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6 Ways to Spring Clean Your Health

Toni-Ann DiSantis

After the remarkable winter season that much of the country endured, it’s no wonder most people are ready to embrace spring. Something about this season evokes the need to make changes – to lighten up, to slow down and enjoy life, and to simply tidy up. Why not embrace these natural inclinations and apply them to your health? Here are six ways to spring clean your health habits:


Bring in the sunshine. Our vitamin D status tends to take a dip in the winter months, due to lack of sun exposure. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to seasonal depression, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. Our body will make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun, but the American Academy of Dermatology warns against relying on sun exposure for vitamin D, due to the potential for skin cancer. Instead, they urge people to get the sunshine vitamin from foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D (like salmon), foods that have had vitamin D added (like dairy products) and dietary supplements. The upper limit recommended for most adults is 4,000 IU a day (if you choose to supplement), but your doctor may advise more if your blood levels are significantly low.


Air it out. Being cooped up inside can limit opportunities for movement, especially aerobic-type activities that raise your heart rate and help you work up a good sweat. Now that it's spring, take advantage of the weather by adding in some brisk walks, bike rides or hikes. Activities that make you breathe harder help oxygenate your blood, boost your mood, clean out your arteries and strengthen your heart.


Freshen up with color. One of the best ways to improve your overall diet is to simply focus on adding a lot of color to your meals. With spring comes a fresh variety of produce that is bursting with flavor and nutrition. Embrace the season by adding in bright berries, green artichokes, asparagus and leafy spring mixed greens.


De-clutter your diet. Added sugars, sodium and fats are the tchotchkes of the diet, so to speak. Used sparingly, they enhance a healthy diet beautifully with flavor; used excessively, they are overwhelming and become clutter. Find ways to dial down your use of these additives, so you can get back to using them with purpose, rather than cluttering up your diet with too many calories and sodium. Switch out your sugary beverages to plain water or unsweetened iced tea. Experiment with fresh herbs to add flavor without the use of salt. Switch to grilled options of food rather than fried to cut down on extra fat.


Tidy up your kitchen. Cooking is a necessary part of eating better. Having a well-stocked, but organized, pantry is one step toward actually wanting to be in your kitchen. Go through your kitchen cabinets to get them clean, fresh and organized. This will make cooking much more pleasurable and simple. Added bonus: Donate those non-perishable food items you don’t see yourself using in the next few months – food banks are in dire need of donations at this time of year.


Lighten up. We have lived through another season of heavy portions and eating until we need to unbutton our pants. Spring is a time to lighten up – with eating, this means getting back to reasonable portions that don’t require sweat pants to feel comfortable.  Consider switching out to smaller plates – research has shown that we automatically eat more when the plate size is larger. Eat slower so you can check in with your level of fullness. Pause before reaching for a snack and ask yourself if you're really hungry.