Spring is the perfect time to commit to a new, healthier diet. Now that the holidays are behind you and there’s warmer weather on the horizon, you can focus on creating a happier, healthier you before summer.
Over the holidays, we tend to accumulate a lot of unhealthy ‘staples’. From powdered potatoes, sugary cereals, tins of frosting, and salty snacks, you’ve probably amassed a hoard of unhealthy options just begging for you to binge on.
What’s the number one way to meet your fitness goals before summer? Set yourself up for success.
Here’s how to spring clean your diet:
Step 1: Research your local food bank
Hop online and Google some local charities, churches, or food banks that accept non-perishable donations. Why is this the first step? Because you won’t feel bad packing away sugary pasta sauces, dehydrated potatoes, and boxes of cereal when they're going to a good cause. When you look at a can of canned pineapple in fruit juice (with as much sugar as a can of Coke) don’t think: I just bought this! Think: This is going to someone who truly needs it.
Step 2: Clean out your pantry, fridge, and freezer
Once you’ve determined which items would be a good fit to go to the food bank, it’s time to start cleaning out your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Make a commitment to toss anything that is binge-worthy, unhealthy, overly processed, sugary, or too much of a temptation to have in the house.
Here are some pantry staples to get rid of before your diet starts:
- Canned fruit with added juice
- Chips, pretzels, crackers, and other processed snacks
- Cereals or granola bars that have more than 6g of added sugars
- Sweets (chocolates, frozen desserts, frosting, etc.)
- Juices, sodas, and sweetened teas
- Sauces, dips, jellies or salsas with added sugars
- Processed pastas with mixes (think macaroni and cheese, rice-a-roni, stuffing, and ramen)
- Canned pastas (think Chef Boyardee, Spaghetti-Os)
- Dessert staples (think boxed cakes, pie fillings)
Step 3: Shop the perimeter of your supermarket
Once you've cleaned out your pantry, it's time to go shopping. In general, most supermarkets keep their freshest, healthiest ingredients around the perimeter of the store. The perimeter is where you’ll usually find fresh produce, dairy, eggs, and meats. Depending on the diet you choose, try hard to avoid spending too much time in the center aisles, where all the things you just removed from your pantry live.
Instead, stock up on fresh veggies, locally-sourced meats, fish, and eggs.
There's a reason they tell you not to go grocery shopping when you're hungry. Before you step foot inside, try drinking an entire bottle of water, and reaching for a healthy, energy-packed snack, such as an apple or a handful of natural nuts.
Step 4: Read the labels
One of the biggest takeaways you can gain from starting a new diet is reading the nutrition label. Let’s use bacon as an example. Probably, you have a brand of bacon that you tend to buy. But did you know that some popular brands of bacon are rubbed with brown sugar? Still others have nitrates and sodium nitrates added during the curing process which can create carcinogenic nitriso compounds during digestion. Turning your bacon from a breakfast staple into a complete digestion nightmare.
Not all bacons are created equal.
When in doubt, choose the option that is all-natural or that has the least amount of added ingredients. If you’re buying meat, processed foods, or canned products with additives that sound dangerous, stay away! This list from Men’s Journal outlines additives you should avoid at all costs:
- Partially Hydrogenated Oil
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup
- BHA (Butylated Hydrozyanisole) and BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
- Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite
- Propyl Gallate
- Sodium Benzoate and Benzoic Acid
- Potassium Bromate
- Food coloring
Other things you should compare are the amount of carbohydrates, sugars, and salt content. You may be surprised to find that many yogurts labeled as “healthy” have as much sugar as a slice of cake. Some “big name” pasta sauces also add more sugar than you should EVER consume in a sauce -- turning your pasta dinner into a diet-busting-dessert.
By reading labels, you can compare various options and select the best choice for your diet.
Step 5: Stick with it
Starting a new diet can be hard. Especially if you’re used to reaching for easy snacks like a handful of chips when you’re hungry. Whenever possible, choose a healthy substitute instead. Continue to set yourself up for success by following healthy food blogs that inspire you, preparing meals in advance, and sticking to a shopping list when you go to the store.