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7 Ways to Spring Clean Your Health - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

7 Ways to Spring Clean Your Health

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You've washed the blinds, put away the winter coats and organized a yard sale. Now it's time to do some internal spring cleaning. Follow these seven steps, and you'll be ready for a healthy and happy season.

Reorganize your pantry. "For many people, if something tempting is within easy reach, they'll take the bait," says Connie Holt, a registered dietitian from Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. "Take stock of your cupboards and get rid of anything that might hinder your health goals."

That means throwing out store-bought cookies, sugared cereals and anything with a lot of sodium, Holt says. Her rule? Only keep foods in the house you'd feel comfortable having your kids eat all the time.

Then restock your pantry with items such as whole-grain pasta, canned beans and brown rice.

Go outside! If you hit the gym for an hour, you'll probably burn between 200 and 400 calories. But do a fun activity outside and you'll never notice the time flying by, Holt says.

"If I go out to the garden, I'm probably there for six hours," she says. "I'm not always out of breath, but if you're weeding, mulching, you have your heart rate going up and down."

Go for a hike at a state park or take your kids outside to play a team sport. They'll be active for longer and sleep later the next morning!

Redesign your meal plan. Springtime means the arrival of a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Have you ever eaten steamed artichokes? Grilled asparagus? Sweet cherries? Snow peas? Find recipes online or in your favorite cookbook and write down a meal plan for the week. Get your children involved, Holt says, and they'll be more likely to try what's on their dinner plate.

Throw out those pills. You go through your closet to throw out clothes that are long past their fashion expiration date, but what about your medicine cabinet? If you have a bottle of prescription painkillers from an old surgery, toss it, says Ernest Boyd, executive director of the Ohio Pharmacists Association.

"Don't tempt your children, grandchildren or even yourself with medicines that have the potential to start an addiction."

You may also want to set up an appointment with your pharmacist to ask about the drugs you're taking, Boyd says. A pharmacist will be able to spot bad interactions between different prescriptions and may be able to reduce the number of drugs you need.

Kill kitchen bacteria. The marks on your baseboards might drive you crazy, but they're unlikely to make you ill. The bacteria crawling over your kitchen counter may be a different story. Did you know that there's probably more E. coli in your kitchen sink or on your cutting board than in your toilet? Or that sponges and dishcloths are like breeding grounds for salmonella?

Do a thorough wipedown with an alcohol or bleach solution, Holt says, and then create a chore schedule to keep it up.

Remember to also wash your cloth grocery bags regularly!

Refresh your workout. You've been hitting the treadmill all winter and it's starting to get as old as the "Seinfeld" reruns you watch while working out. Switching up your exercise routine will get you out of the rut and increase your overall fitness.

Tired of flying solo? Ask a friend to go with you to a Zumba class or join a bootcamp program. Need a new challenge? Tackle a few 5Ks on your way to training for a triathlon. Whatever you do, your muscles will thank you.

Make an appointment. If you're like most Americans, the only time you head to the doctor is when you're sick. Use spring cleaning as an opportunity to do a little preventive medicine.

Make an appointment with your primary care physician, dentist, gynecologist or dermatologist to do that annual checkup. Learning that your blood pressure is too high or your flossing skills are below par will help you focus on healthy habits.

"Taking measures early on may help prevent emergencies from happening later," Holt says.

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