Spring clean your diet (and your pantry)

Last Modified: 5/08/2021

Sarah Mohrman, RDN, and Sara Bennett, RDN, Parkview Heart Institute, offer some great tips (and recipes) to help you make the shift from cold-weather comfort foods to sunny skies and smart choices.

The grass is green and flowers are blooming, and it’s time to get out and enjoy the fresh air. While we experience some benefits of the seasonal shift naturally – like an increase in vitamin D from the sun – there are other rewards that take a little extra effort, a fresh perspective and a dash of intention.

Let’s face it, over the cold, dreary months of winter, Midwesterners tend to seek comfort in creamy pastas, warm soups and baked goods. Now that the forecast is changing, it’s time to turn off the stove and fire up the grill to cook up healthier eating habits.

Warm weather opportunities

Spring and summer offerings allow us to enjoy fresh local produce at farmer’s markets as well as local grocery stores. Have you ever tried growing your own garden? This is a great way to boost your vegetable consumption and enjoy produce in abundance. There are additional resources available through the Parkview Greenhouse & Learning Kitchen.

Not only do warmer months offer more access to fresh produce, we can also boost our movement by getting outdoors. Ride bicycles as a family, walk in a new local park or explore our impressive trails. The important thing is to get moving!

Spring cleaning

Just like any other area of your home, spring cleaning your pantry and refrigerator is a great way to get off to a healthy start for the season. Not only will this give you more room to store fresh herbs, spices and produce, it helps to shift your mindset toward healthy goals.

Toss out old spices and ingredients you don’t need any more in your pantry. If they are not expired, donate them to a local food pantry. When it comes to the fridge, toss out old salad dressings and sauces that have been lurking in your refrigerator door all winter long.

Another great strategy is to purchase two similar-size containers (approximately 3-4 cups in size or about 8” x 8”). Label one “Fruit” and the other “Veggies”. Each week after grocery shopping, prep your fruits and vegetables and place them into the corresponding containers. These will now serve as easy side dishes and quick snacks in between meals.

Items to add to your pantry

  • Almonds
  • Brown rice
  • Canned beans (low sodium)
  • Chia seeds
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Quinoa
  • Spices
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Vinegars – balsamic, red wine, rice wine and apple cider vinegar for making your own salad dressing, sauces and marinades
  • Walnuts
  • Whole grain crackers

Items to add to your fridge

  • Abundance of fresh produce!
  • Balsamic glaze
  • Fresh herbs like basil, cilantro and parsley
  • Healthy salad dressing – vinaigrette based
  • Hummus
  • Minced garlic
Eliminate self-sabotage 

Is your freezer full of your favorite ice cream and other frozen treats you just cannot resist?  Know your triggers and your guilty pleasures and commit to save them for when it’s truly special. Enjoy an ice cream cone when you are out with your kids, for example. Keep fresh fruit on hand or other healthy substitutes, like Berry Yogurt Popsicles (recipe below) for when you need something sweet.

Savoring seasonal goodness

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables provides you with different vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, so you want to eat a rainbow at your meals! This time of year there are so many great ways to partake in these colorful offerings.

Buy your produce at local farmer’s markets! Shopping local will guarantee you fresh products and will help your local community. There’s even a year-round farmer’s market at Parkview Field every Saturday. If you’re unable to attend local farmer’s markets, shop your local grocery store for your produce and follow this seasonal shopping guide.

Know your servings

It’s recommended that you get five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

1 serving fruit = ½ cup fresh fruit; round fruit size of a tennis ball; ¼ cup dried fruit

1 serving vegetables = ½ cup cooked vegetables; ½ cup raw vegetables; 1 cup salad greens

In a day, this might look like ...

Breakfast – Oatmeal with blueberries, raspberries and 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
Snack – Medium banana with 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
Lunch – Grilled chicken sandwich on a whole wheat bun, large salad with mixed greens and vinaigrette dressing
Snack – Carrots and celery with 2 tablespoons hummus
Dinner – Turkey meatballs with whole wheat penne pasta, steamed broccoli and cauliflower
Snack – Small apple with ¼ cup almonds or walnuts


Easy Balsamic Grilled Vegetables with Feta

Adapted from a recipe featured on Neighbor Food.


1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt, to taste
A few turns of fresh cracked pepper


2 sweet bell peppers (red, orange, or yellow), sliced
2 yellow squash, sliced into rounds
2 zucchini, sliced in rounds
1 small onion (I prefer red, but anything works), sliced thin
1 pound asparagus stalks, chopped into 3 inch stalks
4 ounces goat cheese or feta cheese (optional)
2 additional tablespoons high quality balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction, if desired

  1. In a measuring cup, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the marinade over the vegetables and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes or place in the fridge and marinate several hours.
  2. Heat the grill over medium high heat. Spread the vegetables out over a vegetable basket, cast iron griddle, or heavy duty foil on the grill. Grill for 4-5 minutes or until veggies are starting to brown and caramelize on one side. Flip and grill an additional 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Remove from the grill. Drizzle with a few more Tablespoons of high quality balsamic and chunks of goat cheese.

Serves 6

Nutrition information (per serving): Calories: 242; fat: 14g; Saturated fat: 4g; Cholesterol 9mg; Sodium: 112mg; Carbohydrates: 26g; Fiber: 6g; Sugar: 7g; Protein: 8g

Southwestern Black Bean Salad

Adapted from a recipe featured on skinnytaste.com.

15.5-ounce can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
9 ounces cooked corn, fresh or frozen (thawed if frozen)
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
Juice of 1 1/2 – 2 limes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh minced cilantro (or more to taste)
1 medium avocado, diced
1 diced jalapeno (optional)

1. In a large bowl, combine beans, corn, tomato, onion, scallion, cilantro, salt and pepper.

2. Squeeze fresh lime juice to taste and stir in olive oil.

3. Marinate in the refrigerator 30 minutes. Add avocado just before serving.

Serves 13

Nutrition information (per ½ cup serving): Calories: 79.5; Fat: 3.5g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 127mg; Carbohydrates: 12g; Fiber: 3g; Sugar: 1g; Protein: 3g


Berry Yogurt Popsicles

Adapted from a recipe featured on skinnytaste.com.


1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup blackberries
6 ounces fat free blueberry yogurt
1 cup crushed ice


14 ounces fat free vanilla yogurt
2 tablespoons agave or sugar
1 cup crushed ice


3/4 cup raspberries
3/4 cup strawberries
6 oz fat free strawberry yogurt
1 cup crushed ice

1. Blend each color smoothie separately in a blender and set aside.

2. Pour the first color into the popsicle mold 1/3rd of the way and freeze for 30 minutes.

3. Remove from the freezer and insert the sticks, then freeze for one hour.

4. Add the white yogurt into each popsicle mold 1/3 of the way and freeze an additional hour.

5. Add the purple smoothie and fill it to the top of the mold and freeze until ready to eat.

Serves 16

Nutrition information (per 1 popsicle): Calories: 51; Fat: 0.5g; Saturated Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 14mg; Carbohydrates: 8.5g; Fiber: 1g; Sugar: 7g; Protein: 14g






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