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Trading processed foods for healthy spring produce can help banish your blahs

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You spent the winter hibernating, eating poorly and complaining about the cold. It not shocking that you're feeling tired, heavy and out of shape.

Ready to break out of your lethargy and spring forward into good health?

Start by spring cleaning your fridge and kitchen cupboards of junk food. Fill them with healthy fare that will motivate you to live your life to the fullest.

Here's how:

 

Clear away the sugar

Search for the hidden sources of simple sugar in your everyday packaged foods that may have you fooled. That means scanning labels for ingredients such as glucose, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, beet juice, agave, cane sugar and honey. Even the "organic" versions of these additives should be treated as suspects. Check your flavoured yogurts, crackers, cereals, chips, apple sauces, barbecue sauces, salad dressings and peanut butter for such ingredients. (Keep in mind that ingredients should be listed in order of quantity.)

Your rewards: You'll rid your body of fast-acting sugar. Such ingredients enter your bloodstream quickly, raise your blood sugar levels and lead to hunger shortly after you eat them. Not to mention that sugar is void of nutrition and contributes to belly fat, thanks to the roller-coaster insulin response it can take you on.

 

Reduce your salt

Sure, adding a few grains of coarse salt to your cooking is reasonable. But it's not fair that it is added to many packaged foods. Hidden sources of excess salt (also known as sodium) include some surprising foods, such as bread (one piece can have as much as 15 per cent of your daily upper limit), cold cuts, pickles (one large pickle can contain about 20 per cent of your daily limit), soups, prepared chicken and even cereal.

Your rewards: The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada says the average Canadian ingests 3,400 milligrams -- or 1.5 teaspoons -- of salt daily. Cutting this amount to 2,000 mg or less can lower your blood pressure and reduce your likelihood of cardiovascular damage, according to Health Canada.

Even kids can get high blood pressure, says the agency.

 

Go raw

Chances are you spent your winter eating stews and roasted vegetables. Now that a new season is here, give into your craving for something fresh and crunchy -- spring produce. To ensure that you eat enough antioxidant powerhouses, keep your fridge stocked with cut-up veggies and fruits ready for snacking on instead of potato chips. Remember to reach for the veggies more often than fruit if you're trying to lower your sugar intake.

Your rewards: Fibre -- which you need for a healthy digestive system and its cholesterol-lowering abilities -- and a host of phytochemicals that researchers say lower your disease risk.

 

Swap dessert for homemade smoothies

Once you invest in a good blender that's powerful enough to crush frozen fruit, you're on your way to hassle-free, easy-to-make smoothies that are perfect to kick-start your spring health and sweet enough to replace dessert. One refreshing, ultra-tasty option? Toss the contents of a large container of plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt (preferably with a bit of fat) into a blender. Fill with your favourite frozen fruit such as strawberries and blueberries. (Using frozen fruit replaces the need for ice, which can dull flavour). Add a few tablespoons of honey or another sweetener of choice. Taste. Adjust accordingly.

Your rewards: A cup or two of the above smoothie recipe contains enough protein, fibre and micronutrients to keep you full and even take the place of a meal. It's sweet enough to satisfy your dessert craving while allowing you to control the sugar you add to it. And yogurt is a good source of probiotics, good bacteria that boost gut health.

 

Have an interesting story idea you'd like Shamona to write about? Contact her at shamona.harnett@freepress.mb.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2014 D1

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Updated on Monday, April 28, 2014 at 6:59 AM CDT: Replaces image, changes headline

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