What’s In Season? Your Guide to Spring Produce

Spring is a bountiful time of the year when it comes to fresh produce, but it always helps to know exactly what’s in season. If you want to purchase only the freshest, most flavorful fruits and veggies and ensure that they last as long as possible in your fridge, use these helpful tips for understanding spring produce.

  1. Artichokes. Whether you use them on pizzas or add them to your salads, artichokes are a great way to add flavor and nutrients to your meals. Their main harvest takes place during the springtime, so look for artichokes with close, compact leaves and clean-cut stems.
  2. Asparagus. This popular veggie is found in a number of high-end restaurants, but you can easily prepare it at home if you purchase it fresh in the springtime. The thickness doesn’t necessarily indicate tenderness, so don’t overlook thinner or thicker spears at your grocery store.
  3. Carrots. While carrots are commonly found in grocery stores year-round, they taste best during the spring season. Only purchase bundles that are firm to the touch for maximum freshness.
  4. Leafy greens. Nutrient-rich veggies like chard, kale, and other cooking greens tend to turn bitter during hot summer months, so purchase them in the spring for the best taste.
  5. Fennel. If you’ve never cooked with fennel, experiment with this green (a relative of celery) when it comes into season during the warmer springtime.
  6. Grapefruit. Create a nutritious breakfast by adding grapefruit, which starts to become plump and juicy in January.

Spring Produce: Your Guide to Picking the Best [Greatist]
What’s in Season? Spring [Fruits and Veggies More Matters]
Fresh Spring Fruits and Vegetables [About Food]

How to Eat Healthy When Dining Out

You really never know how a meal is prepared when you’re eating out, and even the healthiest seeming salad can be packed with fattening cheeses, heavy oils, and excessive amounts of sodium. Instead of boycotting restaurants, use these smart tips for eating healthy while eating out.

  1. Know the lingo. When navigating the menu, recognize that words like “crispy,” “au gratin,” “creamed,” or “battered” are just as bad as “deep-fried.” Instead, look for dishes that are “grilled,” “poached,” or “roasted.”
  2. Choose restaurants with healthy or light menus. If you want to make navigating the menu even easier, research which restaurant chains offer separate menus of healthier dishes.
  3. Avoid appetizers. Instead of ordering extra food before your meal even arrives, eat your healthy entree and then reevaluate to see if you’re still hungry.
  4. Ask for sauces on the side. If you order a salad with dressing or a sandwich with a creamy sauce, ask for it on the side and only use as much as you need.
  5. Ask for a to-go box with your order. If your biggest challenge is overindulging, there’s no shame in packaging a portion of your meal up before you begin eating. This will ensure that you don’t go overboard.
  6. Don’t skip dessert. No, you don’t have to pass on dessert; just opt for healthier treats like fresh fruit, sherbet, or flourless cakes.

Deciphering the Menu [American Heart Association]
Ordering Your Meal [American Heart Association]
Tips for Eating Healthy When Eating Out [USDA]
It's About Eating Right [Eat Right]

Spice Up Your Diet With These DASH Recipes

Any dieter will agree that healthy foods aren’t always the most exciting. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (or DASH) eating plan aims to incorporate convenient, tasty meals into your healthy diet, using only accessible ingredients that you likely have around the house. This NIH website offers a number of DASH-friendly recipes for every day of the week.

Here are three recipes you'll find there:

Chicken Salad
Just like the summer picnic favorite, this zesty chicken salad can be spread on sandwiches or placed on a bed of lettuce. Unlike its fattening counterpart, DASH’s chicken salad recipe contains less than 200 calories.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce
Whether you follow a meat-free diet or not, this delicious spaghetti sauce tastes great over pastas or on other Italian dishes. It also contains only 479 mg of sodium per serving, significantly less than other sauces.

Chicken and Spanish Rice
A traditional dish with a zesty kick of flavor, this Spanish rice recipe contains much less sodium than other versions. By substituting brown rice for regular white rice and adding a variety of vitamin-rich vegetables, this fast and easy recipe can help you stay on track with healthy eating as well.

To find the full week’s worth of DASH recipes, visit the NIH website here.

