Get Happy, Get Healthy: Spring Clean Your Pantry
May 28, 2014
Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RD, ACSM HFS
Have you ever thought there’s more to health than diet and exercise? Don’t get me wrong, low cholesterol, exercise, sleep, time management, stress, eating enough protein, fruits, and vegetables, and getting some down time are all key factors that play into our health... but the one thing most of us neglect to consider are the things that make us happy. So why does happiness trump an extra serving of leafy greens or an extra 30 minutes of cardio at the gym when it comes to health?
Well, for starters when you're happy you're more likely to stick to your healthy habits like getting good exercise and eating well, which in turn engage the hormones and neurotransmitters that influence your happiness. When your mood is down, you’re more likely to skip workouts, do some heavy-duty emotional overeating, and have difficulty sleeping.
A few weeks ago, I taped some interview segments for The OWN Show where I talked about a variety of health and nutrition issues, but the one theme that kept coming up was the influence of happiness on your health. Throughout these segments I share my thoughts on scheduling your own “happy hours” (and I’m not talking about the 5 o’clock drink specials). What I mean by “happy hour” is to schedule one hour a week – just one hour a week – to do something that makes you happy. Click here to read more about my “happy hours” and to view my OWN video clips.
When it comes to being happy, think of ways you can grow this season and do a new type of "spring cleaning" – I can’t think of a better place start a “happy hour” than in your own kitchen!
The first thing you should do to eat healthier is “spring clean your kitchen”. This is a great first step to making cooking easier. It's amazing how an organized (or at least more organized space) makes your head clear and inspires you to do something good like make a healthy meal!
- Go through that grimy fridge. Toss out old stuff. Wipe down bottles. Make room in your refrigerator for seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods you want to try.
- Spring is a great time of year for fresh apricots, cherries, kiwi, mandarins, grapefruit, swiss chard, green beans and all types of lettuces. Try this curry chicken mandarin cashew salad for an easy lunch you could make ahead and eat all week.
- Dust off your cookbooks and try new recipes. I really love this Lemon Pepper Spinach Salad with Chicken. It’s a refreshing dish full of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, making it a perfect spring time favorite.
- Refresh your pantry by stocking up on herbs and spices that will allow you to flavor your foods without adding extra salt, sugar, and fat.
- Ever wonder how long you should keep those dried spices and herbs sitting in your cabinet? Click here to see a helpful infographic from McCormick on spice freshness.
- Build a "cantry" with nourishing foods that help make meal prep easier like canned beans, tomatoes, salmon, olives, artichokes, peaches, tuna, mushrooms, and pumpkin.
- Simplify cooking. You don’t need to prepare a 3-course meal every night! Try this easy and healthy Lemon-Parmesan Broccoli as a delicious side dish.
The key to succeeding when making a change is to start small and start simple. The most important thing is being consistent. Schedule that one-hour each week to do something that makes you happy, protect it in your calendar and never cancel on your own happiness. If you are consistent with this new behavior it will eventually become a habit and a good one! Remember: progress, not perfection. Cleaning up clutter will help you clear your mind – every little bit of effort counts when it comes to being happy!
Registered dietician Rebecca Scritchfield is the founder of Capitol Nutrition Group, a Washington, DC private practice committed to helping people live healthy lives on their own terms. An expert on the connection between happiness and health, Rebecca advocates for self-care as the foundation for long-term health. Follow her on Twitter @ScritchfieldRD.