When we think of preparing for spring, chances are the first things that come to mind are as follows: shopping for new clothes, kicking up our fitness regimen a few notches, and cleaning out our homes of excess clutter.
However, this is also a good time to take a look at our diets and what we choose to feed our bodies with. Just like we swap out our winter wardrobe for lighter pieces to wear in the spring and summer, we should be doing the same with our food. Now that new veggies and greens are coming into season, it feels right to load up on spring's best and freshest and put some of the heartier foods on hold until fall’s return.
We chatted with healthy eating gurus Whitney Tingle and Danielle DuBoise of Sakara Life to get the lowdown on what foods we should be eating and what we might want to avoid, to keep our bodies happy and healthy all spring and summer long. This is not a diet for weight loss, but rather a way to incorporate good food that feeds and fuels our bodies, which leads to a wide array of benefits such as less bloating, glowing skin, and a happy and enlightened mood. And who wouldn't want that?
Read on for their expert tips and get ready to give your fridge a good old spring cleaning.
Opt for fresh, organic veggies and greens
Just like the spring air is crisp and fresh, our diet should consist of foods that are the same. What does this mean? Eat all of the fresh greens and veggies you can get your hands on and stick to what’s in season.
While we tend to consume a lot of heavier greens, like kale and cabbage, during the winter months, spring calls for switching it up. “Springtime is perfect for incorporating fresh, light greens into your diet, such as romaine and butter leaf lettuce,” says Tingle. Not only are they full of nutrients, but they also have a higher water content. She explains the importance of foods with higher water content during the warmer months: “Not only is it good for keeping your digestive system on track and preventing constipation, it’s good for your skin. We’re moving into warmer weather, and as we’ll be showing more skin and wearing less clothing, this will help give you a little bit of a glow.”
At Sakara Life, they suggest eating a lot of greens—four to eight cups a day, to be exact. However, it’s crucial to make sure that all of your fresh veggies are organic and clean, pesticide-free, and unmodified. “When veggies aren’t organic, it can have a reaction with your gut bacteria, which can create bloating,” explains Tingle.
Also in season (and incredibly healthy)? Asparagus and artichoke, so start Googling new recipes to try.
Take care of your gut
It’s no news that the health of your gut greatly affects the rest of your body—from your skin to your mood. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, so Tingle and DuBoise urge you to take care of it. Spring and summer are meant to be filled with fun, so we want to make sure we’re in our best headspace to enjoy it all, right? “Get in your probiotics and eat enough plant-based fiber,” says DuBoise. “There are so many studies coming out linking the gut to not only mood disorders, like depression and anxiety, but also brain disorders, like Alzheimer’s! The healthier your gut, the healthier you are—physically and mentally.”
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to change your microbiome and shift it to a healthier condition. Tingle tells me that, according to Dr. Mark Hyman (who just so happens to be the doctor to the Clinton family), your microbiome changes within 16 hours. Even if you binge eat or go overboard on a night out, you have the ability to eat your way back to health.
What’s a great (and easy) way to nurture your gut? Tingle suggests incorporating more fresh artichokes and asparagus into your diet. Not only are they in season—as mentioned earlier—but they’re also chock-full of plant fiber that feeds your microbiome. “These plant-based fibers are insoluble, so it's what the bacteria in the microbiome live on,” says DuBoise. “In order to feed the right bacteria, you need to get enough fresh plants every single day, so that the right bacteria is thriving. This will affect things like your skin clarity, energy, hormones, sex drive, and immune system.”
Of course, they also recommend getting in your probiotics and prebiotics. Their Botanical Body Probiotic Formula takes care of both.
For more ways to keep your gut healthy and happy, click here.
