How to Eat #4: Lite Fare for a Lighter Season
Something happens every fall and winter that causes most of us to put on a little weight. It might be the instinctive drive to build defenses for the colder months with carbs and protein, or it might be the holidays. Probably it's a little of both. But when spring comes around, we want to shed the winter weight in preparation for warmer days and fewer clothes. There can also be a desire to "cleanse" our systems with lighter food and drink.
Four months of potatoes, ham, desserts, and drinks like red wine and egg nog can really contribute to feelings of fullness and weightiness. Fortunately, spring enters the scene with a wealth of seasonal produce, making it easy to alter your diet without sacrificing taste. Here are just a few of the fruits and vegetables available in the spring:
These fruits and vegetables are great ingredients for raw salads, which are full of nutrients without the heaviness. Just make sure that the dressing doesn't sky rocket the fat content.
While we're on the subject of salad, we should discuss the healthiest way to eat it. Too often a healthy salad is negated by unhealthy toppings. If you don't want fat and salt to be the main ingredients, consider leaving off the bacon bits and swapping heavy dressing for olive oil and lemon juice. If you like meat salads, such as turkey, tuna, or chicken, try skipping the mayo altogether and simply adding shredded seafood or poultry to the veggies. If you keep the mayo, use less of it, a lite version, and no other dressing. Even substituting mustard for some of the mayonnaise will cut back on the fat content.
To keep reduced-dressing salads from being too dry, add watery or juicy fruits or vegetables. For example, a chicken salad is delicious with a handful of grapes, and tomatoes are great because they complement most other veggies. An added bonus of eating salads without a lot of dressing is that all of the other flavors will be easier to detect, allowing you to enjoy the true taste of the season.
Make your salad go further by treating as an entree. Adding seafood, poultry, or an egg does this easily. Throwing in some pasta works as well. A simple and inexpensive Asian-flare entrï¿½e salad can be put together in under ten minutes with the following ingredients:
1. Fresh leafy greens (such as spinach)
2. Water chestnuts
5. Cooked Japanese udon noodles (not too much, maybe 1/2 cup)
6. Mandarin oranges
7. Low-sodium soy sauce or stir-fry sauce (a little goes a long way)
Of course, spring has diet trappings of its own to rival the healthfulness of fresh food. Below are a few of the seasonal fatty foods, as listed by WebMD:
- Brunch - Everybody loves brunch. The problem is that it generally includes a lot of sweet and rich items like cinnamon rolls, egg dishes loaded with sausage and cheese, and specialty coffees. Enjoy the occasion, but when hosting, serve simple eggs, natural juices, whole grains, and low-fat yogurt.
- Concession Food - Baseball season means beer and hotdogs. Ballparks sell high calorie food at high prices, and your best bet is to bring your own snacks. But since the food is part of the fun, try to stick to one, moderately dressed dog.
- Holiday Sweets - The winter holidays are over, but spring holidays like Easter and Passover continue the parade of large dinners and desserts. Chocolate, cream, and coconut pack on the calories, and sabotage your seasonal diet efforts. Indulge a little, but keep the portions small.
- Ice Cream Stand Fare - These beacons of summer anticipation often reopen early in March, and it's fun to join the line of patrons on any day that reaches 55 degrees. But getting into the habit so early in the season will just make it that much harder later on.
The bottom line of spring eating is to remember that your body no longer needs a cushion against the cold, and instead craves nutritious food that will help to cleanse and lighten your system. Take advantage of the season's fresh produce, and get ready for warmer weather with high energy and a slim middle!