10 Steps to Staying Healthy this Spring

Spring into Health!

In the weeks leading up to the spring equinox—March 20th this year—you can already see many signs of spring. It is a time of new life and upward growth that follows the more dormant time of winter, when many living things are taking a rest and restoring for the active months ahead. By March 1st in Central Texas, there are signs of new growth all around us—buds, sprouts, leaves, and all things green. Redbud trees, bluebonnets, and Texas mountain laurels are blooming, ash and elm trees are leafing out, cardinals, wrens, and chickadees are singing, and bright, fresh, green grass is sprouting to replace the brown grass beneath it. But what is happening inside us at this time of year? Below are spring health tips to set you up for a vibrant, healthy year ahead.

IMG_6326 Redbud in bloom at my condo- March 1, 2016IMG_6324Texas Mountain Laurel in bloom at my condo- March 1, 2016

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and macrobiotic theory, the liver and gall bladder are most active during the spring season. These organs are responsible for detoxifying the blood from environmental and food toxins and for digesting oils and fatty foods. As we are cleaning our houses and clearing out closets, our bodies are trying to do the same. Giving the liver and gall bladder extra help and support will put you in good shape for the months ahead.


Symptoms of an imbalance in the liver and/or gall bladder may include: being slow to rise in the morning, waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble going back to sleep, waking up with “sand” in the corners of the eyes, stiff joints, tension in the neck, shoulders, and the base of the skull, pain in the right, upper abdomen, hot flashes, feelings of indecision, irritability, anger, or resentment, and more. A liver in balance shows virtues of being kind, caring, and generous to yourself and others.

Spring is an intuitive time to think about our health, as the body is naturally working to cleanse from excess accumulated in the fall and winter months. I’ve had many friends asking me about weight-loss diets and cleanses in the past few weeks. Diets and cleanses can sound appealing, as they often offer quick fixes to feel better or lose weight. However, I prefer a more gradual and balanced approach which leads to lasting changes that benefit your health and well being.

What steps can you take do to ease the transition from winter into spring, give support to the liver and gall bladder, and set yourself up for a healthy year ahead?

Here is my Top 10 List of Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations for the Spring:

1. Reduce the intake of foods that particularly aggravate the liver and gall bladder:

–too much salt (especially refined salt used in restaurant food)

–deep-fried food

–bad quality oils (refined oils and hydrogenated oils)

–salty snacks like chips, pretzels, cheese, and crackers

–high fat processed foods like cheese, ice cream, and barbecue

–alcoholic drinks, drugs, and chemicals

2. Add foods that are nourishing and cleansing at the same time

–fresh, organic vegetables and fresh herbs

–fresh, organic fruits such as berries, apples, and citrus

–whole grains such as quinoa, barley, wheat and spelt berries, brown rice

–plant-based proteins such as beans and lentils

–small amounts of organic, pasture-raised meat and poultry

–wild-caught, sustainable fish and seafood

IMG_5720Nabe pot with tempeh, vegetables, mushrooms, awaiting the dashi broth!

3. Add accents of the sour taste to your meal

–squeeze of lemon in your water

–green apple sliced in salads or grated to eat at breakfast

–fresh sauerkraut

–homemade quick ume pickles (recipe)- slice and put into fresh salads, sushi rolls, and fresh spring rolls

IMG_3993Pressed Salad with Carrot, Daikon, Green Apple, Lemon, and Mint (recipe)

4. Use lighter cooking methods than you may have used in the winter, which have plenty of moisture rather than being baked and dry



–sautéing or water sautéing

–pressed salad


–brothy noodle soups with fresh herbs like Vietnamese Phở

–some raw seasonal fruits and vegetables, unless it is still cold in your are.

IMG_5744Blanched Vegetables (see recipe)

5. Prepare meals fresh, or add fresh herbs or greens to reheated meal.

IMG_3366Nabe pot with fresh vegetables, tempeh, and dashi broth

6. Finish eating by 7 pm with no late-night eating, so your liver has time to cleanse and rejuvenate each night

7. Get plenty of fresh air

–take a walk where there are lots of trees and nature

–exercise outside whenever possible

–observe the new life springing up all around you

IMG_6141My daughter with acroyoga teacher John McClellan

8. Wear a scarf to protect against the wind

9. Use natural cleaning products in your home

10. Identify sources of anger and resentments and learn how to deal with them, practice forgiveness, or let them go (this is a tough one!)


What about popular diets?

How do you choose which one is right for you? I have found the macrobiotic diet to be a good framework to understand the energetic qualities of foods and how to balance them in your diet. Macrobiotics gives you the tools to analyze all the different diets that are out there, figure out why they work, or what might be the effects of following them. Macrobiotics focuses on natural foods and how to prepare them to balance out your particular health condition and your unique constitution. It is not necessarily a “popular” diet as it is more of a lifestyle that takes time to learn and customize for your particular needs, i.e., not a quick fix.


Rainbow Veggie Platter with Parsley-Tahini Sauce

blanched salad, rainbow veggie platter

This time of summer can be the hardest time to get inspired to cook. Here’s an idea for a highly nutritious veggie platter in rainbow colors that is fresh and light. It is simple enough to serve for a casual lunch with children, but could also serve as a beautiful appetizer for a party.

Kids love to dip the veggies into a sauce or hummus that you can put in a bowl in the middle of the vegetables. Here we used red cabbage, carrots, cauliflower florets, collard greens and stems, and a parsley-tahini sauce. In macrobiotic cooking, this is called a “blanched salad,” which is comprised of a root vegetable (carrots), round vegetable (cabbage, cauliflower), and a leafy green vegetable (collard greens). The vegetables should be fresh, vibrant, and crisp– very different from steamed or boiled vegetables.

Rainbow Veggie Platter with Parsley-Tahini Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Delicious, colorful, and healthy summer appetizer.
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Macrobiotic
Serves: 6 servings
  • 2 large carrots, cut into sticks
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems in rounds, leaves in strips
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • ½ head red cabbage, cut into strips
Parsley Tahini Sauce
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ½ cup spring or filtered water
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoons organic umeboshi vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon shoyu or tamari
  • 2 tablepoons parsley leaves, chopped finely
Vegetable Platter
  1. Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil. The bigger the pot, the more boiling water to cook your veggies very quickly (in seconds).
  2. Dip vegetables into boiling water, starting with carrots, then collards, then cauliflower, then red cabbage. Blanch a handful at a time, and remove after a few seconds with a metal skimmer onto a big plate or platter to cool. Keep vegetables separate so that you can arrange them after they have cooled. Make sure pot comes back up to a boil before adding the next handful.
  3. Arrange the cooled vegetables on a platter with a dipping sauce.
Parsley-tahini sauce
  1. Whisk ingredients together in medium-sized bowl. Add more water if you’d like the sauce to be a little thinner.


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Join the Cook Love Heal Community!

Join the Cook Love Heal Community, and I’ll send you my Natural Health Starter Kit for free and you’ll find out about the online course as soon as it is available. I’ll also keep you updated with amazing recipes, yoga ideas and tips for how to live a balanced life. Look forward to meeting you!

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