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Ten "Spring Cleaning" Tips for Your Body and Mind

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April 12, 2007

Chicago -

As the weather warms up and we gain energy, many people will take on the annual tradition of Spring Cleaning.  This year, in addition to the usual household tasks, challenge yourself to focus on something even more important…you!

Much like a cluttered closet, our bodies and minds, often need a little spring cleaning too.  Doing so will help you feel energized, improve your health and get you started on the right foot for an active and healthy spring and summer.

Following are 10 simple tips from Dawn Jackson Blatner, registered dietitian at the Northwestern Memorial Wellness Institute to help you get started:

Ditch the Junk 

Approach your kitchen cupboards like you would a storage room in your basement.  Make two piles as you sort through your cabinets…one labeled “keep” and the other “dump”.  Now, start sorting and see which pile ends up being larger.  While you’re allowed to have a few guilty pleasures (moderation is key), the “dump” pile should not be double in size.  This is a great way to examine your current choices and help put things in perspective so you can start making healthier shopping choices.  

Fiber Up 

It’s time to get fired up about fiber!  Adding fiber to you diet will not only help you feel satisfied during the day but can also help cleanse your internal system. The Food and Drug Administration defines high-fiber as a product containing 20 percent of the daily value; with the recommended daily amount of fiber for women being 25 grams and 38 grams for men. Try choosing a high-fiber breakfast, such as Swiss muesli with barley and oats, to kick-start your day, just be sure to boost your fiber intake slowly so your body has time to adjust.

Dig in the Dirt   

Planting a garden is an enjoyable springtime activity for many.  Gardening can offer a therapeutic and relaxing Saturday afternoon…and the best part is, your body can benefit from the fruits of your labor!  Take advantage of the season by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables.  Doing so will help you get the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.

Know Your Fats 

Not all fat is bad for you. The important thing is to understand the difference:

“Good Fats”

  • Monosaturated fat & polyunsaturated fat – may help lower LDL blood cholesterol levels.  Monosaturated fat can be found in olive oil, peanut oil, and most nuts.  Polyunsaturated fat can be found in vegetable oils like corn, soybean, sunflower seed, margarine and most salad dressings. 
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – may help decrease heart disease by lowering triglyceride levels, increasing HDL levels and decreasing blood clotting and inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in many fish, such as salmon, mackerel, whitefish, herring, and sardines. Other sources include flaxseed, soybeans and walnuts.

“Bad Fats”

  • Saturated fat – largely found in meats and dairy foods such as whole milk, cream, full-fat ice cream, cheese and butter.  Saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Trans fat – Trans fat can raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol.  Most of the Trans fat we eat comes from vegetable shortening, some margarine, processed foods such as cakes and cookies, French fries and other fried foods.

Veg Out 

If you are a meat eater, occasionally swap out your meat for vegetable sources of protein instead. Foods like black bean burgers on the grill instead of hamburgers are a tasty alternative that you’re sure to enjoy at your next spring BBQ. Research suggests that vegetarians weigh less and have a lower occurrence of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer than their meat eating counter parts.  The good news – you don’t have to be a full-time vegetarian to reap these health benefits.  ”Part-time vegetarians” who swap out their meat source periodically for vegetable sources of protein can gain similar benefits. 

Get Moving 

The number one way in which you can keep your body healthy and strong is by combining exercise with a healthy diet.  Studies show that in addition to helping you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, regular exercise can lower depression, anxiety and stress. Staying active and eating right can also help improve mood and brain function.

Relax Your Mind 

Take time to smell the clean Spring air, listen to the birds chirp or go for a stroll by the lakefront.  Whatever your pleasure, a little rest and relaxation will go a long way when it comes to cleansing your body and your mind.  Feel like splurging?  Hit the spa and enjoy a detoxification service or a massage to rejuvenate your body.

Drink Plenty of Water 

Water is extremely important to our bodies; in fact, the human body is made up of 55 to 75 percent water.  Drinking at least eight glasses of water each day will not only keep your body hydrated, but will also contribute many external benefits. Staying properly hydrated reduces fatigue, adds natural moisture to your skin and even allows you to have a better, more productive workout when exercising.

Process This 

Take a break from processed foods for one week.  It may be difficult, but believe it or not, not everything comes in a box or bag.  Instead of your daily breakfast sandwich or pastry, reach for fresh fruit instead.  And rather than the standby frozen dinner, take time to prepare a nutritious meal for yourself.  Consider kabobs on the grill or a fresh salad with plenty of fresh vegetables.  While processed foods may be convenient, they often have unwanted ingredients and preservatives and are high in sodium which can bloat our bodies.  The key is balance, but taking a break for a week or so will help you cleanse your system and leave you feeling great.

Disconnect for a Day 

In today’s world, it seems we are always connected thanks to cell phones and other mobile devices that allow us to be in touch with work, home, friends and family throughout the day.  Convenient as this may be, it can also lead to information overload.  Before you short circuit, set aside a day to disconnect, enjoy some quiet time and go gadget free. Remember, these are all modern day conveniences…not necessities.

Last UpdateFebruary 8, 2011