Spring cleaning your health
A time for new beginnings
Who is excited that spring is finally here? The term spring automatically puts a smile on everyone's face because they know warmer weather is on its way. We have found some great tips to help kick off your spring on a healthy note!
Tips provided by Pam Stuppy, MS, RD, CSSD, LD and Seascoast News.
One of the joys of spring is the feeling of new beginnings. If your New Year's resolutions have faded, think of this as a chance for a fresh start on your goals for good health.
Make a list of the changes you would like to make. Then next to each, write down the steps you could take to achieve each one. Be realistic. Enlist friends or other family members to join you in working toward health goals if you would find that helpful. Keep an ongoing food, beverage, sleep, and exercise record. This allows you to see more accurately what you are doing and keeps you accountable.
Give your food a makeover
Spring cleaning may also be one of your normal springtime rituals. Why not think about "spring cleaning" your kitchen. Do your own food "makeover." Take a good look at what lives there — check cupboards, refrigerator and freezer.
Do any of these foods work against your goals for health? If so, give them away or just do not replace them when they run out. Foods in this category tend to be higher in fat, sugar, sodium, and may not fit into a healthy food group.
Are there healthier foods that could take the place of some of the less healthy ones? At the grocery store, explore some new healthy options. Choose items for both meals and snacks. Think — high fiber, lower sodium, some mono- and polyunsaturated fat sources (olive or canola oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, etc.), more plant-based foods, smaller portions of animal proteins and leaner versions, lots of fruits and vegetables, some bean products, and fewer foods containing "solid fats."
Are there some new healthy recipes you could prepare? Check online, in cookbooks or healthy cooking magazines to get ideas. Switch gears into spring and summer foods, which tend to be lighter and often have fewer calories.
Spring also means a chance for spending time outdoors in milder weather. This can be encouraging for those who enjoy outdoor physical activities without the winter wind and cold. Taking a walk is incredibly pleasant this time of year. It can be done almost anywhere, at various levels of intensity depending on your fitness level, and costs nothing. Consider using a pedometer and shoot for the recommended goal of 10,000 steps a day. Walking is, however, only one of many options for outdoor physical activity.
Hiking, another form of walking, gives you a chance to be closer to nature. Check out www.trails.com and www.sierraclub.org to find places to hike and bike. There are also a number of books that describe trails and places to go birding (spring is a great time to see a wide variety of birds — local and migrating).
If you like group activities or planned physical activities, seek out walking, running, hiking, or biking groups in your community. Also look for outdoor exercise classes (kayaking, yoga, etc.) or pick-up basketball, tennis, soccer or other team sports.. Many groups publicize through bike shops, athletic footwear stores, sporting good stores or outdoor gear/equipment stores.
Remember the recommended goal of 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity most days (or think 150 minutes/week). If one of your goals is weight loss or you have one or more medical conditions that would benefit from exercise (such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated blood sugar), the goal is 30-60 minutes most days. The good news is that this goal does not require one large block of time to reach this daily total. It can be broken down into two or more activity times during the day if that works better with your schedule.
Making the most of each day
The longer hours of daylight give us a chance to include such physical activity before and/or after our daily commitments. If you have a dog, a morning and evening walk would make him/her happy as well. Activity outdoors after dinner means you wear off some of the dinner calories. It may also take the place of evening snacking, which often consists of less healthy foods and unnecessary calories.
As the frost leaves the ground, consider growing some of your own fruits, herbs, and/or vegetables. You can't get any fresher than the foods you pick out of your own garden. Fresh herbs can be used for flavor in place of salt in recipes to help with your goal of reducing your sodium intake. Gardening also encourages you to spend more time outdoors and can be a form of exercise. It is also a wholesome activity for families to do together. Growing organically can teach your children to respect nature. It can also reduce your and their exposure to chemical toxins.
More hours of daylight at this time of year can help with mood, too. Better mood and improved sleep habits might mean increased motivation to take better care of yourself. If you are an emotional eater, a more positive mood might help reduce your total calorie intake and allow you to make healthier food choices. This can improve both weight and overall health.
So take advantage of the new spring season to help you reach your health goals and take some time to enjoy the outdoors.
Pam Stuppy, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, is a registered, licensed dietitian with nutrition counseling offices in York, Maine, and Portsmouth. She is also the nutritionist for Phillips Exeter Academy and is teaching healthy cooking classes at Stonewall Kitchen. Visit www.pamstuppynutrition.com for some healthy recipe ideas.