We all know that spring is a time for rejuvenation, rebirth and, yes, spring cleaning. It's time to switch out the winter wardrobe for brighter, lighter clothes. And most of us have probably circled a weekend on the calendar to do some organizing around the house.
But don't forget to do a spring clean for your body, too. Just like the world around us, our bodies go through seasonal patterns. To get in sync with the cycles of nature, it's important to push the reset button every so often. After a cold winter, longer and sunnier days are ahead! It's a great time to take stock of your eating habits.
Here are six clean-eating tips for your own spring clean that will help you look and feel your best this season, from the inside out!
1) Eat More Plants
Fruits and veggies are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and water. Double the vegetables in recipes and keep pre-cut fruit and veggies in the fridge for a healthy and convenient snack. If your budget allows, select organic produce whenever you can, prioritizing foods from the EWG's Dirty Dozen list since these fruits and veggies specifically test highest for pesticides. If you are watching your budget, the Clean 15 list is the list of produce least likely to contain pesticide residues.
2) Eat Less Meat
Research shows consuming less meat can help reduce blood pressure, as well as reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. Not only that, it has big environmental benefits as well. Rising meat consumption among the world's population has a big impact on the environment and climate change when compared to plant-based foods. Gradually incorporate more plant-based meals and vegetarian protein foods (think: eggs, dairy, nuts and beans) into your diet and you likely won't miss eating quite so much meat.
3) Look for Short Ingredient Lists
As you go up and down the grocery aisles, steer clear of foods with long or complicated ingredient lists. These foods are more processed and they're more likely to contain high amounts of sodium, added sugars, as well as artificial ingredients and preservatives. The fewer ingredients the better, and the closer the food is to it's natural form.
4) Drink Mostly Water
Limit calorie-containing beverages like beer, wine, fruit juice and soda to once or twice per week. If you're craving juice or drinks that taste sweet to you, consider watering them down with a mixture of 50% water itself -- or carbonated water. Buy a fun water bottle for yourself and your significant other and fill it every morning at breakfast as a habit. Here is a great glass bottle from Lifefactory. Not only will you be hydrating yourself with sugar-free hydration but you'll probably also snack less, too!
5) Cut Back on Added Sugar
Sugar has been in the news a lot lately – and not for good reasons! Cutting back on added sugar has a number of health benefits including fewer empty calories, cravings, lower insulin levels (your main fat-storage hormone) and better blood sugar control. It's also one of the most effective ways to kick-start weight loss. Cutting back on added sugar often removes many highly processed foods from your diet. Gradually reduce the amount of sugar you add to your morning coffee and use 1/3 to 1/2 less when cooking or baking. Instead of hitting the sweets after dinner, opt for a small bowl of fresh fruit most nights of the week.
6) Focus on Healthy Fats
Incorporate more healthy fats like avocados, fatty fish, and nuts into your diet. Avoid highly-refined cooking oils, opting for cold-pressed when possible. Avocado oil is a great one to have around the house because it has one of the highest smoke points of any plant-based oil. It's also chock full of monounsaturated fat, the best kind!
How do you like to eat clean? Let us know in the comments below!
Elle Penner is a registered dietitian & nutrition blogger from Bend, Oregon, who runs According to Elle. She has her Masters in Public Health from UNC and was the lead dietitian for MyFitnessPal from 2013-2015. She consults with several health start-ups.