Revamp Your Diet for Spring

Spring is a great time to make healthy lifestyle changes—try these tips for making your diet more nutritious and satisfying.

| March/April 2008

  • Americans should eat up to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables daily to reduce our risk of chronic diseases.
  • Americans should eat up to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables daily to reduce our risk of chronic diseases.
  • Organic produce has higher antioxidant levels than conventional, according to recent research.

Do you ever get the feeling you could be trapped by a diet full of fast food, convenience dinners and sugary snacks? If you’re like many modern families, the answer is a resounding “yes!” Between work, school, soccer practice, ballet lessons and other extracurricular activities, it’s hard to find time to eat right.

Although the consequences of eating on-the-go might not show up right away, a steady diet of poor food choices eventually can lead to a host of problems, including obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and even some forms of cancer.

The good news is that cleaning up your diet doesn’t mean you have to throw out everything in your pantry or shop exclusively at the health-food store. Learning how to navigate the supermarket and make gradual changes will help ease you and your family into healthier eating habits.

Picking Your Produce

Spring is the perfect time to fill your plate with brightly colored fruits and vegetables. And when it comes to piling on the produce, more is better. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Produce for Better Health Foundation are encouraging Americans to eat up to 13 servings—6 ½ cups—of fruits and vegetables each day in an attempt to reduce our risk of chronic diseases. That may sound daunting, but keep in mind that a serving typically is just 1/2 cup. You also can count juices, canned fruit, frozen veggies and dried fruit in addition to fresh produce.

Take advantage of springtime’s bounty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, like asparagus, artichokes, baby lettuces, berries, new potatoes, onions, spinach and Swiss chard. While you don’t need to fill up your basket with all things organic, it pays to buy organic fruits and veggies when you can. Not only will you avoid pesticides and other dubious chemicals, there’s proof that organic produce actually is better for you. A recent review comparing organically grown to conventionally grown produce found that the organic foods contained significantly higher levels of antioxidants—especially vitamin C, polyphenols and flavonoids—than their conventionally grown counterparts. What’s more, the organic foods also had considerably lower levels of pesticide residue, nitrates and heavy-metal contamination.

The Whole Shebang

There’s an old saying that “the whiter the bread, the quicker you’re dead.” Unlike bread made with refined flour, whole-grain breads are packed with nutrients, including fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, copper, magnesium, selenium, zinc and antioxidants. A diet rich in whole grains helps protect against heart disease and stroke. It also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and possibly some cancers. And because whole grains are filling, they help control hunger.

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