Soothing At-home Spa Treatments

Forget about expensive spas. The ingredients for some of the top relaxing and rejuvenating treatments are right in your kitchen cabinet or available for pennies at the store. Just mix them up and enjoy. Here are four of my all-time favorites.

1. Hot Chocolate Hot Stone Foot Bath
Perfect for: Smoothing and soothing sore feet
How to:
Place some smooth, small clean stones from your yard (or marbles) in a basin; fill with hot water. Add 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons buttermilk powder, 2 tablespoons baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and mix well. Put your feet in and roll them over the warm stones, concentrating on any achy spots, then soak until the water cools. This is a great start to a pedicure.

2. Brown Sugar Lip Scrub
Perfect for: Boosting your smile power with gentle exfoliation
How to:
Mix 2 heaping tablespoons solid coconut oil (if it’s liquid, refrigerate for a few minutes) with 2 tablespoons honey until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and mix again. Rub about 1 tablespoon of the mixture in circular motions on lips and try not to gobble it up -- at least until you’re done. The remaining scrub will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

3. Honey-almond Hand Scrub
Perfect for: Softening and relaxing overworked hands
How to:
In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon almond oil, the juice of 1/2 lemon and 2 teaspoons honey. Massage into hands, and wrap them with a clean towel. After 15 minutes, wash with warm water. This is a great treatment after a day of gardening.

4. Spiced Sore Muscle Massage Oil
Perfect for: Alleviating aches and inducing pure bliss
How to:
Mix 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, and a pinch each cayenne pepper and hot mustard powder in a small dish; set aside for 15 minutes. Massage into sore muscles (or better yet, have someone else do the massaging!), avoiding any broken skin.

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Spring-cleaning Special: Allergy-proof Your House

If you’re one of the more than 50 million people in the U.S. who suffer from some type of allergy, you don’t have to resign yourself to misery this time of year. “There are plenty of things you can do to cut down on the amount of mites, mold, mildew and pollen in your home,” says Dr. Janna Tuck, a physician and a fellow and board member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Here, her top tips for keeping your home as allergen-free as possible.

1. Don’t track in pollen.

When you come inside, make a habit of taking a shower, washing your face, brushing your hair and changing your clothes. (You should also throw your clothes in the washing machine as soon as you take them off.) If you or anyone you live with is allergic to pollen, these moves will prevent you from spreading them throughout the house.

2. Dust off your duster.

It’s important to dust and vacuum at least weekly to keep the mold, dirt and dust in your home to a minimum. “Ninety percent of most home dust is actually your own skin cells,” says Tuck. “If you’re decreasing that, you’re decreasing what the dust mites eat.”

3. Consider redecorating.

If you have a dust mite allergy, your carpet and furniture could be aggravating the problem. Tuck recommends switching from carpeting to tile, linoleum or hardwood flooring and swapping out cloth furniture for leather. If a whole-house renovation isn’t in the budget, Tuck says your bedroom is the first place you should ditch the carpet. “That’s the room that I ask patients to try to focus on since it’s the place in your home where you spend the most time,” she says.

4. Check for leaks.

Water leaks are a potential source of mold and mildew, and you probably don’t check for them frequently enough. At least twice a year, make sure to inspect the water hookup to your refrigerator and under your kitchen sink. “Most people don’t think about those pipes because they don’t see them very often,” says Tuck, “but if you spot a leak when it’s small, you can prevent a potential mold or mildew problem before it happens.” The twice-a-year rule also applies for the plumbing in your bathroom. If you’ve checked for leaks and still suspect mildew, call a plumber to check the venting.

5. Mind your mattress.

People who are allergic to dust mites should invest in allergy-proof cases for pillows, mattresses and box springs. Another good rule of thumb when it comes to the bedroom: Don’t let pets spend significant amounts of time there. Even if you’re not allergic to Fido, he can carry mold or pollen in his fur. To prevent animals from making your symptoms worse, brush your pets’ fur and bathe them weekly -- and make sure to do it outside.

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Great Get-healthier Kitchen Gadgets

As a health coach, I want my clients to cook and eat nutritiously. But I know that they won’t do it unless it’s easy and quick, which is totally understandable. After a long day, I certainly don’t want to spend lots of time laboring in the kitchen, so I’m always on the lookout for new kitchen gadgets and tools that save me time and effort while helping me eat healthfully. Here are five favorites I reach for over and over.

