Did you know that studies* show that we eat an average of 86 calories more per day in winter? This equates to approximately 25 mins of walking for a 70kg person.
Did you know that exposure to sunlight produces dopamine (brain’s reward system) and serotonin (feel good chemical) in our bodies? Hence why our mood may be impacted and is a contributing factor as to why we seek comfort food.
Here are 5 healthy eating tips for winter to help you stay healthy and happy:
- Vitamins and Minerals. As the days get shorter and the temperature increases so does our desire to hibernate and avoid the wet and cold weather. Furthermore, humidity increases and our exposure to sunlight decreases. This is a recipe to increase our risk of catching the cold or flu. So, it is important that we bullet proof our health by ensuring we are consuming efficient amounts of vitamins and minerals. Foods containing vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, iron have proven to be effective in boosting our immune system to help fight the cold and flu season. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits and a variety of vegetables. Vitamin D is generally absorbed by sunlight however vitamin D supplements can be useful alternative while the sun is hiding. You can find zinc in eggs, fish and dairy, while foods like greeny leaves, nuts & seed, and legumes are great sources of iron.
- Gut health. Looking after your gut health is associated with boosting your energy, immune system, and mood. Your gastrointestinal system (GI) and your brain are closely acquainted and interact with each other more than many people are aware of. Research shows that a distressed gut is linked to a distressed mood. A GI that is not effectively working by digesting and absorbing all the important vitamins and minerals can lead to stress and anxiety, affecting sleep, mood and mental clarity. What can compound this factor is resorting to highly sugary and fatty foods to alleviate the distressed mood, which we all know is only a temporary fix and actually prolongs the problem. Foods that improve gut health include prebiotics (dark chocolate, fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrains), probiotics (yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, fermented foods). So, replace your comfort foods with healthy alternatives such as dark chocolate or vegetable soup with a of wholemeal bread.
- Focus on healthy carbs. Given our serotonin levels are decreased due to reduced exposure to sunlight, eating complex carbs is a way we can indirectly produce serotonin. As complex carbs are broken down it releases an amino acid called tryptophan which is released into the blood brain barrier and converted into serotonin in your brain. However, this is only effective when your complex carbs such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, and legumes are consumed with protein sources rich in amino acids. Which leads to tip number 4.
- Keep your protein levels up. Protein helps you keep fuller for longer to prevent all the sugary and carby cravings, preventing you from gaining the unwanted weight in winter. It helps stimulate your metabolism due its thermic effect, meaning it utilises more energy in order to be digested and processed. Protein is the building block of your muscles, so when partnered with weight training and exercise it will help maintain your muscle mass and strength gains ensuring that you maintain your health, wellness, and fitness in preparation for the summer months. Remember summer bods are made in winter! Furthermore a happy body equals a happy mind and vice-versa.
- Planning and Preparation. As the saying goes “Planning and preparation prevents poor performance”. This also applies to our eating habits. Understanding your macronutrient goals and using an effective tracking mechanism will help ensure that you are not overeating during winter. Furthermore, this helps with reducing cognitive load as planning and preparation reduces the daily decision making of your eating habits and frees up your brain for other priorities in your day, allowing for greater clarity and productivity. Vision PT can help you calculate your daily nutritional requirements, and our eating and exercise companion MyVision will help you track your daily nutrition. The leads to another saying, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. Apps like MyVision or MyFitnessPal allows you to measure/track your food to help you improve your health!