Winter is well and truly here! Chances are, if you are a true Canberran, you’ve already invested in a high-quality ice scraper and got the Michelin Man trend down pat. It is safe to say, we are feeling the chill and with that comes the challenges of staying healthy and motivated during the cooler months. I mean, who wants to get out of a cosy bed on a dark and sub-degree morning to exercise?
During winter it’s natural to retreat indoors and eat more than usual. After all, comfort foods and cold weather go hand in hand. However, it is during these cooler months that our bodies crave more warming, nourishing foods. More nutrients to keep our immunity strong and keeping us feeling strong and well.
That is why I have put together my top 10 tips to staying healthy this winter.
1. Eat a balanced diet
Eating a variety of food high in nutritional value will provide your body with the vitamins, carbohydrates and fats it needs to support your immune system. Focus on eating whole foods, such as lean quality protein, legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, as well as plenty of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed meats, fried foods, soft drinks or products with refined sugars in them, as eating too much can suppress your immune system and not to mention get in the way of all the goodness you could be consuming.
2. Drink lots of water
Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your health, especially in winter. It can be difficult to reach that 2L mark, especially in the cooler months, so try incorporating some warm water and herbal tea into the mix. Often when we feel peckish it is a sign of dehydration, so next time you mindlessly reach for the cupboard, make sure you’ve had a glass of water.
3. Make 7-8 hours of sleep a day non-negotiable
The body repairs and strengthens itself when it’s at rest. If you can, sleep 7 to 9 hours a night. Everything works better with a good night’s sleep. We have improved mood, better memory and cognition, better immune function and better hormonal function. You will also find that after a good night’s sleep you are more in control of your eating choices the next day.
4. Get moving for 30 minutes a day
Exercise is not only a great way to stay in shape but it also boosts your endorphins, immune function and keeps your blood flowing. Find the type of movement that works for your body and lifestyle and commit to just 30 minutes a day and while your at it, enjoy some much deserved you time!
5. Up your veggie intake
Fill half your plate with veggies, the more colourful the better. Vegetables are packed with nutrients, fibre and phytochemicals our bodies need to stay healthy. They also fill us up for very little kilojoules, making them the one food group you can go to town on!
6. Eat with the seasons
While we are on the topic of vegetables, try and eat with the seasons. Fruits and vegetables get their nourishment from the sun and soil. Seasonally fresh produce is picked when they’re ripe and fully developed. The plant has had more sun exposure, which means more of the good stuff, like antioxidants.
7. Use herbs and spices
Cooking with herbs and spices such as ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper and garlic are not only a great way to add flavour to dishes they also contain components that help to boost our immune system. Adding ginger to hot water is also a soothing tea to drink when feeling under the weather, as it helps to fight off germs.
8. Have soup at lunch
Winter time is a great opportunity to meal prep on the weekend and organise your lunches for the week. Having frozen soups on hand is not only good for your health, as they are filled with fibre and contribute to your veggie quota for the day, but they are also good for your back pocket as you can say good-bye to having to buy that expensive lunch from the staff cafeteria that often leaves you feeling bleh. Recipe for my delicious Tuscan vegetable soup can be found here.
9. Find some sun
Vitamin D is important fro strong bones, muscles and overall health. As UV radiation from the sun is the best natural source of vitamin D, deficiencies are more common during the cooler months. A few minutes of mid-morning or mid-afternoon sun is recommended to increase vitamin D levels, so try and get away from your desk and pop your face out in the sun for a few minutes during these times. There are also small amounts of vitamin D in foods such as fish, eggs, mushrooms and fortified margarine and milk, however it is difficult to obtain enough vitamin D from diet alone.
10. Finish each day with a healthy treat
I am a firm advocate for balance and how it plays a key role in living a healthy life. When we restrict or deprive ourselves from certain foods, we often end up craving the food more. This is why I recommend enjoying a small healthy treat each night and eating it with mindfulness and joy. Whether it be a biscuit or two or one of my healthy treat recipes, we are telling our bodies that we can enjoy our favourite foods, without feelings of guilt. Our bodies thrive on balance.