By Sheridan Wimmer on February 2, 2022
Getting back into the “spring” of things means spring cleaning, opening the windows and being able to enjoy being outside again. This year, take advantage of the rising temperatures and the signs of regrowth by also refreshing your produce drawer and being mindful of your nutrition.
Much like watermelons are to summer and pumpkins are to fall, produce in the spring conjures up feelings of fresh, light, bright selections in the grocery store.
GROW STRONG WITH SPINACH
“Spinach contains vitamin K which helps support and build strong bones,” Karen Hanson, a registered dietitian says. “Spinach also has a great amount of magnesium and potassium, which are important for muscle development and growth.”
Have it as a salad, sautée it with a protein or mix it in a smoothie.
WE GOT THE BEET
“Beets are an underrated vegetable and sometimes an acquired taste,” Hanson says. “But they are beautiful and can add a lot of great nutrients like folate and fiber to your diet.”
Beets can be enjoyed roasted or pickled. Blend beets in soups or shredded raw as a salad topping.
THE BERRY BEST
“You can get your whole day’s worth of vitamin C with just one cup of strawberries,” Hanson says. “Strawberries also have a great deal of minerals and phytonutrients that are important for health.”
Fresh strawberries are great alone, but you can also feature them in salads, smoothies and as a water flavor enhancer.
“Just a half cup of cooked asparagus gives you nearly 60 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K,” Hanson says. “It’s low in calories but rich in nutrients like iron, zinc and riboflavin.”
Serve asparagus roasted as a side dish, or you can cut pieces of asparagus for salads or pastas.
Having a sweet tooth doesn’t have to mean buying a bag of candy or a package of cookies. While delicious in moderation, cutting back on added sugars in soda and packaged food will help your overall health immensely.
“Food labels now include a line for ‘added sugars’ listed in grams,” Hanson points out. “Remember: one teaspoon of sugar is four grams, so when you reach for that can of soda that has nearly 40 grams of sugar, that’s 10 teaspoons of sugar in 12 ounces. And when we eat items that have added sugars, we know they are in addition to what the food may contain naturally.”
Not watching your sugar intake can increase your risk for obesity and heart problems. According to the American Health Association, women should keep added sugar intake under six teaspoons per day, while men should keep their intake under nine teaspoons.
On the flip side of sugar is salt. Americans on average eat approximately 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day. According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, cutting some sodium from your diet can help you lower your risk of heart disease by 9 percent.
“Salt is an acquired taste,” Hanson says. “The less you eat, the less you’ll desire the taste. Gradually cutting down is a good way to limit your sodium intake.”
THE BEST PART OF WAKING UP
Limiting sugar and salt intake is a great start to springing your health in the right direction. But one of the best things you can do for improved health is to start the day off right by making sure you eat a balanced breakfast.
“We all have heard this over and over, but it really is a sensible thing to do,” Hanson says. “Following a night of sleep, the body is in a fasting state and food, or fuel, is exactly the thing we need to rev up and get moving in the morning. Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast eat fewer calories throughout the rest of the day, leading to easier weight control.”
If you’re like us, mornings are always rushed. If you’re low on time in the mornings, try preparing the night before.
“Overnight oats are a great option if you’re typically rushing out the door in the mornings,” Hanson says. “Typically, they’re served cold, so you can just prepare the night before, then grab when you’re leaving.”
Warmer temperatures and the regrowth of flowers, grass and leaves on trees help us feel reenergized. Get outside for a walk to enjoy the fresh air — you just might have some extra spring in your step and in your health.