Spring Clean Your Diet
A new year means it's time for a renewed commitment to eating
THROW OPEN YOUR WINDOWS and put away your heavy coat-spring is
finally here. When you're dusting off the grill, reorganizing the
garage and filling up your bicycle tires, don't neglect your
kitchen. Spring is the perfect time to overhaul the contents of
your cabinets, fridge and freezer.
Does that sound daunting? It's easier than you think, says Kerry
Neville, a Seattle-area registered dietitian, who insists that you
don't have to give up your favorite foods to eat better. "Little
changes you make can add up," says Neville, a spokeswoman for the
American Dietetic Association.
Here are some tips to help you eat healthier this spring.
Measure for Measure, These Tricks Help You Eat Right
Eating right depends on more than just what's in your fridge or
pantry. Get a health boost from these important but inedible items
in your kitchen:
- Measuring cups, spoons and a food scale: Think you can eyeball
a quarter-cup of shredded cheese? Probably not. Most people tend to
be overly generous with portions. Measuring out servings will keep
you honest-and help you learn to portion accurately, says
registered dietitian Kerry Neville.
- Zip-top bags or individual serving containers: Use a food scale
or measuring cups to divide large bags of chips, cookies and other
snacks into individual servings. Enjoy them in moderation.
- Smaller dinner plates: "You eat how much is on your plate, and
plates have become larger," Neville says. She recommends replacing
behemoth dishes with smaller pieces or serving meals on luncheon or
In the Pantry
- Pep up your pasta. Say goodbye to bland white rice and
spaghetti. Instead, try fiber-rich brown rice and whole-wheat
pastas. Don't have time to wait for rice to cook? Neville
recommends Success Boil-in-Bag whole-grain rice, or if you live
near a Trader Joe's, try its frozen prepared brown rice
- Go wacky with the mac. No need to give up comfort foods (and
kiddie favorites) like mac and cheese or baked ziti. Instead, boost
their nutritional value with veggies. Blend in a cup or two of
frozen peas or chopped broccoli for a healthier, more colorful and
more filling meal.
- Use your bean. Canned kidney beans, chickpeas and black beans
amp up the fiber content of salads and chili while skimping on
calories. Teamed with salsa and lower-fat cheese, they're a staple
for quesadillas and burritos. Just remember to rinse the beans
thoroughly to wash away as much sodium as possible, Neville
In the Fridge
- Say cheese. Toss the cheese log and the wedge of baked brie
from New Year's Eve. In their place, stock up on lower-fat
cheeses-Edam, Gouda and mozzarella are good choices-or portioned
dairy snacks such as cheese sticks and cheese cubes.
- Meet healthier meats. Instead of processed lunch meat, which
tops the chart in sodium and preservatives, cook a turkey breast on
Sunday night, slice it thinly and use it for sandwiches and salads
during the week.
- How low can you go? Mayonnaise is the easiest condiment to put
on a diet, Neville says. The lower-fat version tastes so much like
its full-fat counterpart that you'll never notice the difference.
Ditto for cream cheese, milk and sour cream.
In the Freezer
- Don't skimp on shrimp. "They're a great source of protein,"
Neville says, and are far lower in fat than meat. Add shrimp to a
stir-fry or use them to top pasta dishes or as a simple
- Get on the (meat)ball. Substitute low-fat turkey meatballs or
veggie meatballs in sauces and on spaghetti. Veggie "ground round"
(soy protein crumbles) add a meaty flavor and texture but
relatively little fat to lasagna and chili.
- Go tropical. Stock up on frozen sliced mangos, blueberries and
peaches. They're excellent building blocks for vitamin-filled
smoothies that will satisfy a sweet tooth. Toss a handful of frozen
fruit into the blender with a dollop of low-fat yogurt and a splash
of fruit juice, Neville says, and presto-it's an island vacation in
- By June D. Bell