Spring Clean for Your Diet

How to use a food diary to shape up your eating habits

By Marina Mason

This time of year brings about a sense of rejuvenation, awakening and starting fresh. When this feeling begins to blossom in you, one of the first places to look is your diet.

A food diary is a great way to start “spring clean” your diet. Taking an honest look at the food you’re eating may help identify your nutritional needs and areas that are no longer serving you. Did bad habits sneak in or have you been eating foods that might need to be replaced with healthier choices? Perhaps you’re looking to shed a few pounds you’ve gained over the winter/holidays or are inspired to work on shaping up for summer?

How to start a food diary:

  • In a journal or notebook, note how you feel both physically (headache, nausea, fatigue, strength, focus etc.) and emotionally (anxious, irritable, restless, happy, calm, etc.) before, during, andafter meals and beverages.
  • Once you start to see patterns emerge between your physical and emotional reactions to foods, you’ll notice where you need to have more balance.

One of the best ways to shape up your diet is to boost your veggie intake. Enter: the salad!

The crisp, fresh tastes and textures of salads come to mind. When we think of healthy eating, we think of salads as one of the best foods to go for. They can be, especially when you make one with your favourite ingredients.

How to make a quick, simple, delicious salad at home:

Step 1 – Pick your base. 

Choose a lettuce leaf with texture you like. Do you prefer crunchy leaves like romaine lettuce or the softer texture of a butterhead lettuce or oak leaf lettuce or a peppery arugula? Denser leaves like kale can be massaged with oil and kept covered in the fridge for 3-5 days. Wash your leaves if they have not been and spin them dry. Add cooked quinoa, millet, barley, rice for a heartier base.

 Step 2 – Additions

Here’s when you infuse your preferred flavours by adding veggies, cheese and/or fresh herbs to your salad.

Classic salad veggies include tomatoes, cucumber, chopped celery or grated carrot. Crumble up or grate a cheese to add another layer of texture to your salad, while also bumping up its calcium and protein content. Some flavour-packed cheeses to add to your salads: parmesan, cheddar, feta, crumbled blue cheese.

Try adding fresh herbs like mint, parsley, basil, dill or cilantro.

Step 3 – Toppings

A final layer to your salad should include a crunchy topping of your choice: seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), nuts (crumbled walnut, pecan, pinenut) or homemade croutons.

Step 4 – Make your own homemade dressing. 

This is the final but most important step in keeping salads healthy. If you make your own dressing, you know exactly what ingredients are going in it. Store bought varieties can be high in fat, sugar and preservatives to extend their shelf life. Plus, homemade always tastes better, fresher, and it’s cheaper! Toss your ingredients together in a bowl. Add your homemade dressing. Salt and pepper, to your liking. Done!

Tips of making homemade dressings:

  • Make a dressing in a jar to have on hand. It’s easy to pull out of the fridge in a pinch.
  • Generally, the ratio of oil to vinegar is 3:1. Try using fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar to add a nutritional kick to your dressing.
  • Add fresh herbs
  • Homemade dressings can last up to 5 days in the fridge.

Salads are fresh, healthy and easy to make. They’ll keep you satisfied all season long. Go on, start spring clean!

Publishers Notes: Marina Mason is Yoga Alliance Certified Instructor and an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach.