Cool winter weather affects more than just your wardrobe and heating bill. Your body also experiences changes in energy levels, metabolism and even food preferences.
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Do you respond to bitter cold by skipping the gym and convincing yourself that you deserve a calorie intake to warm up and offset your discomfort? You are not alone.
But the cold truth is that no weather guarantees unhealthy eating habits. Just as you should not overdo ice cream during the summer dog days, you should not live on a solid diet with hot chocolate and hot cookies in the winter (no matter how tempting it sounds).
We asked some experts how to adapt our mindset and palates to winter.
“Winterizing your diet can be healthy – and tasty – if you add a few favorite foods in cold weather,” says registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD.
Healthy food to eat in winter
Not only are the following food options healthy, but did you know that they can boost your mood too? Psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD, adds her vitamin D-rich favorites to Czerwony’s recommendations below.
Local products can be hard to find when the cold weather hits. But root vegetables like beets, carrots and turnips can withstand the cold, so local farmers can supply fresh produce – and you can reap the benefits. Fry carrots for a boost of beta-carotene, or cook turnips for vitamins C and A.
Vitamin D rich foods
“Vitamin D-rich foods are the most important foods you should consider adding to your menu during the winter months. People who eat more emotionally during the fall have been shown to have lower levels of vitamin D, which is associated with more anxiety and depression, ”explains Dr. Albers.
She says a good source of vitamin D is shitake mushrooms. Other good options include salmon, egg yolks, fortified cereals, milk and red meat.
Oatmeal is much more than just a convenient breakfast food; it also provides nutrients that are essential in the winter. Oatmeal can be changed by adding hot spices like cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg without adding calories, fat, sugar or salt. And oatmeal is high in zinc (important for proper immune function) and soluble fiber (associated with heart health). Although instant oatmeal is more convenient, it is a little more expensive. To eat healthy on a budget, go with old-fashioned oats.
Soup is the perfect food for the winter – as long as you keep cream, salt and beef. Look for soup recipes that require chicken broth, vegetable broth or water as a base and include a lot of vegetables. Adding canned or dried beans or lentils to your soup adds fat-free protein, as well as much-needed fiber. Protein and fiber both suppress your appetite by slowing down digestion and controlling blood sugar, which can help control hunger and boost mood. Put your soup together with a side of 100% whole grain biscuits to also get a dose of cereal.
Cravings and emotional eating are also common at this time of year. Try to avoid snatching the sugary and processed snacks that can drag your mood down over time. Instead, Dr. recommends Alber’s sweet potatoes, beets and walnuts. Spicy roasted chickpeas are another alternative.
Immune boosting choices
Dr. Albers says that what you eat can not only affect your mood and sleep, but also your immune system.
“One of the best things you can do to help your immune system and boost your mood is to add foods that are high in vitamin C. These are foods like citrus fruits, oranges, mangoes, lemons, kiwis, but they exist. also in broccoli, peppers and strawberries, ”she advises.
Spicy tuna roll
For a surprising alternative to typical comfort foods – often filled with fat and sugar – try sushi. Choose rolls lined with tuna or salmon. Both are good sources of vitamin D. During the winter months, when you have limited exposure to the sun, food sources for the bone-healthy vitamin become even more essential. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with decreased growth, weakening of your bones and even risk of heart disease.
Broccoli and cauliflower
Aside from getting flu shots and washing your hands regularly, these cruciferous vegetables can be your best defense against winter illnesses. Broccoli and cauliflower are both high in vitamin C, which is associated with improved immune function. If you can not find fresh versions, do not worry – frozen broccoli and cauliflower are just as nutritious.
Why it is important to eat healthy in the winter
Czerwony and Dr. Albers both agree that careful, healthy diet choices are helpful for a stress-free lifestyle. If you feel overwhelmed by revising your entire diet, take it one step at a time, or replace one snack at a time. And remember, the seasons change!