When the snow finally melts and the sun and air suddenly feel warm, you may get the urge to buy a juice cleanse or commit to an intense detox in order to get ready for bathing suit season. But resist: Spring is the perfect time to find seasonal and sweet produce, cook at home and prepare lighter and fresher dishes. In other words, it’s easier than ever to detox your diet the dietitian-approved way. Here’s how:
1. Eat less packaged foods.
There’s a time and a place for packaged foods — namely, winter, when the short days make convenience a priority. And thankfully, today, there are a lot of really great companies making healthy options. That said, many packaged foods (think traditional cereals, cookies, crackers and chips) are laden with too much sugar, too much salt and not enough fiber and nutrients.
Aim to reach only for packaged products during times when you’re in a pinch and need a convenient on-the-go option. Even then, try to pick products with recognizable ingredients — not those that sound like they came from a science lab. In all other cases, aim to fill your grocery cart with whole foods that you can combine and prepare at home.
2. Make more smoothies with less sugar.
Smoothies can make an awesome, portable breakfast option, but a lot of smoothies you find at stores have added sweeteners like agave, which can quickly turn a healthy option into one with the nutritional content of a doughnut (or worse). When ordering out, always ask to skip any added sugar or replace fruit juice with water. If you’re making your smoothie at home, try to add a protein, such as a plant-based powder or nut butter, as well as a healthy fat, such as coconut oil or nut butter. Adding fiber from ingredients like chia or flax and some greens is a bonus!
3. Prepare fresh salads with protein.
It’s hard to beat a big fresh salad with seasonal produce in the warm months. Look for in-season vegetables like zucchini, spring peas, tender lettuces and broccoli. Fresh herbs such as basil, parsley and mint are also flavorful additions and fairly easy to grow yourself.
You can easily prepare salads for the week ahead by building them into large jars. Just pour the dressing into the bottom, then layer on the heartier ingredients like grains and protein, and top them with the more delicate greens. Store the jars in the fridge to grab and go each day. The protein is a key ingredient here, since it keeps you full. I aim to purchase wild-caught fish or organic meats and eggs to avoid synthetic pesticides, hormones and other toxins. That said, any type of protein is better than none. Try making big batches of proteins like salmon, eggs, chicken and quinoa so they’re accessible all week long.
4. Trade cocktails for cold-press juices.
Juices are an easy swap for a cocktail on a weekday when you’re craving a little something different. You can make them at home with your own juicer or, if you’re buying them, make sure to choose fresh, cold-pressed juices that contain nothing more than the fruit or vegetable. For green juice, the combination of kale, cucumber, celery, lemon, ginger and apple is amazing. These ingredients can give you electrolytes, potassium and an immune system boost. For a sweeter option, I love a carrot or watermelon base.
5. Skip the sweets after dark.
Focusing on protein and vegetables — and limiting carbohydrates, especially refined ones — at night will help with blood glucose regulation and help counter your body’s tendency to store fat overnight. If you, like me, have a sweet tooth that comes on strong after dark, choose a pure dark chocolate and try to limit your portion to about one ounce, or typically one-third of a full-size bar.
Dietary detox is really about shifting how you think about food and eating. When you train your body to crave clean, fresh and less-processed foods, your healthy choices will easily follow.
Kim McDevitt, MPH, RD, is a practicing dietitian specializing in both sports and family nutrition. With a focus on guiding women through pre- and postpartum eating and exercise, she practices what she preaches by supporting approachable change. Kim and her practice focus on the small daily shifts that allow people to more effortlessly reach their goals. She helps people find peace and balance through a dietary lifestyle that works for them, helping them navigate ever-changing fad diets and constant food choices. For personalized nutrition support, reach Kim at KimMcDevittRD.com.