Spring Clean Your Diet

The Vernal Equinox is almost here. This is the first day of spring, when day and night come into balance. And a traditional time for cleaning.

There are many spring traditions which involve some kind of cleaning or cleansing. Lent is a time of purifying the body by fasting or eliminating something(s) from the diet. Passover is a time of cleaning all the grains (or most of them!) out of the home and eliminating them from the diet.

The Vernal Equinox encourages us to create balance in our lives, in the same way that the daylight comes into balance with the darkness.

In my blog-posts about the Four Fixes for Phenomenal Health, I talked about things to do MORE of: more hydration, more sleep, more leafy greens, and more turmeric. If you have added these beneficial habits to your life, you might be ready now to take the next step. This involves decreasing or eliminating some of the foods which cause inflammation, oxidative stress, and can lead to diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's, heart disease, and diabetes.

Winter is a difficult time to eliminate sugar, excess carbs, comfort foods, and junk foods. The shorter days, the darkness, the cold temperatures, the indoor living all create stress. We are much more likely to get sick in the winter. And we tend to crave foods that might not be so healthy: stuff like hot chocolate, doughnuts, cookies, muffins, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, etc. The excess carbs, often laden with unhealthy fats, make us put on extra pounds during the winter. Once upon a time, this extra weight was the body's method of surviving through the cold months. Today, we no longer need that extra fat to survive. In fact, that fat may lead to chronic inflammation in the body, and eventually to disease.

Spring is a great time to make a change for the better. We no longer need to comfort ourselves with heavy meals and sweet treats. It's time to lighten up, in so many ways. We can now get outdoors for longer stretches, go for walks and hikes, begin working in the garden, meet friends in the park, play with the kids on the playground, and attend outdoor bootcamp. And we can take a good hard look inside--in the pantry, for example--and eliminate the junk foods we no longer need or crave.

What should you ditch? I'm glad you asked!

1) Excess sugar. Read the labels on all your processed foods: cereals, breads, canned soups, salsa, pickles, beverages, yogurts, creamer, spice mixes, seasonings, condiments. All of these usually contain added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, or some other form of sweetener. How much refined sugar is too much? You have to decide for yourself. If you feel you might be addicted to sugar, there are two paths you can take to breaking your addiction: you can choose to reduce your intake little by little, or shock your system by going cold turkey. Both methods can work. Make a commitment to your process and begin by eliminating the worst offenders: those products that contain the most sugar per serving. Your sweet tooth will adjust. Soon you will find those sugary treats taste way too sweet. You will prefer the taste of an apple!

2) Refined flour. Products made from refined flours--bread, cake, cookies, doughnuts, pancakes, pizza, pasta, muffins, etc--act in a very similar manner to refined sugar in the body. White bread will cause an insulin spike in the same way white sugar does. Refined flours are high in calories, high in carbs, and are quickly digested--a recipe for quick weight gain. Try replacing refined flour products with whole grains, legumes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, or other whole foods. The less processed, the better. Whole grains contain all the fiber and the germ, not just the starch. Therefore they are digested more slowly, do not create an insulin spike, and contain more nutrients.

3) Cheap vegetable oils and trans fats. Cheap vegetable oils and partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils have been shown to create inflammation in the body, especially in the arteries, which can lead to heart disease. Many restaurants, fast food establishments, and food companies have eliminated trans-fats from their products. However, they have substituted cheap refined vegetable oils like canola, soy, corn, and cottonseed oils. Check your pantry for items containing these cheap oils and you will find they are prevalent in snack foods, chips, salad dressings, bakery products, granola bars, etc. Whenever possible, choose high quality vegetable oils like olive, coconut, avocado, and red palm. Look for organic, extra virgin, cold pressed oils. Store them in a cool, dark place and use them quickly to prevent them from going rancid. Grassfed butter and ghee are also excellent sources of healthy fats.

These three categories cover most of the worst food offenders in our cupboards. If you can't eliminate all of them at once, you can at least begin to scale back. Maybe cut your consumption of junk foods in half. You can substitute more fresh whole foods like fruits and veggies, plus add in your own home made treats. Purchase high quality ingredients and make your treats nutritious as well as delicious. You can scour this blog and many others for recipe ideas.

If you need help with spring cleaning your diet, please get in touch. I am available for weight loss coaching and holistic personal training. I can assist you with cleaning out your cupboards, meal planning, grocery lists, and much more! Leave me a message in the comments.