March may be National Nutrition Month, but every day is an opportunity to celebrate health by being mindful of what is on your plate. A question that I often ask my clients is “When you look down at your plate, be it breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack, what do you see looking back at you?” Does your plate reflect health, does it reflect impulsive decisions, or are you eating so quickly that you are not even sure what your plate is reflecting?
One easy way to have your plate reflect health back at you is to set small simple goals around what I call strategic plate planning. As we move into spring, it is the perfect time of year to rid your kitchen and your plate of the “junk” and replace it with healthier alternatives.
Spring cleaning your diet does not mean restricting yourself to “4 day cleanses” or a “juicing detox” to reset yourself. It’s about going back to basics with whole, minimally-processed foods that will invite health.
Here are 4 examples of spring cleaning foods:
1. Kale: A nutritional powerhouse, kale is one of the healthiest vegetables! This leafy green is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K. One cup of chopped kale contains only 33 calories and 9 percent of the daily value of calcium. Try including it into a morning smoothie! If you are a bit skeptical, drop one of the many local smoothie stops such as Healthy Living Market and Pure Energy Espresso and Smoothie bar and let the professionals take care of you! Trust me, these green beverages are better than you might think!
2. Fiddleheads: You know summer is around the corner when fiddleheads become available! These guys are amazing. They are actually curly ferns, named after their unique resemblance to a fiddle (violin) head. They have a high-quality, plant-nutrition profile consisting of many health-benefiting antioxidants, vitamins, and omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. They go great on salads or sautéed in a pan with olive oil as a side dish.
3. Asparagus: One of the first vegetables of the season! Asparagus is loaded with nutrients, and a good source of fiber, folate vitamin A, C, E, and K as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. It is also an antioxidant that neutralizes cell damaging free radicals. Talk about awesome! Try roasting, grilling – or my favorite: sautéing them with a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
4. Avocado: Anyone who knows me knows I love avocados. I used to pay my kids to eat them. I hide them in chocolate cupcakes. I use them as a spread on almost any sandwich. You probably know that avocados are one of the most excellent sources of healthy fats, but they deliver more than just that. This superfood can help protect your body from heart disease, cancer, and degenerative eye and brain diseases. Avocados also taste great and are easily integrated into any meal. Add it to a smoothie, or a salad to add a creamy texture with a powerful nutritional boost!
Are you already eating these foods on a regular basis? Is so, a few other simple steps toward health this spring are as follows:
- Crowd out less healthy food with more healthy food. Cover your plate ½ full with vegetables.
- Try a new grain each week. This could keep you busy for a while. Some of my favorites are faro, frekah, millet, and forbidden rice.
RECIPE: Warm Farro Cereal with Fresh Fruit (from Healthy Living Market)
This dish is different take on oatmeal. Farro is an ancient grain in the wheat family and has a rich, nutty flavor. It is fantastic with fresh berries or fruit and a small splash of honey or maple.
- 1 cup farro
- 1 cup milk or plain soy milk
- 1-2 cups water
- Fresh fruit of your choice (berries and peaches are delicious here!)
- Honey or maple syrup (optional)
In a medium sauce pot, combine the farro, milk and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir mixture every few minutes (this will help the cereal thicken). Let the grains cook until tender (about 25 minutes) and the liquid has thickened. If the liquid gets too low, add more water and continue cooking until grains are done. Finish with fresh fruit and honey or maple syrup.
Kim Evans, RD, is a clinical dietitian for the UVM Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.