9 Tips to 'Spring Clean' Your Diet

Health Writer
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As the weather warms up and windows are opened, most of us are inspired to spring clean our homes, pulling out our outdoor exercise gear, putting away our winter wear, and bringing out our lighter clothes. Why not also draw some inspiration from our “cleaning mindset” to spring clean the food sector? It’s time to hit the pantry, fridge, workplace candy drawer and especially our daily diet and “clean up!” Here are nine tips to help you get started.


Let's start with the fridge clean out

Take everything out and check packages for expiration dates, color changes, or unpleasant odors, “if in doubt, throw it out” is a good mantra. Wash down the inside of the refrigerator — doors too — and add a box of deodorizing baking soda. Now create “food sectors” for easy food visibility and “grabs,” and shorter meal prep time. Have zones: Dairy, proteins, fruit and vegetable, grain/breads, condiments/oils/sauces/dips, and a beverage zone. Wash produce in bulk and then store it.


Other fridge tips

Now re-stock with healthier versions of all your favs. Add tofu, nuts, and plant proteins to your shopping list. Keep leftovers labeled with a “use by date,” and always have cut up fruits and vegetables.” Make sure marinated meat and fish are well wrapped if you are waiting to cook them. Always cook more and then create separate “meal containers” as your own home made frozen food servings. Newly purchased foods should go in the back of the fridge so you use up older items.


Fridge and freezer food hacks

Keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge for quick protein snacks. Cut up and freeze “blemished and very ripe fruit” for smoothies later. Make juice, coffee, and pureed veggie “ice cubes” to add to smoothies or to make low calorie drinks or soups. Cook multiple chicken breast or fish filets and freeze for quick emergency meals. Roast enough vegetables for a week. Invest in a slow cooker and cook healthy, inexpensive recipes (bean stews and more). Add fermented foods which help balance gut microbes.


Lists menus keep you on track and organized

Commit to making shopping lists as you use up food and ingredients. Make meal plans for the week and shop specifically for ingredients in bulk. Keep beans, produce, and fresh herbs in stock. Prep as much food as you can ahead of time, as you are likely to come home hungry most days and that can mean grazing on the wrong foods. Create homemade “snack bags” so you are armed for snack attacks. Apply the same rules of “sectors and lists” to your pantry too.


Supplement cleanse

Make sure probiotics that require refrigeration are in the fridge. If you refrigerate fish oil capsules you’ll avoid a fishy aftertaste. Review all the vitamins you are taking and make sure they are necessary, matched to your health needs, age, and gender, and they are kept in a cool, dark corner. Check expiration dates and make sure no food has been recalled. If you commit to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables and eat from all the food groups, you may be able to limit supplements.


Clean your carb habit

Don’t banish carbs — choose superstars! Spring cleaning means read labels to understand if healthy grains are the primary ingredient in the more processed grains that you buy. Choose breads with 70-80 calories/slice, full of whole grains, and high in fiber. Ditto for side dish grains and pastas — choose ancient grains (quinoa, amaranth, spelt) or new high protein choices (pea-based and chickpea-based). Measure portions and calculate how many servings of grains fit in your daily “clean” diet.


Nutrition and snack bar review

We ALL need to brush up on label dissection to identify fat sources, how much protein is in the bar, and if there’s added sugar. Many high protein bars in the 150-250 calorie range are loaded with added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and unrecognizable ingredients, especially preservatives. Resistant to a full swap out? At least half the time, choose simple bars with few ingredients. I like the RX Bar and Thunderbird, made from a short list of whole ingredients. Check out seaweed snacks too.


Freshen up your snack mindset

“If it’s in your home, you will eat it.” Dieters know they will not outsmart temptation if unhealthy treats lurk at home. If you don’t have healthy prepared options you will likely grab “sugar rush options” from your fridge, pantry, or a vending machine at work. Your new shopping habits can help to keep you stocked with “cleaner choices.” Try an apple and nut butter, cut up veggies and bean dip, string cheese and tomato sauce, half a sweet potato and cottage cheese.


Empty and re-think that office candy drawer

Your office candy drawer is too close and full of “sugar rush then crash foods.” That spot needs a thorough cleaning. Donate or dump the unhealthy treats and re-stock it with healthy snack bags from home, clean snack bars, sugar free gum and water bottles. Also learn to decipher thirst or boredom, from true hunger. If you are running on empty, you now have cleaner choices.