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Time for a spring diet makeover

Published: Thursday, April 3, 2014 11:09 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 3, 2014 11:38 a.m. CDT

Spring is here — finally — and are you ready to put away those bulky winter clothes? It isn’t uncommon for us to let our attention to healthy eating lapse a bit during the winter months. But with spring upon us, it’s time to make a few small changes in your everyday diet that can add up to a healthier, fitter springtime you. Here are four simple tips to get you going.

Practice vegging out

Fill up on foods that give you the most satiety for the least amount of calories. Eating a large lower-calorie salad as a first course may help lower the amount of calories eaten at the rest of the meal. This lower-calorie salad can include greens of any kind (the greener the better), carrots, tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, peppers and/or any other colorful vegetable, low-fat or fat-free dressing (1-2 Tablespoons) and light mozzarella cheese (1 Tablespoon). Large portions of foods make you feel like you have eaten a lot, even if you are eating lower-calorie items.

Start with something hot

Hot cooked cereal such as oatmeal has more calorie density of dry cereal. Hot cereals are more filling. Therefore, they may keep you fueled into the late morning and help you avoid the mid-morning munchies. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend at least three (1 ounce) servings of whole-grain foods daily. Including those high-fiber foods regularly may help reduce risk of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Think green

Green tea is a healthier alternative to soda. One can of regular soda has approximately 140 calories, which equals about 9 teaspoons of sugar. Green tea, in comparison, has 0 calories (if you choose the unsweetened variety). Studies have shown that green tea is a source of antioxidants that may have anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties. Look for different varieties of green tea, such as my new favorite, prickly pear green tea. Served over ice, this makes a tasty and refreshing drink.Take a chocolate break

One small square of dark chocolate may be just enough to satisfy that craving and provide you with health benefits. Not only does the stronger flavor provide more satisfaction for every bite, but the antioxidant properties may help reduce heart disease risk, lower blood pressure and diabetes risk.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focus on balancing calories with physical activity, and encourage Americans to consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, and to consume less sodium, saturated and transfats, added sugars, and refined grains. Use these guidelines to help you get your spring off to a healthy start.

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