How to Reduce Your Daily Caffeine Intake

You might feel like you simply can’t function without your morning coffee, but that boost of caffeine may be doing you more harm than good. Caffeine addiction causes you to rely on drinking coffee, soda, and energy drinks throughout the day, and it is also proven to contribute to stress and anxiety. If you want to cut back on the amount of caffeine you consume per day, these simple tips will make it easier.

  1. Examine your intake. Studies show that 200 milligrams of caffeine or less is a healthy amount for the average adult to consume per day. This translates to about two strong cups of coffee, so this is an easy way to decipher how much you need to limit yourself. If you can’t make it through the workday without that third cup in the afternoon, that’s a good place to start.
  2. Gradually cut back. Quitting caffeine cold turkey is just as painful as quitting any other bad habit. To prevent headaches, grogginess, and other signs of caffeine withdrawal, mix your usual coffee with a bit more decaf every day, or work your way down to just two cups of coffee instead of your usual amount.
  3. Be smart about caffeine. Once you know that you can only have two cups per day, you should choose when to drink them wisely. If you feel most tired early in the morning and around 2 p.m., plan on drinking your cup of joe about an hour before those times.

Easy Ways to Reduce Caffeine Intake [U.S. News]
How to Lower Your Caffeine Intake Without Headaches [Fitday]
10 Ways to Start Your Day Without Caffeine [Everyday Health]
Caffeine [McKinley Health Center]

Feeling Jittery? Avoid These Surprising Caffeine Sources!

You’ve already cut out your morning latte and ruled out the sugary energy drinks in an effort to reduce your caffeine intake, but you still occasionally feel jittery or prone to headaches. If you’re making all of the right steps toward a caffeine-free diet but just can’t seem to catch a break, these surprising products may be to blame.

  1. Dietary supplements. Frustratingly enough, one of your other attempts to lose weight and stay healthy may actually be the cause of your caffeine headaches. Dietary supplements, including multivitamins, often contain high doses of caffeine that aren’t always listed on the nutrition label. Some supplements even contain over 210 milligrams – that’s more than double the amount in one cup of coffee!
  2. Chocolate. Chocolate, another popular vice among many adults, is known to contain just as much caffeine as coffee in some cases. If you need a chocolate fix, indulge in less intense milk chocolate instead of dark.
  3. Tea. Switching your daily cup of Joe for a cup of tea still causes you to consume caffeine, contrary to what many may think. One cup of black tea has around 14 to 60 milligrams, while green tea contains 24 to 40 milligrams of caffeine.

What Am I So Awake? [CBS News]
12 Surprising Sources of Caffeine [Fox News]
5 ‘Hidden’ Sources of Caffeine [Live Science]

How to Get More Vitamin A in Your Diet

Vitamin A provides a number of wonderful eye health benefits, from minimizing dry eyes to helping to absorb light in the retinal receptors. In addition to improving your eye health, it also supports cell growth and improves the health of the kidneys, heart, and other essential organs. Here are just a few surprising food sources for beneficial Vitamin A.

  1. Sweet Potatoes. Sweet potatoes are some of the best sources of Vitamin A out of any food, offering a staggering 561% of the recommended daily amount in just one whole potato. Better yet, the delicious sweet potato offers all of its priceless nutrients while adding only 103 calories to your diet. Simply bake one in the oven for a healthy side dish that’s absolutely packed full of A vitamins.
  2. Carrots. This other favorite orange food is equally as rich with Vitamin A. The carrot has been known for its eye health benefits for quite some time, though many people don’t realize that it’s because of the numerous A vitamins inside. One medium carrot offers a full 200% of the recommended daily intake, and it’s a great source of the Vitamins C, K, and B that your body also needs.

Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin A [Healthaliciousness]
Vitamin A [NIH]
26 Foods High in Vitamin A for Healthy Eyes [Bembu]

Public Domain/Public Domain

All the Taste, Less Fat: 2 Handy Stand-Ins for Butter

Whether you practice a vegan diet or you simply want to reduce harmful fat and calories from your meals, cutting out butter is a healthy food choice. These simple butter substitutes will enable you to eat the foods that you love in a healthier manner, and they’ll taste just as delicious.