T-Fal ActiFry Low-fat Multi-cooker
Why I love it:
Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I’m a French fry fanatic. This appliance allows me to prepare super-crispy sweet potato or regular fries using just 1 tablespoon of heart-healthy olive oil. It takes about 40 minutes for a batch. But you can set it and forget it; a paddle stirs the food constantly for even cooking. It also cooks vegetables, whole grains, meat, poultry and fish. But the fries are worth the price alone.
Cost:
$200 at Amazon.com

Chef’n VeggiChop Hand-powered Vegetable Chopper
Why I love it:
Sometimes, I don’t want to bother dirtying my food processor just to mince a few cloves of garlic or chop some herbs, and it’s too time-consuming to do it by hand. That’s when I take out my beloved VeggiChop. It works kind of like a salad spinner. I pull the ring handle, and it chops. The more I pull, the finer the chop, from coarse to puree -- all in much less time than it would take me with my knife. Then, I scoop out my beautifully minced garlic and put the bowl, blade and lid in the dishwasher. I also like the fact that it doubles as a storage container for the chopped food.
Cost:
$19.95 at Williams Sonoma

Casabella Silcone Muffin Pan
Why I love it:
Unlike regular pans, silicone bakeware doesn’t need to be greased, and it washes up in seconds. I use this pan for much more than muffins: It’s great for portion-controlled individual servings of healthy whole-grain mac ’n’ cheese, molded polenta cakes and even meat loaf. The pan is oven-safe (up to 500 F), freezer-safe and dishwasher-safe. The company also makes silicone loaf pans, bundt pans and other shapes.
Cost:
$11.99 at Casabella.com

Prepara Tabletop Oil Mister
Why I love it:
Instead of tossing vegetables I’m roasting in lots of healthy but caloric olive oil, I use this mister. It deposits a thin, even layer of oil -- just enough to prevent sticking and promote browning. I also love that it’s BPA-free and dishwasher-safe. It’s also powered with a hand pump, which means no aerosols or chemical propellants. I even use it to make special spice-infused oils.
Cost:
$19.99 at Prepara.com

Vitamix 5200 Standard
Why I love it:
Yes, it’s incredibly pricey. But the Vitamix is hands down the best, most useful kitchen gadget I’ve ever owned -- and it will probably last my lifetime. If you’ve never seen one in action, it’s like a blender on steroids. It chops, creams, blends, grinds, kneads and more with a blade that turns so quickly, I sometimes think the machine is going to take off and fly. I use it every day to make healthy smoothies, homemade almond milk, pesto and sauces, and fantastic frozen desserts in just minutes (no need to freeze). It even creates hot soup from fresh vegetables. (There’s no heating element, but the blades turn so quickly that they heat the liquid.) And it even cleans itself! When I’m done, I just pour a little water and dish soap in and turn it on, then give it a quick rinse. You can also get a special attachment for making your own flour and cereal, though I haven’t tried that yet. If you can fit it in your budget, the Vitamix will change your cooking life forever.
Cost:
$449 at Vitamix

What are your favorite kitchen gadgets? Comment below or connect with us @Completely_You

 

Give Your Bathroom a Healthy Makeover

Germy toilets. Grimy showers. Cluttered cabinets. It’s easy to see why the bathroom may be one of the unhealthiest rooms in your house.

Take control of your bathroom this year by giving it a healthy makeover for spring. Some simple reorganizing, cleaning and change of habits will have your bathroom clean and sparkly in no time. Here are eight easy makeover tips from Donna Duberg, assistant professor of clinical laboratory science for St. Louis University:

Bathroom Makeover Step No. 1: Clear the clutter.
Leaving cosmetics on the counter exposes them to bacteria, which is then applied to your eyes, face and mouth. “Keep them in something covered if you do,” says Duberg. In addition, lotion bottles, toothpaste and hairbrushes give dust and other germs an additional place to settle. Too much clutter also discourages routine cleaning. Instead, stash these products in drawers and closets.

Bathroom Makeover Step No. 2: Bring toothbrushes out on the counter.
Sealing them up in a closed environment, like your medicine cabinet, encourages bacterial growth, says Duberg. If you must keep them there, try drying the toothbrush with a clean towel first. If you keep your toothbrush on the counter or sink, keep it as far from the toilet as possible to avoid any germ spray if someone forgets to close the lid before flushing. Also, whenever someone in the house has diarrhea or a respiratory illness, replace toothbrushes as soon as the illness ends.

