Monthly Archives: April 2019

Spring-Clean Your Mood!

When the days grow longer and become warmer, we all feel like breaking out of our winter ruts and changing our routines.  While you are spring-cleaning your house, why not spring-clean your mood as well? We have some ideas that can help you get healthier and put the winter blues behind you.

Bring Nature Inside

Find some fresh flowers in the garden or cut some beautiful foliage to put in a vase. The flowers will bring color into the house, and you can enjoy their sweet fragrance as well. According to Deborah Serani, a psychology professor at Adelphi University and author of Living with Depression, “Studies show that having greenery in your life reduces stress, reduces depressed mood, improves attention and concentration, reduces high blood pressure, and creates an atmosphere of beauty.  Adding plants and flowers works wonders for your well-being.”

Aromatherapy has become quite popular as a way to enhance mood, and the natural aromas flowers bring can be just as effective as oils. Not only do they provide a pleasing look and scent, but having plants in the house also raises the oxygen levels as well, making the air healthier and easier to breathe.

Remove Clutter to Revitalize

Getting rid of things no longer of use to you not only improves your living space, but it is beneficial for your state of mind as well. A cluttered space can induce stress and anxiety. Mary Jo Kreitzer, RN, Ph.D, said, “Since the earliest times, humans have needed to be sensitive to their surroundings to survive, which means that we have an innate awareness of our environment and seek out environments with certain qualities.” She elaborated that humans tend to seek out places where we can feel safe and secure—without too much stimulus—and places that provide physical comfort as well.

Your psychological comfort is affected by your surroundings. It is important that you let go of things you really don’t have room for, to keep your space uncluttered and soothing. As you sort through the things you truly want and need versus things that are only cluttering up your space and your life, you hone your identity and begin to understand what is truly important to you. This can bring joy and a sense of tranquility.

Rearrange for a New View, and a New You

Simply rearranging your furniture can be a major mood enhancer.  When moving into a new home, many of us will just put our couches and tables into whatever arrangement seems obvious. There are often other arrangements we never consider which could create a much better flow of energy in a room. The positioning of furniture can have a huge impact on your mood and on your enjoyment of your living space.

Omar Elbaga suggested on TinyBuddha, “Balance is more important than symmetry. The rule of thumb is to think outside the box and don’t decorate in the most obvious way.” Try turning your couch at an angle, with chairs positioned for easy conversation. Or, if you have the couch in the center of the room, experiment with pushing it up against a wall. You can often make a room look bigger just by the way you arrange the furniture.

According to Psychology Today, by rearranging your furniture, you can elevate your mood and instill satisfaction, effectiveness, comfort, and creativity. This is another way that you can spring-clean your way to better health.

Make the Most of your Mow…

Now that Spring has sprung, we must deal with fast-growing grass and weeds in the yard. While we tend to think of yard work as a chore, it is also a great opportunity to get some good exercise. You may want to opt for a push-mower instead of a riding mower and let working in the yard count as your daily exercise.

While the physical health benefits of exercise are reason enough by themselves, we also get the added boost of mood improvement from regular exercise. Exercise increases serotonin, which helps your brain to regulate sleep, appetite, and mood; overall, exercise helps alleviate chronic depression. Exercise also reduces certain chemicals in the immune system which can worsen depression.

A recent study has linked routine physical exertion with improvements in memory in older adults. We do a lot of bending and lifting when we work out in the yard, so spring cleaning outside offers an amazing amount of unexpected benefits. Fitness guru Jillian Michaels says that gardening “can burn up to 256 calories an hour, and lawn mowing 160 calories per half-hour.”

So, when you look out your window at the overgrown grass and the dandelions, instead of thinking of mowing it as a chore, think of all the good you are doing for your body, mind, and mental health by “spring-cleaning” your mood while you mow.

Meal Kit Delivery Services: What Can You Expect?

Preparing balanced meals is a top goal for most of us, although we don’t always have the time, energy, or ingredients to make it a reality. And let’s face it, our own skill in the kitchen sometimes leaves us a little short, and the family starts begging for take-out alternatives.

If you are struggling to satisfy picky eaters, can’t find the time to get to the store and plan out healthy meals, or if you are facing specific eating restrictions among your family members, you might want to consider a meal-kit delivery service. These have become wildly popular because they are so convenient and offer great meal options. Catering not only to different cuisine preferences, but also to a variety of dietary restrictions, this could be your solution to those hectic nights when you really don’t have time to go to the grocery store and plan out dinner.

