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Spring clean your diet with these 6 easy tips

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, “Spring clean your diet with these 6 easy tips.”

You can also read it HERE.

Spring is in the air. I love to be outdoors and listen to the birds chirping. With springtime comes decluttering; we clear out our winter sweaters and boots in exchange for spring dresses and sandals. With daylight savings time upon us, we can spend more time outdoors, which can boost our moods and also enable us to exercise outdoors while also being one with nature. Spring is also time for renewal and rejuvenation with the smell of flowers in bloom. As the season changes, since I am a nutritionist, I love to focus on helping others take on some new healthy rituals too.

Here are my top tips to help you recharge this spring. I hope you can give them a try, if you are not already practicing them.

1. Cook more.

You gain so many benefits when you cook at home. First off, home cooked meals are healthier and contain fewer calories than those eaten away from home. Research recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that eating out frequently was associated with a lower diet quality and more ‘empty calories’ as compared to cooking at home.

When we cook and measure out ingredients, we tend to become better at estimating portion sizes, which I promise you, will help you slim down. Cooking is also a great way to bond with family and friends. While eating out is lots of fun and very social, (and it’s always great to try new foods!), try to eat at least a few meals at home each week. It will help both you wallet—and you waist. If you don’t know how to cook, take a cooking class or turn on your TV; there are many shows which teach you how to prepare healthy foods.

2. Try a new food.

We often associate a new season with newness-new things (new shoes or clothes (for the current season), new habits, new rituals. How about trying a new food you haven’t yet tried. Give it a go. Whether you decide to make it at home or enjoy it while eating out, go for it. My tip: keep it healthy. Perhaps let’s start with visiting your local farmer’s market and trying a new seasonal fruit or vegetable to add to your diet. There’s got to be a fruit or veggie you haven’t yet tried and may really end up loving!

3. Spring clean your kitchen.

One of the best ways to get your diet in order is to de-clutter your kitchen and keep healthy foods around. Get rid of most of the junk and keep healthy foods at arms reach. As I wrote here, put out a fruit platter, keep the breakfast cereal stashed away in the cabinet, and keep healthy foods in the front of the fridge where you can easily see them. I love keeping assorted berries in a bowl as well as baby carrots and red peppers easily accessible. It is also best to store goodies like cookies in an opaque container so that they are not as tempting.

4. Eat the rainbow.

Besides helping us feel fuller on fewer calories, eating a colorful diet high in fruits and vegetables (both fresh and frozen) can give your diet a boost of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber which cut your risk of chronic disease and help fight aging. Eating the rainbow and choosing a colorful assortment of produce is best, as different health benefits exist from the different color spectrum.

I often counsel families and like to choose a “color of the week” where we incorporate produce of that color into the diet. For example, the color red is the “R” of the rainbow (remember the acronym “ROY G BIV”!). Let’s think of a bunch of healthy red foods and try including them into the diet this week—pink grapefruit, tomatoes, red raspberries, strawberries, and red peppers. Next week, think of the orange color scheme for “O” and all the healthy orange foods—orange, carrots, cantaloupe… It’s a lot of fun and helps to incorporate a lot of colorful produce. And guess what? Even white colored produce have lots of health benefits: think cauliflower and white onions!

5. Get outdoors.

This is a great season to get outside and play. Go for along walk with your dog, go for a run or a bike ride, or enjoy a structured hike. It stays light outside for longer this season so you can take advantage and exercise outdoors after work. Being one with nature is also so good for the soul, helps improve mood, and helps you feel centered.

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude leads better sleep, improved mood, better self esteem, better resiliency, and stronger relationships. Research has found that cultivating gratitude leads to better psychological and physical health. One ritual that I practice myself daily (almost!) is to write down 5 things I am grateful for each day. While certain things can certainly often be better, we must remember, that they can also be worse. Try looking at your “cup” as half full instead of as half empty. When we appreciate what we have, we also tend to ultimately get more out of life and relationships.

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Spring forward into health with these simple tips

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Spring forward with these 10 simple tips.”