Bathroom Makeover Step No. 3: Purge your medicine cabinet.
Get rid of medications that have expired or that you no longer need. Read labels carefully for instructions on disposal. Call the local trash and recycling service and ask about drug take-back programs. If there are no instructions or programs, mash up the drugs and mix them into coffee grounds or kitty litter. Seal them in a plastic bag or coffee can before throwing them in the trash.

Bathroom Makeover Step No. 4: Post a reminder over the toilet.
The reminder should say something like, “Always close the lid when you flush.” This is important because toilets contain more than 3 million bacteria per square inch, says Duberg. Flushing creates an aerosol that allows the germs to land on toothbrushes, counters and magazines -- and anything else that’s close by.

Bathroom Makeover Step No. 5: Check the vent.
Dust, mold and bacteria can collect in vents too. When you turn on the vent, it distributes these unhealthy organisms. Give your vents a thorough cleaning or vacuuming once a month.

Bathroom Makeover Step No. 6: Wipe down the shower and tub.
And be sure to do it after each use too. Viruses and bacteria from your skin collect on these surfaces. The moist setting also provides a breeding ground for mold. Spritz surfaces every few days with a mixture made up of one part vinegar and nine parts water. Vinegar doesn’t require rinsing and is safe for children and pets. If you prefer a 10 percent bleach solution, keep in mind that it has to be rinsed off and prepared freshly every day in order to kill mold.

Bathroom Makeover Step No. 7: Wash the floors.
Wipe down the floors with the vinegar and water mix you use on the shower surfaces. Use washable rugs that are easily tossed in the washer and dryer. And don’t wear outdoor shoes in the bathroom -- or anywhere else in the house.

Got more tips for how to give your bathroom a healthy makeover? Comment below or connect with us @Completely_You

Winter Chores Made Easier -- and Safer

Cold weather sure does make household tasks pile up. Before you tackle your to-do list, chill out with these tips from injury-prevention experts.

1. Keep Floors Clean and Clear

Footwear covered with mud, rock salt, sand and snow not only makes a huge mess, but also spreads the germs carried in the dirt.

The easier, safer way: The best strategy to prevent other winter goop from being tracked all over the house: Keep baskets by the door for shoes and boots. Designate a basket for all the messy footwear and another for the clean footwear. Then you and the kids simply have to change shoes when walking through the door. If you have young children who keep forgetting to swap out their snow boots, institute a reward system: For every day of no slip-ups, they will earn a sticker, extra story time, or a few more minutes of playtime. It’ll turn ’em into snow angels in no time!

2. Build a Worry-free Fire

With oil and gas prices going through the roof, you might be relying on your fireplace a lot more this year. “It’s a fine alternative -- provided you use it wisely,” says John Ulczycki, group vice president of the National Safety Council.

The easier, safer way: First of all, if you haven’t had your fireplace cleaned in the last year, make an appointment. “The buildup of materials in there can trigger chimney fires,” cautions Ulczycki. Once you have that taken care of, clear the area around the hearth of decorations, debris or flammable materials. “Kids may want to cuddle close to the fire with their pillows and blankets, but that can be dangerous,” he says. Another bad move: Using flammable liquids to start a fire and tossing in trash, paper or other debris to get flames roaring along. Instead, choose dense woods, such as oak, that have been split and stored in a dry place for at least six months. Place the logs at the rear of the fireplace on a metal grate and start the fire with kindling.

3. Shovel Snow Smart

Don’t be among the 17,000 Americans who will head to the ER this year because they got hurt clearing their driveways or sidewalks. “We see all kinds of strains and sprains, plus some fractures caused by improper snow-shoveling techniques,” says Roxanne Wallace, an orthopedic surgeon at Elliot Hospital in Manchester, N.H. What’s more, this much-dreaded winter task also raises your risk of having a heart attack.

The easier, safer way: To get the job done without a backache (or worse!) the next day, Wallace suggests you push the snow as much as possible rather than lift it. “When you have no other option, bend at your knees, lift the snow with your back straight and throw it straight in front of you,” she says. “Tossing it off to the side or over your head will put extra strain on your spine and heart.” Also work in 20-minute shifts with a break of that length in between; don’t try to get it done in one fell swoop. And keep a water bottle out there with you. Think about it: Snow removal can be just as strenuous as anything you do at the gym, and it doesn’t seem silly to swig water there, right?

Are you shoveling snow this year? Comment below or tweet us @Completely_You