By Michael Raynor, MS, RD, LDN
There’s no “right time” to start a new habit or change your diet. However, in all areas of our lives, whether it’s cleaning our living space, our car, or our pantry/diet, it’s often helpful to start at the beginning of the new season. So, if those goals you set on January 1st for your nutrition habits have gone by the wayside, then spring cleaning is the perfect time to brush them off and start again using these 5 tips.
- Become aware of your food choices (if you’re not already). To make changes, we first have to know what our diet looks like. Are you mindlessly grabbing candy at 2am? Are you adding extra sugar to your coffee? Mindlessly snacking on handfuls of chips/pretzels/nuts/cookies just because they’re there? We can become mindful of these things in a couple of ways: 1) be mindful when you’re actually eating. Note the foods you selected, really focus on smelling, seeing, and tasting them. 2) Write down everything you eat on a phone note or notepad (or by logging your meals through an app such as MyFitnessPal). Seeing this written out and thinking about writing down each of the things we eat helps us become more aware of the choices we’re making. As we do this, most people naturally become more intentional with their choices as well!
- Clean up your liquid intake & drink more water. How’s that soda intake looking? Sweet tea? Coffee? Take a look at the fluids you drink in a day and look at how much water you drink, and determine if you need to make adjustments. A good starting point is ½ of your body weight in ounces of water per day (for example, if you weigh 160lbs, aim for 80oz of water per day). You may need to drink a little less or a little more depending on your activity level. I always say that hydration is the key to success, because everything is improved with good hydration—better cognition and mental clarity, better recovery from workouts, more energy, and healthier skin just to name a few.
- Clean up your snacking habits. One of the most common things I hear from my clients is how busy they are. Time is a limiting factor for so many people these days—people are busy. For many of my clients, this shows up in their snacking habits/choices. It’s really easy to skip snacks between meals or just grab whatever is convenient without much thought for how it’s fueling our body. The great news is healthful, balanced snacks don’t have to involve a lot of planning and thought. The general rule I tell my clients to aim for is to have carbs, protein and/or fat, and something colorful (fruits and veggies) at every snack. This can be as simple as Greek yogurt with berries, fruit and nut butter, nuts and dried fruit, hummus or guacamole with those chips, etc. Want something more convenient? No problem! Bars are a great grab-and-go snack option. Best practice is to opt for bars with fewer ingredients and make sure it’s got some carbs and some protein. Some of my favorite go-to’s are Larabars, RX Bars, PRO Bars, and Skratch Labs Anytime Bars.
- Look at your eating out habits. Those busy schedules and not having to do the shopping, prep, or dishes makes eating out a default for a lot of people. Look at those dining out habits and consider your goals and priorities. If you’re not happy with how much you’re dining out, start small and work to just make even 1 more meal at home. If you enjoy dining out and don’t desire to dine at home more, that’s totally fine! Instead, take a look at the choices you’re making at these restaurants, and, again, start small and aim to just make even 1 healthier choice or substitution at each outing. For example, start by just making sure you have a fruit or vegetable every time you dine out. It may not seem like much, but these small changes really add up over time!
- Clean out your pantry & fridge. I’m not a proponent of throwing away food that you’ll eat, so I tackle pantry and fridge clean-outs a little differently than some. You don’t need to do a massive overhaul where you throw everything away. Instead, take inventory of what foods you have stocked/have been stocking in your fridge and pantry, and think about if you could make any improvements. As you use those things up, work on making better choices and then restocking with healthier items. For example, if you’ve got lots of chips, crackers, and cookies stocked in your pantry, try restocking with more whole foods like fruit (dried fruit included), nuts, and vegetables alongside your favorite type of chip/cracker/cookies. In the spring, lots of fruits and vegetables are in season, so if you haven’t been eating many fruits or vegetables, take a look at what’s in season (for an added bonus, see what’s local). Fresh produce is an easy, fun, and tasty way to clean up your diet, like NC strawberries, fresh blueberries, asparagus, squash, and zucchini—all of which are starting to be in season. A good way to start is to aim to add a serving of fruits or vegetables to every meal.
Feeling overwhelmed with the idea of spring cleaning your diet but you don’t want to give up on your goals? Don’t hesitate to reach out! I’d love to work with you to simplify things and help make nutrition make more sense.