It’s all about variety
We are creatures of habit—and that holds especially true to our appetites. I mean, if something tastes good, we’re going to want it again and again, right? Especially when the reorder button on Seamless makes it so convenient. However, by eating the same thing over and over (like when we cook enough food for five days worth of meals), you’re cheating yourself out of other important nutrients. “Make sure you eat a variety of foods each meal because that variety is really how you get the whole spectrum of minerals and micronutrients,” says DuBoise. “When we keep ordering or cooking the same thing, we’re only getting that handful of nutrients.”
“A good tip for spring eating would be to try something new,” agrees Tingle. “There are so many different ingredients out there to try and enjoy.” So go ahead—take a shot at that new recipe you’ve been meaning to try or treat yourself to lunch from that new organic restaurant that delivers to your office.
Avoid processed foods
While this may seem like a no-brainer, the foods to really avoid this season (all year round, too) are ones that are processed. When foods are processed and not fresh, all sorts of secret ingredients are added and bound to wreak havoc on not only your gut but the rest of your body as well. “Try to stay away from foods that are processed and have hydrogenated oils—like non-natural peanut butters,” warns Tingle. “I think a lot of people like to throw some peanut butter on toast for a quick bite, but you have to look at the ingredients first. It should just be peanuts and salt, but a lot of others have hydrogenated oils or trans fat—that stuff sticks to your arteries. Watch out for high-fructose corn syrup, as well, as that can sneak into a lot of different things.”
DuBoise adds that most things that are low in fiber and high in sugar are most likely processed, so it’s important to pay attention to the ratio. “Make sure you’re eating high-fiber foods, especially if it has any added sugar in it.”
Ditch the sugary cocktails and use fresh fruit instead
It’s inevitable that you’re going to hit up a few happy hours once it’s beautiful and warm outside (hello, Summer Fridays). While, of course, watching your intake and not overdrinking is a great way to keep yourself in check and feeling good from the inside out, if you’re in for a night of drinking, it’s important to drink smart.
One way to do that? Ditch those overly sweetened drinks. “Avoid sugary cocktails and stay away from things like soda,” says DuBoise. “Instead, just use fresh fruit as your mixer. Let’s say you’re drinking tequila—ask the bartender for a handful of raspberries or oranges, and then you can then mash it up yourself with your straw. This way, you know it's fresh.” I don’t know about you, but fresh fruit sounds so much better than a syrupy margarita. We’re all for this DIY cocktail.
Feed yourself back on track if you veer off the path
The secret to eating clean and feeling good is to not be overly strict with yourself. Spring and summer are seasons of parties, food, vacations, and fun—don’t restrict yourself so much that you deprive yourself of any enjoyment.
“By the time Friday comes around, I can just go do what I want because I know how clean I ate all week,” says DuBoise. “If I’m going to have a weekend where I can do whatever, I know Monday is coming. I’ll be okay. If you know how to get back to feeling like your best self, then feeling lower isn’t that scary."
One thing you can do for a pick-me-up after a weekend of spring partying? Feed yourself well, of course. Tingle and DuBoise have provided us with an amazing recipe for the ultimate plant-based spring salad, a surefire way to kick-start getting yourself back on track. Check it out, below.
Turmeric Roasted Rainbow Beets with Avocado and Citrus
3 to 4 beets
1/2 tablespoon turmeric powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 fennel bulb
1 orange or grapefruit
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
Sliced almonds and pistachios for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel beets and cut into smaller cubes. Toss in a bowl with salt, pepper, turmeric, and one tablespoon of olive oil. Transfer to baking pan and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Stir the vegetables around, place back in the oven, and roast for another 15 minutes until beets are fork tender.
When beets are done, let cool until they are room temperature. While beets are cooling, slice fennel, orange, and avocado into bite-size pieces. Place in a bowl with the beets and chopped mint. Drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil and champagne vinegar, squeeze a little of the leftover citrus, and top with a little more salt and pepper. Garnish with more mint, pistachios, and sliced almonds.
You can find more recipes in Sakara’s S-Life Magazine, in addition to more wellness-related news and content.