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5 Unique, low-cal foods to add to your diet this spring

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

Spice up your spring menu

What better time to boost your diet than at the start of a new season? Now that we’re (nearly) out of hibernation, it’s time to put nutrition first and kick our diets back into high gear. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got you covered. We put together some unique ways to power up your menu this spring.
Woman with bitter pear

We asked Yu Hannah Kim, fitness and nutrition expert and co-founder and president of Youble.com, known as, “the gym in the cloud” for online fitness, what foods to incorporate into our diet as the weather warms up. Youble offers access to high-definition streaming videos and provides unlimited access to multiple gym-quality fitness, from beginner to advanced workouts. Kim shares her picks for some interesting and power-packed foods.

“For this spring’s must-eat foods, try these bitter foods that pack a health and vitamin punch,” she tells us. “Why am I listing a ‘must-eat’ list full of bitter foods? Well, bitter foods are thought to reset the taste buds, thus kicking out food cravings,” she explains. Now doesn’t that sound like a great concept? Food that’s low in calories, packed with nutrition and minimizes food cravings? Sounds good to us!

Bitter melon

It may take a few times to get used to the intense bitter flavor of this item, but there are benefits to giving it a try. Bitter melon contains a whole host of nutrients that your body needs -- vitamins B1, B2, and B3, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, fiber and iron, Kim says. Not to mention it contains twice the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach and twice the potassium of a banana. Try adding to a stir-fry or other Asian-inspired dish.

Endive

If you’ve been bypassing this vegetable at the grocery store, it’s time to pay closer attention. “Whether you chop pieces up and sprinkle into salads, braise as a hearty veggie dish on the side or use the pretty vessels as an eatable container for an appetizer, at 20 calories for a whole endive, it’s as versatile as it is nutritious,” Kim says. This crunchy and slightly bitter vegetable is packed with potassium, fiber and vitamins A and B.

Dandelion greens

When you think of spring, one of the things that likely comes to mind are dandelions, those pesky weeds that take over lawns as the weather warms up. Before you shake your head in frustration, know that they do serve a purpose. “It’s time to eat those weeds as well,” Kim advises. High in magnesium and calcium, beta-carotene and manganese, dandelion greens can be tossed into a spring salad, lightly sauteed, wilted into pasta or put on top of a chilled soup. “I personally love stacking my juicy piece of meat on top of the peppery greens for dinner."

Radicchio

Pretty to look at (we love the rich purple hue) and packed with fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamins C, E, K and folate, radicchio can be used in many ways, Kim says. Roughly chop and place into salads, add to sandwiches or even grill it! Slice a radicchio in half, spray with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt before throwing it on the grill. Toss in with some juicy oranges and sliced red onion for a colorful, healthy side dish low on calories and high in nutrition.

Chard

Easy to grow (it needs sun but not a lot of attention) and even easier to cook (a quick saute will do), chard is a great all-around addition to your spring menu, says Kim. “I love sauteing chard with gnocchi, white beans and garlic,” she says. “It’s also great sauteed with nuts, basil and garlic as a high-nutrient side dish. It’s high in vitamins A, K and C, fiber, minerals and protein.”

Make a note

If you’re not sure about the bitter flavor of some of the choices above, opt for the braised, sauteed or grilled options, which create a milder taste. Cooking these bitter seasonal veggies with a bit of healthy fat and sprinkle of salt will also take the bitterness down a notch.

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