The colder months are officially upon us, this is a time when comforting, hearty meals are aplenty and the thought of exercise on those chilly wet mornings becomes a little bit unwelcoming.
Remaining motivated and inspired during winter can be troublesome for some, particularly when it comes to nutrition as cold and flu season starts to hit. This time can wreak havoc on our immune system and can prevent us from staying healthy and on track. Setting some nutritional goals over this period will not only keep you healthy during the winter months but will help you remain focused on your goals.
Here are some tips on how you can put nutritional goals in place to set yourself up for success this winter:
Consuming Vitamin D Whilst sunny days can be far and few between during the cooler months, try to consume foods rich in Vitamin D such as eggs, oily fish, avocado, and dairy. Mushrooms are also a source of vitamin D and exposing them to sunlight for a few hours per day before putting them back in the fridge naturally multiplies their vitamin D levels.
However, if you do manage to find the sun peeking out from behind the clouds head outdoors for a walk and shed some clothing as you warm up as every little bit of sunlight on our skin assists in vitamin D production.
Don’t skip the fish! Following on from ensuring your Vitamin D intake is maintained, including oily fish in your diet over winter is particularly important, chose varieties such as wild salmon, sardines and mackerel. Fish also provide a rich source of vitamin B-12, protein and omega-3 fatty acids which all act to boost your immunity and energy over winter. Other kinds of seafood such as shellfish are also a good source of zinc which is equally as important for immunity. Choose local and seasonal fruit and veg Not only is eating seasonal fruit and vegetable better for the environment, it is also better for your health. Eating fruit and vegetables that naturally grow in certain seasons retain more nutrients than those which are grown outside of their naturally producing season. Eating locally and seasonally helps reduce the need for storage, transportation and unnatural preservation which affect the nutrient content of fruits and vegetables that are grown elsewhere and travel long distances. Fruits and vegetables are also more likely to be picked at peak harvesting time when locally and seasonally grown, making them more nutrient-dense. Fruit and vegetables which thrive in winter also happen to tick our nutritional needs for the season as well. For example, root vegetables such as pumpkin, potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots and radishes all offer high amounts of Vitamins A, B and C as well as beta carotene and other antioxidants which helps fight illnesses such as the common cold and flu. These vegetables are also very warming in the body as they take longer to digest which raises the body temperature – perfect for winter! Boost your herb & spice intake for extra flavour Include spices and herbs in your winter recipes as not only will they boost flavour and reduce the need for salt, but they can add a wide array of antioxidants and polyphenols to your diet. Some spices act to warm your body, others are anti-inflammatory. Try to include some healthy flavour to your meals in the form of turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, chilli, garlic, cumin, black pepper and cardamom for extra nutritional benefits this winter. Boost zinc over winter Ensuring you keep up your zinc intake will further act to fight off illnesses during winter and is excellent at fighting the common cold. Zinc serves as an antioxidant in the body as it balances hormones, repairs tissues, aids digestion, regulates immune response and fights free radicals and attacks damaged cells. Food rich in Zinc includes spinach, beans, nuts, oysters, pumpkin seeds, seafood and beef. Soups, casseroles, stews Cooking a variety of soups, casseroles and stews are a great way to boost vegetable intake, keep calories low and help make tasty warming meals that help warm the body and provide essential nutrients to keep you healthy. Don’t forget to add your favourite plant or animal protein sources such as legumes, beans, pulses, tofu or lean meat, chicken or dairy. Fibre – Increase fibre intake Generally, in winter we are moving less, and the digestive system can become sluggish. Ensuring you’re eating a wide variety of fibre-rich foods will not only help to keep the digestive system moving but acts to enhance gut health, nutrient absorption and also your mood and energy levels. Foods high in fibre include whole-grain oats, legumes such as lentils and beans, chia seeds, green leafy vegetables, nuts, quinoa and whole grains (bread, pasta & brown rice). Keeping hydrated Keeping hydrated over winter can be challenging. Drink herbal tea and other warm liquids to keep up your fluid intake whilst fighting off the chill. Herbal teas can also have mood-related benefits such as calming, soothing, energising or aiding digestion. Plus, liquorice tea can be used as a sweet treat without the sugar or calories too. Set weekly goals Lastly, set some goals weekly. Get yourself a weekly or monthly planner where you can visually see what you need to achieve for the week/month. Mapping out your workouts and healthy meals increase your chances of sticking to your goals and holding yourself accountable.