Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Published 7:00 AM by with 0 comment

5 Steps to Better Health During Wintertime

Finally re-joining the land of the living. We're all getting caught up on sleep. Harmony's cough is still pretty bad, but she's playing and crawling again, hooray!

Every year since college I've done a special "refresh" boost in my diet around February or March. Now that I'm recovering from this sickness it seems like a great time to be refreshed! After months of heavy, savory foods, little sunshine, fighting off all the sniffles and coughs, and bipolar weather (thank you, Missouri), my body is ready for a change.

These steps are not prescribed by a doctor or intended to cure or magically prevent any diseases. I still catch a cold (like this past week), still get worn out with stress sometimes, etc. Rather, these methods of improving one's health are meant to give your immune system, your digestive system, your muscles, your mental state, and your overall well-being a better chance to recover, revitalize, and shine!

Here's what I do to become "refreshed" in the middle of winter. If it helps anyone else who reads this and wishes to give it a try, then that's wonderful : )

~ If the weather is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher and not pouring rain, we go outside! Even in the dead of winter, it's important to get some fresh air. Sunshine is best, but don't let a few clouds stop you from venturing outdoors! Fifteen minutes a day at least in the wintertime is what I shoot for, with an accompanying brisk walk, or longer if the weather is amicable. With Harmony around, I can't go out if it's too windy since she doesn't like super breezy weather yet, but other than that (and rain), we go outside as much as possible, bundled up to our ears against the cold.

Harmony rides along either in her stroller or the Ergo baby carrier; I'm a fan of the Ergo in cold weather, because we keep each other warm ; ) This carrier was a resale store deal that I found for almost half the normal price! She loves being up near the action as I do house-work or cook, while riding on my back or my front, and will happily take naps in it too. The Ergo is my life-saver!

~ Water. Lots and lots of water. Take whatever you normally drink and double it every day. I would usually squeak by with 4-6 glasses, which really isn't great, and eventually I will feel the effects of it. By drinking 8-10 large glasses a day, sooooo many good things happen with my body that I always wonder why I don't do it all the time! I will also count one glass of juice and any mugs of herbal tea towards my liquid consumption. Coffee, caffeinated drinks, sodas, and sugary juices aren't useful for your body's health or rehydration, so avoid those as much as possible.

~ Cutting out processed foods and sugar! Yes, this is the not-so-fun part. As far as sweets go, my rule during this time is that if I make it myself, then a small amount is okay. The way I look at it: a few home-made peanut butter cookies, a small dish of vanilla pudding, or a slice of my mom's delicious skillet apple pie is better for me in the long run than a candy bar or sugar-filled cereal or a donut. Plus, if you cook it yourself, then you're burning off calories while making them, right? If I'm willing to go through the trouble of creating a dessert, then by golly, I must really want it!

I cook most of my family's food from scratch, so eliminating processed food as much as possible isn't too bad. Cooking at home allows me to put more vegetables in my family's diet, a big bonus! I still utilize some prepared items, like whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread, some sauce mixes, etc. We definitely have to plan our meals and preparation carefully, however, because it takes much more time to cook everything rather than heat a frozen meal or get take-out.

~ Probiotics do incredible things for my digestive system. There are many, many brands out there, so do be aware that all probiotics are not created equal. The one I take is in a powdered form, is extremely potent, and tastes dreadful, so I always have to put it in a small cup of juice. When I take the probiotic, my digestion works so much more smoothly, I feel more alert and well in general, my immune system is strengthened, and if I do catch a cold, then I fight it off quickly.

~ Here's my favorite part: green smoothies. Seriously, these things are so delicious! I don't like the taste of any greens in my smoothies except for spinach, but if you're one of those brave people who like the taste of kale, parsley, or lettuce in your smoothie, then more power to you. Spinach is my go-to green since it has a very mild flavor and is packed with good stuff. When you add it to the fruits, you can barely taste it at all.

Besides a generous handful of spinach (probably two dense handfuls, actually), I will add between 3-6 servings of fruit, water or orange juice to thin it out, occasionally raw honey, often two or three tablespoons of flaxseed meal (look at how awesome it is for you!), ice cubes if the fruit isn't cold/frozen, and a dollop of yogurt if I have it. Right now, bananas aren't expensive, oranges are on sale at a local store, and frozen berries are easy to come by, so I just use what my budget allows. Here's a list of the fruits I use at various times of the year, depending on what is in season or on sale:

~ Fresh or frozen strawberries
~ Fresh or frozen berries
~ Oranges
~ Bananas
~ Mangos
~ Soft pears
~ Peaches
~ Nectarines
~ Very ripe kiwis
~ Fresh or frozen pineapple
~ Cantaloupe

Side note: just noticed that my sheep salt-shaker is photo bombing these pictures...

If you have a very powerful blender like a Vita-Mix, then you can add more diverse fruits like apples, grapes, etc. My blender kinda sucks so I have to use only soft fruits without difficult skins. I simply throw it all in there a few bits at a time, mix it up, and drink it down with a straw! Typically I can drink an entire liter (4 cups) worth of green smoothie by myself. It helps to try different variations of flavors to keep my palate interested! If there is any left-over then I will put it back in the freezer for later or fill up an ice cube tray to use in later smoothies.

For more information about green smoothies, take a look at some of these posts from a lovely fellow blogger over at Happy Foody.


So there we have it: Alyssa's Five Steps for Health. It takes at least a week for me to begin feeling the positive effects of everything really kicking in. Diligence and perseverance are important. Feelings of laziness or wanting to quit after nine or ten days ALWAYS comes up, but I just have to press on and continue as best as I can! By the time a month has gone by, if I've done these five steps every single day, then I feel wonderful and ready to leap into springtime!

How do you combat the winter blues in your journey towards better health? I'm always looking for new ideas!