How to Maintain Your Health During the Winter

We’re frozen from our noses to our toes…es and we’re ready to recap our best tips for staying healthy during these last few months of winter. Read on for our favorite ways to make the most of the cold. 

Woman-skiingWinter. It’s rough on our bodies. The lack of sunlight makes it harder to get enough vitamin D and exercise, both of which can help alleviate feelings of depression. There’s also increased dry skin, poor eating habits, and generally feeling sluggish that can get in the way of feeling our best.

From finding the motivation to get outside and exercise to maintaining a healthy diet during the winter holidays, there are plenty of challenges to our health throughout the colder months. Here’s how to overcome them.

Exercise

You don’t need to be a professional downhill skier to get exercise and soak up what little sunlight is available, but it does help to get outside as much as the weather will allow.  If you do live in a climate that gets lots of snow, there are plenty of winter activities that can keep you active. Snowshoeing, skiing, ice skating, shoveling snow, even sledding are all good ways to get outdoors and have fun. Even here in Vermont, there are plenty of activities for the non-skier.

Even if you aren’t as physically active, the simple act of getting out of your house will keep cabin fever at bay. Attending social events can also lift your mood and help you stay in touch with friends. Making sure you create regular exercise habits is one of the best ways to get the extra kick needed to survive the cold.

Hydration

In June, we talked about how to stay hydrated, but it’s just as important to stay hydrated during the winter. Drinking plenty of water will help prevent dry skin that’s caused by many heating systems. It may also help you cope with common dry sinus issues, such as sinus infections or nosebleeds.

Water is a solvent for vitamins and minerals, and staying hydrated helps the body absorb many important nutrients. Drinking at least 65 ounces of water also curbs cravings for junk food. And of course, it helps out your immune system and your body’s detoxification functions.

Diet

Vegetables-bike-basketIt’s normal for any of us to develop poor eating habits during the winter. When the sun goes down, so do serotonin levels, which can greatly increase food cravings. And those cravings are not always for fresh vegetables and lean meats. But it’s important to stay away from refined or heavily processed foods, especially if you exhibit any signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Poor diet can increase these symptoms.

While fresh, local vegetables may not be readily available if you live in a colder climate, try to make sure you include them on your grocery list.Some farmer’s markets continue throughout winter, or there may be a winter farm share or CSA in your area.

Root veggies and winter squash make great soups and casseroles. If you find a recipe that calls for heavy cream, consider replacing the cream with coconut milk for a healthier fat.

In the winter, it’s important to have some fat on your body, but there are better ways to get fat without eating lots of saturated fats. Try a handful of almonds for a snack, or make fish instead of steak for dinner. Use goat cheese instead of cream cheese on your morning bagel.

Lastly, try eating on a regular schedule. This helps maintain normal blood sugar, which can decrease cravings, as well as prevent excess production of cortisol and subsequent weight gain. Don’t think of it as a diet; think of it as a lifestyle choice that will get you through winter.

Supplements

If you are concerned about getting enough vitamin D and other vitamins, even while making healthier choices, supplemental forms are great for supporting a healthy weight and mood throughout winter. Probiotics will support a healthy GI system and your immune system.

While supplements are one form, low-fat yogurt and kefir are also good sources. Some people consider kefir more nutritious than yogurt because it is a complete protein with healthy microorganisms, essential minerals, and B vitamins. Don’t do dairy? Try kimchi or a high quality sauerkraut. They have the same probiotic qualities and make excellent additions to any meal.

What tactics have you tried to keep yourself and your family healthy during the winter? Share your tips with us in a comment below!

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