You can also read it here.

With a new season often come new rituals and habits. With more daylight in the springtime, it is often easier to adopt certain habits, such as fitting in an early evening bike ride. It is also a great time to try new foods and develop new habits, in an effort to get healthier.

As a nutritionist, I am a big believer in working to improve our bodies–as well as our minds–for optimal health.

Below are 10 easy tips to incorporate into your life this spring. I hope you can give some of them a try, if you are not already practicing them.

1. Start your day with a grateful heart.

Giving thanks and having an attitude of gratitude lead to stronger relationships, better sleep, and improved mood. Research reveals that cultivating gratitude not only leads to better psychological health, but also to improved physical health. While we can always find something to complain about, if we look hard enough, we can always find a multitude of things to be grateful for.

2. Get moving outdoors.

Exercising regularly offers many health benefits, ranging from managing weight to improved cardiovascular health and strength. Exercising outdoors, however, seems to provide added benefits. Research shows that you exert more energy when exercising outdoors and you also enjoy it more. People exercising outdoors report less depression and fatigue. Whether going for a morning run, a bike ride, or taking a brisk walk in the park after work, the spring season is a great time to enjoy the outdoors and be one with nature.

3. Try a new food.

As the old adage goes, “variety is the spice of life.” It turns out, variety may also be good for you, at least when it comes to making food choices. Choosing different foods of varying colors from the various food groups provides a more nutrient-dense and balanced diet. So next time you visit your favorite market, select a fruit or vegetable you have not tried before. You just might like it.

4. Write it down.

Keeping a food diary provides many benefits, from helping you shed unwanted pounds to identifying foods that may not agree with you.

Research conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that dieters who kept a food diary for six months lost twice as much weight as those who did not keep records. Perhaps because keeping a diary makes you more aware of certain habits such as nibbling and munching mindlessly. Keeping track of your mood may also prove useful.

5. Toss avocado into your favorite salad.

Avocados are a delicious, nutrient-dense fruit loaded with healthy fat and fiber. For an added nutrition boost, avocados seem to enhance the absorption of certain nutrients.

Research conducted by Ohio State University and supported by the Hass Avocado Board found that eating avocado with either raw carrots or tomato sauce (both rich in carotenoides, including beta carotene) significantly enhanced the body’s ability to absorb the vitamin as well as convert these carotenoides into an active form of the vitamin.

This is a great example of how eating certain foods together can impart added health benefits. So next time you are making a salad with carrots or a pasta dish with tomato sauce, toss in some avocado for an added health boost.

6. Snack on an apple

Apples are tasty, loaded with fiber, and low in calories. They are also easily portable, which is great if you are often on the go. While we are not sure if an apple a day will really keep the doctor away, new research reports that people eating an apple a day take fewer prescription medications than non-apple eaters. Certainly a good thing.

7. Add a handful of peanuts.

Adding a handful of peanuts to your diet can give you a great nutrition boost; they contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, antioxidants including vitamin, protein, fiber, and plant stanols. They are also easy to pack and do not need to be refrigerated. Just be sure to stick to one handful.

8. Practice yoga

Practicing yoga has seen shown to increase flexibility and strength, boost mood, relieve stress, and more. While you can practice yoga at a studio, your local gym, or at home you can even do certain poses wherever you are and reap some benefits.

9. Include a cruciferous vegetable with dinner.

Cruciferous vegetables are packed with vitamin C, fiber, and folate, and are low in calories. Perfect for watching weight and promoting health. Members of the Brassica family are rich in phytochemicals, known to have antioxidant properties which may help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers. Turns out, these veggies also taste great. Choose from cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, and bok choy. Sautee your favorite veggie with a drizzle of olive oil and your favorite spices and you are good to go.

10. Spend time with people who make you laugh.

Laughter seems to provide some health benefits and research finds that it may even compare to eating well and exercising to keep you healthy and free of disease. Laughter may calm the mind, relieve anxiety, and reduce stress.

And when you laugh and think positive thoughts, you are more likely to end your day on a happy note.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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