It’s kind of perfect timing. National Nutrition Month falls in March, when we’re all likely starting to veer away from our New Year’s resolutions and need a good jolt of healthy to get us back in the game.
It’s also a transition time in the garden, when hearty late winter vegetables like spinach, carrots, Brussels sprouts and kale get their last harvest before it’s time to start planting warm-season vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and squash.
With all that motivation to eat healthy, we sought some advice from Tiffany Wesley Ardoin, MD, program director and principal investigator for the Geaux Get Healthy program at Our Lady of the Lake and assistant professor of clinical medicine at LSU Internal Medicine in Baton Rouge.
Here are Dr. Ardoin’s tips for eating healthy and seasonal this spring:
- Use fresh or dried herbs as a salt-free and flavorful cooking substitute. Herbs like cilantro, dill and basil grow well in early spring. To dry your own herbs, bundle and hang the sprigs in a dark place until the leaves are brittle enough to crumble between your fingers. They will keep well in an airtight container for months.
- Shop in season for freshness and to lower costs. The price of everything is going up, including at the grocery store. Hit up the farmers market instead to get the freshest and most local fruits and veggies you can find when they are in season and at their most flavorful. It’s better on your bank account, and you’re supporting local farmers. What you’re bound to find in March: Asparagus, carrots, green onions, lettuce, parsnips, peas, radishes and Swiss chard.
- Different colored vegetables provide different nutrients, so eat the rainbow! When browsing the produce aisle, look for the deepest hues of greens, reds and other colors in everything from salad greens to tomatoes.
- Whole fruits are better for you than juice or smoothies. We all know about juice cleanses, but whole fruits maintain the fiber that can balance the natural sugars found in your favorite apples, citruses and other fruits. Add some frozen or fresh mixed berries to your oatmeal or granola in the morning to get that sweet rush.
- Springtime is prime time for lettuce harvest, so make different variations of salads! Throw in some of the last kale, collards and spinach harvest to add texture and subtle flavor. Tear up some Swiss chard for a little bitterness. Also, opt for transparent dressings, which are usually healthier with fewer calories and sodium. Sorry, ranch lovers!
The Geaux Get Healthy program developed these tips using the American Heart Association’s Healthy for Life curriculum.