This post was written by Heinen’s partner, Halle Snavely.
Is there a better feeling than opening the windows on the first warm day after a long winter? A quick whiff of fresh spring air is invigorating and likely puts many of us into spring cleaning mode. I like to take things a step further by applying the spring-cleaning mindset not just to my home, but my body as well. Which, by extension, also concerns my pantry, fridge and freezer.
How to Spring Clean Your Diet
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is about renewal, rejuvenation, growth and energy. We go from hunkering down to conserve our energy to opening up and getting outside to refresh ourselves. Spring is when life starts to move again, but movement doesn’t just mean exercise. We have to get things moving from a nutritional perspective too. That means focusing on foods that clean you out to get your body into a better state of flow.
If you pay attention to seasonality, you know that certain plants grow at certain times of the year. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but those plants happen to give us the exact nutrients our bodies need to thrive during that season. So, it makes sense that many fruits and vegetables that sprout in the spring help your body clean itself out.
Here are a few seasonal vegetables I like to include in my diet during the spring months:
- Nettle tea is made from the leaves of the stinging nettle plant, which grows in the spring. It’s known as a detoxifier, and its diuretic properties help clean you out. Nettles also have compounds that can help ease seasonal allergies.
- Ramps are another spring staple that can encourage detoxification. A member of the allium family, along with onions, garlic, leeks and shallots, ramps contain a compound called quercetin, which is thought to contain antihistamine properties.
- Asparagus, which is known as a diuretic, can also help remove excess toxins and salt from your body.
- Greens, particularly bitter greens, are abundant in the spring. Bitter greens are known to support the liver and the digestive tract.
- Radishes contain antioxidants and can also encourage good digestion thanks to their high fiber content.
- Snap peas have tons of antioxidant vitamins and minerals and are also a great source of plant-based protein. They are rich in fiber, which makes them an ally to your digestive system.
How to Spring Clean Your Kitchen
While you’re focused on spring cleaning, it’s also important to pay some attention to the ingredients in your pantry, fridge and freezer. Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” method is a useful tool when deciding what to keep and purge.
Some of us might be prone to unintentionally hoarding snacks in our pantry during the winter. Or maybe you have a habit of buying food because it looks interesting, but then you forget to use it. Either way, spring is a time to take stock of what you have, what you need to throw away, what you can rediscover and what you need to restock. This part can be broken down into two phases:
Phase 1: Purge and Rediscover
For your Pantry
- Check expiration dates and toss anything that is outdated or close to being expired, especially if you’ve never used it. Make sure to check all canned goods, dry goods like beans, rice and pasta, as well as baking items. An opened box of baking soda or baking powder lasts about six months.
- Go through your spices. Spices should be replaced at least once a year, but we’re all guilty of leaving spices for far longer.
- Nuts can go bad after a while, so make sure to smell or taste them to see if they can still be used.
- Go through your cooking oils and smell them to see if they have gone rancid.
For your Fridge
- Go through all condiments and throw away everything that is expired or has gone bad.
- Check dates on fermented foods. Even though they are fermented, they won’t last forever. Most pickled items are good for up to six months.
- Go through and take stock of cheeses (especially parmesan) that may have gone bad.
- Get rid of processed foods.
For your Freezer
- Look for anything that has expired or anything with freezer burn. Toss any frozen meats that you’ve had for longer than 6 months.
There are a few things to keep in mind as you’re purging. You might discover something you forgot you had, but definitely sparks joy. Maybe you find a really nice bottle of vinegar or olive oil, or an ancient grain like amaranth that you’ve been wanting to try. My recommendation is to think of a dish to use it in as soon as possible. Also, don’t forget to compost and recycle when you can. Once you’ve gone through everything, clean your pantry, fridge and freezer using a natural cleanser and wipe down any sticky or oily bottles of olive oil, honey or condiments.
Phase 2: Restock
Now that you’ve gotten rid of everything that doesn’t spark joy, it’s time to see what you need to restock. This could be cans of beans, grains like quinoa, rice or lentils, different varieties of nuts or dried fruit, canned tomatoes, coconut milk or bone broth. For the fridge, focus on replacing expired condiments, but also give any fermented foods a refresh. Restock the staples you have in your freezer like frozen greens, meats, breads and stocks. All of these can be the base of nutrient-dense meals and will help you start the spring season on a healthy note.