There are many different services available, but the plans are all similar. Just select which service you think would provide the types of meals best-suited to your family’s preferences, and then when you sign up, you choose how many meals you need per week. The services have some variability in cost, but they average out at about $9-$12 per meal. Many offer promo-codes, so before signing up, do some online searches to locate potential cost-saving coupons. It’s also a good idea to determine what time frame is needed when cancelling so that you will know in advance of taking any vacations or should you want to try a competitor for a while.

What Can You Expect?

You will receive high-quality, fresh foods in your kit, along with recipes and everything you will need to create your meals. You do need to have some basics on-hand, such as salt and pepper, cooking oil, and possibly eggs; all other ingredients are supplied in your kit. You do also need to have your own pots and pans, knives, and occasionally an item such as a blender, cheese grater, or mixer.

Tailored Options and Extras

Some meal-delivery services provide optional extras, such as the available wine-pairing offered by Blue Apron, or the select cuts of specialty meat which can be purchased as an add-on from Home Chef or Sun Basket. Want to enjoy a decadent dessert after that amazing dinner? PeachDish and Plated are two that offer a dessert option.

If you are trying to tailor your diet around specific restrictions such as gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, or the Paleo-diet, then you may be surprised to learn that choosing a meal-kit delivery system might be an easier way to stick to the plan than going it alone. The Purple Carrot offers exclusively vegan meals, while Sun Basket has vegetarian, Paleo, as well as gluten-free choices. While some services only have a few recipes to select from each week, others have a wide assortment, so you should shop around to determine which service will best meet your needs.

In addition, some services assume that the person cooking has experience in the kitchen and there is variability in how much instruction you receive. Some very helpful resources offered by BlueApron and HelloFresh are their apps and video tutorials. This can really be a great asset for those among us who don’t have a lot of cooking experience and may need a little added help.

Whatever you are looking for, you can find a meal-kit delivery service that fits the bill with just a little looking. Signing up online is easy and straightforward, and with most you can pause or cancel your subscription just as easily. Below are some links to popular meal-kit delivery sites:

 

 

How to Exercise When the Pollen Count is High

If you are one of the many people who loves staying active outdoors, but you suffer from seasonal allergies, then you may find yourself becoming a lot more sedentary when spring arrives. Skipping out on these activities may help keep your allergies under control but becoming a “couch potato” is not the answer. Keep active by staying informed, changing your routine, and utilizing these strategies that will keep your body in motion and your energy at peak.

Track the Count
First you need to keep track of the pollen counts in your area. If you know which allergens you are sensitive to, that is even better. Many local news stations will tell you whether weed, tree, or grass pollens are expected to be higher than usual, and this can help you prepare. Another fast way to check pollen counts is online. Websites, such as the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology keep national pollen counts. You can check your local counts by clicking here.

Keep Your Eye on the Clock
Typically pollen counts will begin to rise in the morning and peak at midday, gradually falling toward evening. Generally, the lowest pollen count will be early in the morning before sunrise and late in the afternoon to early evening. However, if the pollen count is very high or if it is a windy day, pollen counts may remain elevated longer than usual. It is also normal in urban areas for the counts to peak and fall later than in the suburbs. Try to schedule your exercise to avoid the peak times of high pollen counts. The best time to get out is right after a good rainfall which washes a lot of the pollen out of the air and greatly reduces the pollen count.

Break out the Barriers
While outside, sunglasses can help protect your eyes not only from the sun, but also from pollen. Dab some Vaseline® around the edge of each of your nostrils before going out. This helps block pollen but be sure to reapply if you blow your nose. Covering your nose and mouth with a mask will really help minimize your inhalation of pollen when counts are high.

Choose an Alternative to Exercising Outdoors
If you usually exercise outside, consider trying a different venue for high pollen count days. There are many exciting and enjoyable opportunities such as indoor mountain climbing, indoor skiing, and even indoor sky diving.
A little less extreme option, but one that is easy and inexpensive is heading to a local indoor pool. Did you know that exercising in water is a great way to strengthen muscles? Water offers natural resistance that provides a more intense workout and increases the benefits of strengthening and toning. Even if you are not a swimmer, just walking, doing water aerobics, or dancing in the water offers great benefits. Many gyms and YMCAs offer the use of pools among their amenities for members, and city pools usually have a low entry fee for city residents.

In addition, Dr. Jay M. Portnoy, Division Director of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology at Children’s Mercy Hospitals in Kansas City says, “Allergies trigger asthma, making it much more difficult to exercise. It’s recommended that people with asthma take up swimming as an aerobic activity. The reason exercise makes asthma worse is because the airways dry out and get cold when you’re breathing fast. If you’re swimming instead of running outdoors, then there’s more moisture and warmth so you’re less likely to have trouble breathing.” Going to an indoor pool is a great way to avoid that pollen without skipping your exercise.

