In the autumn and winter months, we often feel more like curling up on the sofa with a bowl of stodgy food than reaching for something nutritious. However, with colder weather comes coughs, colds, and the flu season, so it’s an important time to keep yourself well-nourished.
The good news is that making healthy choices doesn’t mean compromising comfort or taste. Here are our Nutritionist’s tips to keep healthy during the chillier months:
It’s a good idea to base your diet on seasonal foods to ensure you’re getting as many nutrients as possible. Non-seasonal foods will have been transported from afar, meaning they lose nutrients and freshness while in transit and storage. Here’s a quick guide to what’s in season during the autumn and winter months:
Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because your body produces it when your skin is exposed to sunlight. This can be problematic when the days are shorter, and it’s too cold to spend much time outdoors, as vitamin D deficiency can lead to depression, bone and joint pain, and fatigue.
You can get an amount of vitamin D from a variety of foods (including oily fish like salmon and mackerel, portobello mushrooms, fortified cereal and milk, egg yolks, and fortified juice), but it’s recommended that we consider taking a vitamin D supplement to boost our intake from October to March), when sunlight is less available. Aim for 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D each day.
Hormonal changes in the body commonly occur during colder seasons, which can cause the body to feel increased hunger and feel less satisfied with what they are eating. Studies suggest we tend to consume an extra 90-200 calories in winter as a result.
When you feel the urge for stodgy, comfort foods, try to limit refined (or ‘white’) starchy carbohydrates and opt for complex carbohydrates (the wholemeal alternatives) instead. These break down into the bloodstream more slowly, maintaining a steadier flow of energy and keeping you feeling full for longer. Look for whole grains like brown pasta, quinoa, oats and brown rice plus legumes and vegetables. These are not only higher in fibre but can give you a much-needed boost of serotonin, the ‘happy’ hormone.
We live in a busy world, and most of us don’t have the time to stand at the oven for hours on end. This is where a slow cooker comes in. Choose some good quality protein (such as chicken, beef, pork, lentils, or chickpeas), add stock and a selection of seasonal vegetables, and top up with some spices to add flavour and nutrients. Culinary herbs and spices that help us to feel warm include black pepper, cayenne, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and paprika. Leave it to cook on low heat, and by the time you finish work, you have a delicious meal ready.
Living and working in centrally heated buildings can dehydrate you, making you more susceptible to colds and flu. When dehydrated, you’re also more likely to feel fatigued and less productive, especially as the nights start to draw in.
While it’s tempting to warm up with a seasonal winter warmer from a coffee shop, those pumpkin lattes and spiced mochas don’t provide us with much more than empty calories, sugar, and fat. Herbal tea is a great alternative winter warmer to boost your fluid and nutrient intake whilst keeping you feeling toasty. Fresh lemon and ginger, apple and cinnamon, cardamom, and fennel tea are tasty warming options. Green tea is also an ideal winter drink as it contains beneficial antioxidants called polyphenols.
You can also start your day with a spicy juice shot containing plenty of ginger and turmeric. Aside from being packed with the nutrients we need in winter, it’s a great way to spice up a dark morning!