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4 ways to spring-clean your diet

By Nicci Micco, March 23, 2011 - 11:20am

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4 ways to spring-clean your diet

“Everything in moderation” has long been my eating motto. As a weight-loss expert, I know small treats often help people stick to an overall healthy eating style. And the philosophy has always worked well for me. Until recently. For whatever reason (I’m blaming stress), my “moderate” treats, lately, have morphed into... more. Example: I’ll dish out a half cup of ice cream, then decide I need another quarter cup. Ten minutes later, I’ll revisit the freezer for just one more spoonful, which turns into another and another... (Find Tips to Regain Control Over Your Eating.)

I’m not normally one to ban “bad” foods, but I think my taste buds need a reboot, so I’ve decided to “spring-clean” my diet. For one week, I am ditching refined grains and foods with added sugars, as lately eating them seems to lead to eating more of them. While I’m at it, I’m also going to scale back my intake of salt and saturated fats (by giving up cheese). Why? How? Let me explain.

Adieu, added sugars.
Why? As EatingWell’s nutrition editor Brierley Wright has reported, high intakes of added sugars are linked with risk factors for heart disease, including increased risks for high blood pressure and high triglyceride levels. And, like I said, lately, for me, eating sweetened foods seems to be linked with craving more sweet foods.
How? I’m ditching my daily “moderate” treats, which include things like a handful of chocolate candies, a cookie (even if it does have healthy ingredients like oats and raisins) and low-fat peanut butter ice cream. I’m also giving up the hazelnut syrup in the decaf lattes, maple syrup in my oatmeal and honey in my tea. If I’d like something sweet, I’ll reach for fruit; if it needs to feel special, I’ll make a dessert that’s naturally sweet.
Recipes to Try: 7 Yummy Desserts—No Sugars Added.

Out with you... refined grains.
Why? The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we get at least half of our grains from whole grains. Processed grains are stripped of many key nutrients, including fiber. Plus, upping your whole-grains intake could lengthen your life by reducing your risk of cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases, suggests an Archives of Internal Medicine study published earlier this year. Sounds good to me.
How? I’ll make simple swaps, like opting for whole-wheat pasta instead of regular, whole-grain bread instead of white and brown rice instead of white rice. I’ll cook more grains like quinoa, wheat berries and barley.
Recipes to Try: Delicious Whole-Grain Side Dishes.

Sayonara, sodium (or least some of it).
Why? I get too much sodium. And so do you, probably: Americans, on average, eat 3,400 milligrams of sodium in a day, about 1,000 mg more than we should. And if we cut that much out of our daily diets, we’d lower our risk of heart disease by up to 9 percent, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
How? I’ll go easier on the soy sauce, even if I do use the low-sodium kind. In fact, I think I’ll actually measure out 1 tablespoon to put on the rice bowls I often make for lunch. I’ll skip all packaged snacks. I’ll cook dried beans in my slow cooker instead of popping open cans—which contain significant amounts of added sodium. And, most important, I’ll eat loads of fruits and vegetables, which are naturally low in sodium.
Check Out: 6 Cooking Tricks to Cut Sodium Naturally
Recipes to Try: Get Big Flavor and Little Sodium in These Tasty Recipes.

So long, saturated fats (from cheese).
Why? Most experts agree that saturated fats raise levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the blood, which can damage the heart and arteries.
How? I'll give up cheese. (Remember, this is just for a week!) It is, by far, the biggest source of saturated fat in my diet, since I don’t eat much butter or meat or many fried foods and I drink low-fat milk. I’ll use healthy fats in place of cheese (avocado in my burritos and almond butter on my toast) to help keep me satisfied.

What happens after a week? We’ll see. I anticipate that I’ll be able to return to my less-restrictive philosophy but with fewer cravings. Result: Eating habits that are healthier.



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TAGS: Nicci Micco, Diet Blog, Diet, Good choices, Nutrition, Weight loss, Wellness

Nicci Micco
Nicci Micco is co-author of EatingWell 500-Calorie Dinners. She has a master's degree in nutrition and food sciences, with a focus in weight management.

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