If you’re anything like me and would gladly hibernate until spring, then winter is definitely not your friend. Sadly, winter is inevitable, and rather than fight it you should embrace it.
The cold, dark days can play havoc with your health and therefore it’s important to note that your nutritional needs are different in the colder months. These tips should ensure you are meeting all of your winter nutritional requirements.
1. Look after your immune system
Colds and flu are rife at this time of year, so to keep your immune system fighting fit stock up on antioxidant rich berries, garlic, turmeric, oats and oily fish. Probiotics can really help (70% of your immune system is in your gut) whilst sugar is an immune system foe (step away from the giant Quality Street tin).
2. Avoid winter weight gain.
The body naturally tries to store fat in the winter which makes fat loss harder, but not impossible. Sticking to the ‘no carbs at night’ rule can help, but it’s easier to stock up on salads in the warmer months and so what do you do when you need something a little more filling and comforting? The trick is to swap your salads for soups (home made tomato is a great one), stews and casseroles. You need to be a little more creative with food in the winter and so I’ve been cooking ratatouille, chicken or vegetable curries, salmon and broccolli bake or chicken leek and mushroom bake. These healthy dinners are easy to make and have all the comfort factor minus the carbs – result!
3. Stay active
This is a tough one and I sympathise. The motivation to train in the winter months is just not the same as when the sun is shining. The temptation is to stay in your warm, cozy bed, or go straight home from work to the warmth of your home rather than training. The thing is, we live in a cold country, and with risk of sounding harsh, you just have to get over it. Buy yourself the right running gear – thermals if necessary – and get out into the cold winter air. You’ll be surprised how quickly you warm up! If you really can’t face the cold outdoors, then join a gym or do an exercise DVD instead. Whatever it is just make sure you stay active and train at least twice a week. Your body will thank you in the spring when it’s time to ditch all those layers of clothing. Plus it gives you a little more calories to play with allowing you to indulge in the (not so) occasional mince pie. Which brings me to my next point.
4. Indulge, don’t binge.
The winter period means Christmas, and with that brings the associated chocolate and alcohol consumption. If I had a penny every time I heard the ‘but it’s Christmas’ excuse I would be a very rich girl. Of course it’s ok to indulge occasionally, but do not treat Christmas or the cold months as an excuse to binge on anything and everything (that last quality street that no-one likes, and you’re still eating it? That’s bingeing). Or eating for the sake of eating. Everything should be done in moderation in life, but if you do find yourself over-eating one day then just try that bit harder to get straight out there for a run the next day.
5. Boost your Vitamin D intake
Our bodies produce Vitamin D from exposure to the sun, thus winter can bring about deficiencies. Vitamin D is essential to build strong bones, aid with the immune system, regulate blood pressure and help with our moods and therefore it’s crucial to get an adequate supply. Good food sources of Vitamin D are oily fish, shitake mushrooms and fortified eggs for example. The older generation can have Vitamin D booster injections in winter, (please see your doctor for advice) and you can also take a Vitamin D supplement. If you do choose to take a supplement, make sure you choose the active form, D3 for best results.
6. Moisturise from the inside.
The cold weather coupled with the central heating can play havoc with your skin and most of you will experience drier skin in the colder months. Healthy fats like avocados, nuts and seeds help, but be sure to drink plenty of water as it’s easy to become dehydrated in winter because you don’t feel hot or sweat as much.