Stay Healthy By Getting In Touch With Your Green Thumb

April 09, 2015, 10:16am EDT

Janelle Gonyea, RD

Spring and summer can mean a fresh start for many things, even your diet. Before and after transplant, you are advised to improve your health by following a diet low in sodium and maintaining a healthy weight. Healthy food choices and adequate physical activity are important to achieving this goal, and planting a garden can help you with both! 

Fresh vegetables and herbs are naturally low in sodium. In the supermarket, they can be expensive, but those grown at home will fit nicely into any budget. Also, by growing your own vegetables and herbs, you can enjoy them at their freshest, when they taste their best. When your garden is especially plentiful, you can even freeze many types of vegetables so that you can enjoy them all year long.

Gardening is a fun and healthful pursuit since it's a way to increase your activity level and burn calories while ensuring the availability of healthful foods. If you are new to gardening and don't know where to begin, the internet has a wealth of information to help you identify the basic tools that you will need, and the best way to get started given your space availability. It's okay to start small and build your garden over time. If you just have a small deck or balcony, start by planting a few things in containers. If you have a backyard, start by creating a small garden plot.

If you are waiting for a transplant and have been advised to follow a potassium controlled diet, plant vegetables that are lower in potassium, such as the ones found in this low-potassium foods chart. If you are unsure which ones are best for you, ask your dietitian for suggestions. He or she will be thrilled to hear that you are planning to add fresh, low sodium foods to your diet.

Partner your vegetable garden with some herb plants to bring even more flavor and excitement to your gardening adventure. Fresh herbs are very easy to use and will give a tremendous seasoning boost to foods without adding sodium. You can buy fresh herbs in many supermarkets, but they tend to be expensive and growing them yourself can help you save lots of money. If you don't have a spot for a garden plot or don't want to grow vegetables just yet, herbs can be a good place to start, as they tend to take up less space. You can easily plant them in small pots on balconies, porches or even in your window sill. Routine watering and maintenance will keep the plants growing for a long time. Some fun herbs to start with include basil, cilantro, dill, oregano and parsley.

When the herbs are ready for harvest, snip away and let the creativity begin. If a recipe calls for dried herbs and you are using fresh, you'll typically need three times as many of the fresh herbs (compared to the original recipe quantity). You may need to adjust the amounts according to your preferences and those of your family, but this is a good general guide. Don't allow yourself to be limited by a recipe. In the herb world, there are very few rules, so mix and match them according to your taste.

While there are many advantages to gardening, be cautious about the time of day and the length of time you are in the sun. After transplant, you are more sensitive to the harmful effects of the sun's rays. Wear protective clothing and sunscreen, and avoid working in the garden during the middle of the day when the UV light is the strongest. Also, be careful when working with soil and always wear gloves when handling it. In general, it is a good idea to stay out of the soil immediately after transplant, so ask your healthcare team when you are able to do some gardening.