  1. Olive oil. While olive oil is also high in calories, it has a number of other health benefits that butter doesn’t. For every cup of butter, you can easily substitute 1/4 cup of olive oil plus two tablespoons in order to maintain the same texture and consistency. Olive oil is also completely vegan, and it can be used to grease pans as well.
  2. Commercial butter substitutes. Your local grocery store likely sells a wide variety of commercial butter substitutes and margarines that can be used in place of butter. These products usually have the same look, feel and taste, but they have much less fat and calories. Brands like Earth Balance and Smart Balance taste very similar to real butter, but unlike butter they’re completely vegan. Most chefs advise against browning commercial butter substitutes, however, because they burn very easily and don’t achieve the same effect.

Common Ingredient Substitutions [All Recipes]
Top 3 Ingredient Substitutions [The Kitchn]

The Sugar Content in These Common Foods Might Surprise You

No matter how diligently you count calories, it’s also very important to monitor your sugar intake when you’re attempting to shed a few pounds. Foods like cookies, ice cream, and sweet soft drinks are obviously off limits, but there are also a number of other sugary foods that might surprise you. Here are two common sources of sugar that might be flying under your radar.

  1. Fat-free salad dressings. Seeking out fat-free foods in the grocery store may seem like a simple way to stay on track with your diet, but many of these products attempt to maintain the same bold flavor by loading on the sugar. Salad dressings in both creamy and oil-based forms are loaded with sugar from sources like honey and concentrated fruit juice. Be sure to check the nutrition information before you buy.
  2. Multigrain cereals. Don’t just assume that all grains are automatically healthy. Multigrain cereals offer important fiber and whole grains that your body needs for energy, but unfortunately, many leading brands also include as many as six grams of sugar per cup. Many dietitians suggest opting for the plainest version of your favorite cereal and adding fresh fruit or a teaspoon of sugar instead.

15 Surprising Sources of Added Sugar [SparkPeople]
6 Surprising Sources of Sugar [Huffington Post]

Try These Tasty Alternatives to Cow’s Milk

There are a number of reasons to give up regular dairy milk, from food allergies to personal diet choices. If you’ve decided to take the plunge into dairy-free milk substitutes, these simple and tasty alternatives to cow’s milk will make the transition easy.

  1. Soy milk. This is one of the most popular milk alternatives, and it’s been around for quite some time. Soy milk is made with filtered water, whole soy beans, and thickeners that give it the same thick, creamy consistency as regular milk, and they also make it easy to bake with. Most brands of soy milk even contain the same amount of protein, Vitamin D, and calcium as cow’s milk.
  2. Almond milk. If you want to cut out milk in order to reduce your calorie intake, almond milk is a great alternative choice. This nutty mix of filtered water and ground almonds has only around 60 calories per cup, but it offers the same thickness and consistency as dairy milk.
  3. Rice milk. Rice milk has a more neutral flavor than many other milk substitutes, and it’s a bit thinner. However, it contains the same amount of calcium and Vitamin D as cow’s milk, and it offers a light, sweet flavor that’s mild and pleasant.

Meet the Milk Substitutes [Cooking Light]
Non-Dairy Alternatives to Cow’s Milk [SparkPeople]
5 Delicious Milk Substitutes [FitSugar]

Start Your Physical Activity Plan With These Motivational Tips

You want to lose weight and begin a healthy workout routine, but going to the gym seems so intimidating. If you’ve ever felt discouraged or frustrated with working out, this motivational guide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help you get up off the couch and onto the treadmill.

Whether you’re just getting involved with a fitness routine or simply trying to get back into the habit of working out, this guide will help you to make exercising fun and approachable. By simply replacing a few nights of watching television after dinner with a walk around the neighborhood, you can greatly improve your health and lose those excess pounds.

Many people are faced with obstacles in either their lives or their bodies that prevent them from getting enough physical activity. This guide will help you overcome obstacles like not having enough time to exercise, feeling tired and worrying about injuries, and it will even show you how you can take your children with you as you work out if you’re a busy parent.

Now that you have the motivation to make time for physical activity, you’ll start to feel better about your health and your appearance. 

Getting Started with Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight  [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

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