Nature truly is our teacher. So if the sea of information on how to live a healthy life, how to eat a healthy diet and how to maintain a healthy weight has your head swimming, don’t worry—nature has the answers. They’re as simple as following and connecting with the cycles of the seasons.
In spring, everything is fresh and new, and the foods of this season reflect that. A spring diet should be the lightest (low calorie and low fat) and simplest of the year because your body is working to cleanse the fat and protein—and extra weight—stored up from the long winter.
Indulge in nutritious leafy greens like spinach and kale, and make big salads. Nibble on blueberries and strawberries. Get protein from sunflower seeds and raw nuts. Prepare lighter meats like chicken, or less oily fish such as trout or sole. Add in whole grains including brown rice and barley. Cook with lighter oils such as safflower or sunflower.
And start to move. Just as animals are waking up from hibernation, we humans are waking up too. Sometimes our bodies need help adjusting to spring, especially if you suffer from seasonal allergies. Start your day with stretching or gentle yoga to move muscles and joints. Add in some running, hiking or biking a few times a week, and build up time, speed and distance gradually.
Summer begins on June 20th with the summer solstice—the longest daylight of the year. During this season when the temperatures are warmer and we are more active, the body naturally needs more energy. Thus, your diet should consist of higher-carbohydrate fruits and vegetables to keep you fueled.
The summer vegetable harvest of cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes and peas is nutritious and energy producing. Fruits—grapes, cherries, melons and oranges—are higher in natural sugars for added energy. Protein comes from raw nuts and seeds, and lighter meats and fish for easier digestion in the hotter temperatures. When cooking, olive, sunflower or coconut oils are good choices.
If eating more carbohydrates and sugars has you concerned about maintaining your weight in summer, nature will help. Your body’s baseline energy supply has already been tapped into from the fat burning of spring, so your body is in gear to burn calories as you partake in the multitude of outdoor summer activities.
Fall is the season of preparation before winter’s rest. During these months, your diet should ease in to foods with more protein and fat. Why? When temperatures drop and the air is drier in fall and winter, our bodies react and dry out too. You can often feel it in your throat and sinuses. To counteract this, draw on heavier, oily foods to replenish your depleted moisture and keep your body warm.
Root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes are plentiful, along with yams and winter squash. All of these are delicious in hearty soups with any variety of whole grains. If you crave fruit, try bananas and avocados. Since you’re building up protein, all nuts and seeds are suitable, as well as red and white meats and heavier fish and shellfish. Cook with any types of oil.
When it comes to exercise, you shouldn’t stop moving. But it’s okay to slow down. It’s perfectly natural to gain a few pounds over the winter. You will burn it off when spring arrives and the cycle of the seasons begins once again.
An authority on healthy living who inspires both men and women to integrate healthier lifestyle habits into their daily lives, Rebecca has contributed to numerous publications including Women’s Adventure, Competitor and The Denver Post, and websites such as Microsoft Sidewalk and Quaker Oats. Rebecca is always inspired to promote living a healthy, active lifestyle to women and she tweets as @activegoddess to spread this message.
John Douillard, “3-Season Diet: Eat the Way Nature Intended.” Three Rivers Press (2000).
Elson M. Haas, M.D., “Staying Healthy With the Seasons.” Random House (2003).