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Tips for Giving Your Diet a Spring Cleaning

You know that old saying: “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb?” Well, no offense to its author, but I don’t think there were many lions hitting Falls Church this year. With days where the temperature reached 80 degrees last month, I had assumed we skipped right over spring and into summer!

Around this time of year, I’m usually still coming out of hibernation mode and dusting off my winter appetite for hearty stews, thick cuts of meat, and potatoes prepared any way. It can be a bit of a transition for me to reignite my desire for lighter fare come springtime. Even with the incredibly mild winter we’ve had, it’s been all too easy for me to slip into the habit of whipping up heavy comfort foods instead of taking advantage of all the new, fresh produce suddenly available.

Here in Falls Church, we are incredibly fortunate to have a farmers’ market that’s open year-round. That said, it’s really between the months of April and October that the market truly shines. If you’ve never taken the opportunity to pop over to the parking lots outside of City Hall on a Saturday morning when the market is open, from 8 a.m. – noon, you really should! Not only are there stalls full of fresh produce and local meats – along with tasty samples of both – but you can find beautiful flowers, fragrant natural soaps, and even home-baked dog treats. A quick trip to the farmers’ market is a fantastic way to inspire your weekly menu with an emphasis on natural, in-season foods. If your Saturdays tend to get booked up, The Local Market on West Broad Street offers locally-grown produce as well as items from a few of the farmers’ market vendors all week long.

Food is most flavorful when it is in season, but you don’t have to shop exclusively at local markets in order to get food at its peak. Knowing what crops are in season allows you to purchase the freshest, most nutritious produce from any grocery store. Spring is particularly known for salad greens and lettuces, but seasonal eating most certainly does not mean you have to limit yourself to nothing but salads. Early spring also brings crops like strawberries, artichokes, asparagus, beets, and leafy green vegetables like spinach and chard to the forefront. Here are some easy ways to prepare them.

• Asparagus: Roasting asparagus with a little citrus really brings out its delicious flavor. Trim the tough bottom inch off of the stalks and toss with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Roast in an oven at 375 degrees until they are bright green and softened, but still crisp (about 10 – 12 minutes).

• Beets: I love roasted beets on a salad, but for variety’s sake why not try whipping up easy and delicious borscht? Borscht is a beet soup that can be served hot or cold, which is perfect for the fickle weather we may still have to contend with. There are many great recipes available online, but the main ingredients are chicken (or vegetable) stock, chopped beets, chopped cucumber or celery, sour cream, and dill if you feel like experimenting.

• Greens: My hands-down favorite way to prepare any leafy greens (spinach, chard, kale, etc.) is to sauté them with a little garlic. It’s heavenly! Pour some olive oil in a pan, heat it to medium heat, add some finely minced garlic (don’t let it burn!), and then add the rinsed and chopped greens. Sauté until wilted and tender.

Spring cleaning your diet and embracing delicious, seasonal foods really can be that easy. Bon appétit!

 Gretchen Powell is a fitness and healthy living blogger in Falls Church. She is not a registered dietitian, nutritionist, or medical doctor, and a medical professional should be consulted before undertaking dramatic diet changes. For more about Powell’s weight-loss journey, visit