If walking or running is your thing, think “inside” the box. Many cities now have totally enclosed walking paths stretching for miles that can be an excellent way to get your exercise without subjecting yourself to pollen. If your city does not have an enclosed skywalk or underground pedestrian system, check with your local parks and recreation department as well as local fitness centers to see if there is an indoor walking track available. If not, consider walking through an indoor shopping mall or museum. Some cities have large airports that are fun to walk through as well.

Perhaps you prefer to avoid going outside altogether during pollen season. You can still get some great exercise right at home. If you own a treadmill or stationary bike, that would be an obvious first choice. However, for those of you who do not own any exercise equipment, why not try an exercise video? You can rent them at the library or find them available online. Amazon Prime and YouTube both have many fitness workout videos available for different fitness levels.

Whatever option you choose, it will definitely be better than skipping your exercise entirely. Track the pollen counts, strategize your timing, use barriers, and consider alternative venues for your exercise. You can avoid the pollen and still find different fun ways to stay fit!

 

Eating Healthier: In-Season Veggies and Fruits

The arrival of spring brings more people out running, going to the gym, and dieting (sometimes “crash” dieting) to be prepared for spring break, spring and summer vacations, and to “become healthier.”

One way to become healthier is to improve the quality of the nutrients you consume by eating locally grown, in-season fruits and vegetables. In-season being the time of year when a fruit or vegetable is usually harvested, is at its peak ripeness, and is most plentiful.

You may see fruits and other produce in your grocery store during all seasons of the year, but much of the time, it has been shipped from a distance—even other countries—where it may have been many days since it was harvested, and it also may have questionable nutrient value.

Benefits of Eating In-Season Fruits and Vegetables

Flavor. The flavor is more intense: Freshly harvested produce just tastes better than produce even a few days older. Think of biting into a fresh, crisp apple that is so fresh it squirts its juices with each bite, or a fresh peach which gives off its inviting smell before you even bite into it.

Higher-quality nutrients. Produce picked before it ripens does not have enough time in the sun for the nutrients to fully develop in the flesh of the fruit or vegetable. In-season fruits and vegetables have a higher vitamin C content which lowers the risk of infections, unlike the infection risks from the pesticides and preservatives in canned and processed foods. Canned fruits and vegetables rapidly lose anti-oxidants like vitamin C, folate, and carotenes when they sit on store shelves, but freshly picked ones are loaded with these health-giving substances.

Price. Seasonal produce and fruits are in abundant supply, so the price per pound is less—making it not only better for you but also cheaper. For non-seasonal produce shipped from other places such as California and Mexico, the shipping cost is passed along to the purchaser, resulting in higher prices. Transported produce must be picked before ripening, chilled during transportation to prevent rotting, and upon arriving at its destination, possibly heated in a hothouse to artificially ripen, which changes the texture and taste as well as greatly reducing the nutrients.

Avoiding Contaminates. Because of the stringent regulations on food grown in the United States, we can feel safe consuming foods grown here (and if there is an outbreak caused by foods grown in some areas, we are notified and told to return or throw out the named food). However, many countries overseas (from which some of our vegetables and fruits are sourced) have very relaxed laws concerning chemicals that are sprayed on crops grown there. They may not conduct or regulate soil contamination tests to ensure safe ground in which to grow fruits and vegetables. In some of these agricultural areas, heavy metals and other toxic contaminates have been found coming from industrial sites located in or near the same areas.

Community. Most communities have a farmer’s market or food co-op, and these are not only great places to get the freshest of in-season produce, but you can also talk with the farmers who produce these foods and learn about the methods they use. It is a plus to be able to support farmers who work so hard to provide healthy foods for the community and to help build connections which benefit everyone.

If you don’t have the time to visit a farmer’s market, you can often find some locally sourced produce at your grocery store. Many stores will even have it labeled as locally grown.

Another option is to invest in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Before harvesting time, you pay a lump sum to a local farm or group of regional farms. This gives you a “share,” which means that you receive weekly boxes of locally harvested and ultra-fresh produce. This arrangement is mutually beneficial since the farmer has improved cash flow to help with harvesting, and the share owner is guaranteed delicious and fresh produce from a known safe source.

A study from Johns Hopkins University and a recent one from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) found that only 11 percent of adults consumed the recommended daily servings of vegetables and fruit. But more than half exceeded their daily need for protein and grains and ate excessive amounts of sugar, saturated fats, and salt.

All of us need to improve on the amount of fruits and vegetables we eat daily to become healthier. Eating in-season produce can help us to achieve that goal.  Click here and enter your state in the drop-down at the top of the page to see what fruits and vegetables are in-season in your area.