Lighten up your diet to suit the season

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Lighten up your diet to suit the season

Spring is the perfect time to take stock of your diet and ‘lighten up’ your eating habits. Nutritionist Bronwen King shares ideas for breaking out of that food rut!

It is so easy over winter to become addicted to comfort foods; warm muffins, hot desserts with lashings of cream, pastries, cakes, biscuits, etc. While rugged up in winter woollies, the consequences are out of sight and out of mind!

A food diary is a good way to take stock of winter habits – write down everything you eat for four days (including at least one weekend day) and then check to see if you have met the recommendations of the NZ food and nutrition guidelines. You may be surprised by your results.

Weight for weight, fruit and veges  contain more essential nutrients and less kilojoules than any other foods. As well, they are rich in antioxidants which protect us from disease and help keep us young.

Have 5+ serves a day, and go for as wide a variety as possible. Eat them raw, steamed, in salads or juiced, and eat as many different colours as you can.

Take a mixture to work and avoid the temptation of the vending machine or snack box. Fruit that is chopped up is more likely to be eaten (particularly by children), so add a small container of chopped fresh fruit to the lunchbox and enjoy a fruit platter after dinner instead of dessert.

Your skin, hair, body and mood will thank you!

Latest research shows that blueberries contain high levels of antioxidants that protect our brain cells.For those of us having ‘senior moments’, they could be just the thing to jog our dull winter heads into clearer thinking. When not in season, frozen blueberries are just as good and delicious as a snack on their own. Try them sprinkled on muesli with yoghurt and nuts for a delicious pick-me-up breakfast. Serve with yoghurt for an energising snack or
dessert. Or purée with banana, milk and yoghurt for a nutritious meal on the run.

The humble walnut is an excellent source of omega-3 fats. Since most New Zealanders do not get enough omega-3, adding a few walnuts to our food each day could help bridge this gap, particularly if you do not like fish (the  main source of omega-3 ). Some researchers believe there is a link between a lack of omega-3 and depression – if this is true, then what could be a better anti-depressant than walnuts! To boost your mood with walnuts,  sprinkle them on your cereal, add them to salads and baking, eat them with dried fruit or try them with fresh pears or dates – these are both delicious combinations!

Kaffir lime trees grow well in pots, look decorative, and add a delicious zing to Asian dishes. Plant one in your garden and add whole, crushed or finely shredded leaves to stir-fries and soups. They are particularly delicious in laksa and Thai curries.

Being frost-sensitive, the trees need shelter over winter so put them under the eaves or inside, particularly if you live down south.

Spring heralds the arrival of fresh asparagus, tomatoes, capsicums, new potatoes, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. Pears and apples are no longer in season, so focus instead on the delights that summer has to offer.

Support your local farmer’s market (check “Find a farmers market” for details of your closest farmers market) – enjoy what is fresh and local with no guilt about food miles!

While there are a multitude of ways to serve fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables, keeping them simple means you can enjoy the taste and quality without the confusion of other ingredients.

Many fruits, eg. bananas, kiwifruit and strawberries make delicious snacks when frozen.

Frozen bananas, for example, have the taste and texture of banana ice cream so are a great snack for children. Cut peeled fresh bananas in half crosswise and insert ice-block sticks before freezing – the end results are easy to serve and eat.

Frozen whole berries make a delicious snack on a hot day; try arranging a mixture on a white platter as an attractive and satisfying finish to a summer meal.

First published: Nov 2007

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