Along with cold temperatures and shorter days, winter often means a lack of energy and motivation for many people. Sugary treats and comfort foods seem so tempting, and the cold weather puts us off getting out to exercise. Instead of thinking that winter weight gain is inevitable, which could extend your list of winter blues, read these helpful tips:

Focus on healthy carbs
The longer hours of darkness during winter can lead to a drop in serotonin levels, which can bring on those feelings of lethargy and food cravings. Eating healthy carbohydrates can boost serotonin levels, so try including these foods:

Whole wheat cereals – try oats porridge with milk and sliced banana or heat up your favourite bran cereal by adding hot milk. 

Wholegrain bread – seed loaf toast and rye are fabulous for toast on a cold morning or prepare bran muffins made with oats and banana. 

Sweet potatoes, butternut and pumpkin, are great ingredients for wholesome, comforting soups.

Enrich your diets with Vitamins C and D as well as Zinc 
Multi-vitamin supplements can help meet the challenges of staying healthy in the winter.  However, the body absorbs these micro-nutrients far better through food than supplements so eat a balanced diet, and you should get all the nutrients you need. 

Vitamin C is found in all fruits and vegetables, especially papinos, citrus fruits, leafy greens, peppers and broccoli. Vitamin C is thought to boost your immune system and help fight the colds and flu.

Vitamin D is usually absorbed by our bodies from the sun’s rays, but in winter, natural absorption becomes challenging.  Ensure you spend a little time in the sun or eat foods rich in this vitamin including oily fish (salmon, mackerel, pilchards and sardines), eggs and foods fortified with vitamin D, such as bran cereals.

Zinc can also help ward off the flu – it is naturally found in fish, dairy products, eggs and some zinc-fortified cereals.

Keep your diet full of fruits and vegetables
Even if your preferred choices are out of season, try the frozen versions. Try warmed stewed dried fruit with plain yoghurt and flaked almonds for breakfast, a hot soup brimming with vegetables and legumes for lunch and a delicious stew or curry packed with a variety of vegetables for dinner.  Baked apples with low-fat custard or warmed up berries with a dollop of thick, plain yoghurt would work well for healthy winter treats.  

Drink more water and tea
During the winter months, it’s especially important to stay hydrated. Many people feel tired during the day and in the late afternoon because they are not drinking enough water. While it’s cold, your caffeine fix may seem even more attractive because it helps keep you warm. Keep your coffee consumption to no more than around 4 cups a day and drink more tea, especially the herbal ones. 

Eat on a regular schedule
Sticking to a plan of three meals a day, or even six smaller meals can help keep you full and resist the temptation of overeating. If you follow a schedule of nutritious meals, energy-rich additions such as biscuits and rusks may seem less appealing. A regular meal schedule can also stimulate your metabolism and keep your energy levels high this winter despite the gloom outside.

You might also want to see this post on healthier winter beverages to replace hot chocolate

Pick n Pay is committed to promoting health and wellbeing among South Africans and employs the services of a registered dietitian to provide food and nutrition-related advice to the public. For your nutrition and health-related queries, contact [email protected] or toll-free on 0800 11 22 88. 

By Juliet Fearnhead
Locum Dietitian for Leanne Kiezer, Pick n Pay Dietitian