Maintaining proper nutrition in winter is not always easy. Holiday treats, alcohol and comfort foods are readily available. And who feels like making a healthy salad when you can hear the wind howling outside and you can’t seem to get warm?
Follow these 7 winter nutrition tips to stay healthy:
#1. Ingest more Vitamin D, either through sun exposure, supplements or eating Vitamin D-rich foods. Recent studies have indicated that as many as half of all adults and children worldwide are deficient in Vitamin D. Vitamin D, which is created by sun exposure, usually drops significantly in the winter, especially in colder climes, such as the Windy City.
Evidence strongly correlates low levels of Vitamin D with depression, foggy thinking, fatigue, muscle weakness and bone pain. There is also evidence Vitamin D plays a role in preventing autoimmune disorders, cancer, Type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
The need for Vitamin D increases as you age. The U.S. Institutes of Medicine recommend 600 IU daily up to the age of 70 and 800 IU thereafter. Since Vitamin D is fat-soluble, more is not necessarily better: Higher doses may increase the risk of falls in older people. Statin drugs and other medications may also affect the metabolism of Vitamin D.
Three ways to increase levels of Vitamin D are to:
Increase sun exposure. You don’t need a lot, but you need 20 to 25 minutes of exposure on bare skin every couple of weeks if you’re light-skinned. You need more if you have more melanin. Light from a window won’t work. Ultraviolet bulbs, such as those used in tanning salons, also generate Vitamin D.
Eat foods rich in Vitamin D. They include fatty fish, such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon; cod liver oil; beef liver; cheese; egg yolks; and mushrooms. Certain foods, such as orange juice, cereals, and soy milk, may also be fortified with Vitamin D.
Take supplements, which are available as Vitamin D3 or D2. D3 is the actual vitamin, but if you’re a vegetarian, you can take D2, and your body should be able to convert it.
“Whole grains and high-quality carbs such as sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkins, and squash help boost serotonin levels,” says Registered Dietitian Gloria Tsang.
#3. Eat more antioxidant fruits and vegetables to boost your immunity during winter. Foods rich in Vitamin C and beta-carotene include citrus fruits, broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potato, and spinach, and foods rich in zinc include fish, oysters, poultry, eggs, milks, unprocessed grains and some cereals.
#4. Drink more green tea to ward off viruses. Green tea also reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke, osteoporosis, and tooth loss. Herbal teas, depending on the herbs, also have significant benefits, such as helping with digestive issues and insomnia (chamomile), Alzheimer’s prevention (rosemary), and blood sugar reduction (eucalyptus).
#5. Don’t forget probiotics. Yogurt, sauerkraut and other foods offer probiotic effects, but they frequently include unhealthy ingredients, such as salt and sugar. Even if sauerkraut is a favorite winter dish, a probiotic supplement may be your best bet.
#6. Consider ethnic or vegetarian restaurants. If you prefer to eat out, ethnic and vegetarian fare may be more nutritious and lower in calories and fat. Some favorite restaurants close to The Admiral at the Lake that meet those criteria include Loving Heart (vegan), Uptown Pho (Vietnamese), and Wabi Sabi Rotary (sushi).
#7. Enjoy soups for their nutrient value and warmth. Unfortunately, most store-bought foods are full of salt and fat. The American Institute for Cancer Research offers healthy soup recipes that may also prevent cancer. If, after battling the wind and cold, you’re too exhausted to make your own soup, try some of the healthier canned soups tested by Family Circle.
Weight Loss Cabbage Soup
For those trying to take off weight in a healthy way during this difficult time of year, try this nutritious soup recipe:
1 green pepper
1 large can diced tomatoes (low salt)
6 stalks celery
1 large onion – chopped
1-2 cubes of low-salt bouillon (if desired)
1 head cabbage
48 oz. of V-8 Juice (low sodium)
4 cups of water
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (or to taste)
Rinse all vegetables, then chop into bite-size pieces.
Heat olive oil in pan and add onion to sauté for 2 minutes. Add celery and pepper, and sauté for 4 or 5 more minutes.
Pour in water, V-8 Juice, bouillon cube(s), hot sauce and tomatoes.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes).
Core then shred cabbage. Add it to the pot, and cook soup for another 10 minutes. Adding the cabbage at the end of your cooking time preserves its nutritional value.
Eating nutritiously is especially important in the winter, even though it may be more difficult. Make the effort, and your body will thank you for it!