Spring Into Healthier Eating

Spring can be very motivating for people who want to eat healthier.

Lara Rondinelli By Lara Rondinelli, RD, LDN, CDE

The warm breeze and blooming flowers can be very motivating for people who want to eat healthier and exercise more in the annual attempt to lose weight in time for summer. The hint of warmer weather during springtime brings more people outdoors to walk, bike ride, or go in-line skating. Physical activity is a key component to losing weight (and keeping it off) and is vital for heart health. Of course, people with diabetes need to make physical activity a part of daily life during all seasons of the year. But by all means take advantage of the great weather upon us now and get out there!

Spring is also a great time to lighten up your menu, as more fresh vegetables and fruit become available and your cravings for heavy stews and other, warm, comfort foods subside. Focus on seasonal produce as we head into spring, such as: asparagus, artichokes, avocados, greens, spinach, strawberries, and melon. Spend some extra time milling around the produce section, and fill up that cart with the season's bounty.

Below are some tips to lighten up the menu this spring:

Include a salad with every dinner.
But don't settle for iceberg lettuce and a couple cucumbers. Have fun and mix it up by adding baby greens, spinach, tomatoes, mushroom, cucumbers, carrots, and even sunflower seeds or slivered almonds. These vegetables are packed full of vitamins and minerals and are low-calorie and low-carb –– but they add a variety of tastes and textures to please your palate. Don't have time for all the chopping? Buy the pre-washed and -chopped bags of lettuce, pre-sliced mushrooms, baby carrots, and grape tomatoes for the quick and easy version. Don't forget to use a light, bottled salad dressing or make your own light dressing by using more vinegar than oil. A strong vinegar, like balsamic, is great for salads –– it adds lots of flavor without fat. Also, experiment with adding fruit to salads for a twist. Strawberries, oranges, and grapefruit can be great non-traditional additions and a tasty way to get in a fruit serving at your meal.

Start your day with a fruit smoothie.
Blend together your favorite fresh fruit, such as strawberries or blueberries, light (plain or sugar-free) yogurt, and skim milk. Frozen berries can also be used in place of fresh fruit. Avoid adding juice to smoothies because this quickly increases the carbohydrate content.

Make your own stir-fry.
A stir-fry can be a great way to get a lot of vegetables into your diet. Saut your favorite veggies, such as carrots, broccoli, pea pods, mushrooms, and zucchini. You can also add lean protein such as strips of chicken breast or shrimp, and then serve over brown rice or another whole grain. The key to keeping your stir-fry healthy is to watch the amount of oil you use when cooking. Olive oil and canola oil are great oils to use when cooking because they are heart-healthy, but they do up the calorie count significantly. Remember, one tablespoon of any oil contains about 150 calories. Using a wok is a great way to cook a stir-fry and requires only a little bit of oil. Add lots of vegetables to increase fiber and keep your grain portion to the size of your fist to hold down the carb count.

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Last Modified Date: February 15, 2013

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by Brenda Bell
Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...
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