
And there are two more I’ll add since I am frequently dashing through airports – I love KIND bars and Clif Builder Bars (and mixed nuts as well as cereal in a ziploc). Portable, easy and TSA approved!
Thanks Sara! I can’t wait to try these ideas myself!