By Daniela Grandon
Some of the mothers we have spoken to have expressed concern over gaining weight during the winter due to the difficulty of exercising outside, feeling bored or depressed during cold days, and eating less fresh foods. They are not alone. With low temperatures in winter, many people get sick more often, gain weight, have low energy levels, and experience depression. Although I must confess that I love winter and freezing temperatures, it is not the most popular time of year. Here are some ideas for staying healthy during this cold season that can help you stay energized.
In winter the body needs more calories to face the cold, raising the likelihood of gaining weight during the season. To avoid this situation you can try to add more plant-based foods like mushrooms, eggplant, carrots, squash, zucchini, leeks, onions, cabbage, and spinach to your meals. These vegetables have plenty of water, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Other ideas for cooking during the winter include:
Minimizing the use of butter, cream, and oils is key to reducing weight gain. You can replace butters and oils in cooking by sautéing vegetables with broth (or water). Another good “resource” is preparing pies without a top crust and using vegetable-based puddings to fill the pies. Blanched cabbage or spinach greens can be combined with other vegetables or chicken for delicious meal options. Note: Blanching involves immersing vegetables for a short time in boiling water and then putting them into ice water to stop cooking.
Legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas, etc.) are a great source of fiber and energy because they are nutritious and filling. Winter is the ideal time to eat legumes.
It is important to eat fruits. Citrus, often available during the winter, is noted for its vitamin C content, a nutrient that strengthens the immune system’s ability to deal with changes in temperature. Fruits are a natural way to help increase your energy level and blood sugar.
One way to increase fruit in your diet is to prepare baked desserts with fruit compote. To flavor, add cinnamon and anise. The spices are perfect for flavoring your desserts without adding calories and sugar.
Nuts, dried fruits, seeds, and whole grains like oatmeal also make delicious and healthy winter snacks and desserts.
Although it sounds simple, in cold weather some people tend to drink less water. Drinking more water can be hard if you do not like water. Tip: To help you drink more water, drink a full glass first thing in the morning (Chug the water!!!!). Do not wait to feel thirsty to drink it. You can also get a refillable bottle and bring it with you throughout the day. This will remind you to drink water every time you look at it. Finally, drink a glass of water before every meal.
Eating throughout the day will keep your energy levels stable and help you prevent weight gain during the winter months. Every meal is important as it keeps you full during the day and helps you avoid excess eating due to hunger from skipping meals. Long work hours may make eating meals throughout the day difficulty, but keeping fruits and vegetables on hand that are easy to carry like apples and carrots will help sustain you on busy days.
In winter, viruses that cause colds and flus circulate more frequently and more people get sick. Hand washing remains one of the best ways to avoid infection. In addition, you should cover your mouth with your arm (rather than your hands) when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs. Also, avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose to prevent the spread of germs. Although it can be difficult during cold days, ventilating your house is also very important. Leaving your windows open for just 5 or 10 minutes will help ventilate your home. Of course you can skip somedays if it is extremely cold.
For many, cold months represent stress and sadness. In fact, some people are diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a type of depression that affects people during extreme weather periods like the winter cold. Although easier said than done, it is important to try and stay positive and be willing to deal with things you do not like during the winter. Positive thinking is not thinking that everything is beautiful and easy. It has to do with reminding yourself of small successes every day and focusing your thoughts on valued moments. This can help to change your thoughts and actions. Try to find things that make you feel comfortable during cold/dark days and do those activities more often, if possible.
If you do not have much time to be active outside the home, try to do a short routine at home that includes a mix of flexibility and muscle toning exercises such as stretching, squatting, and push-ups. You may want to include walking around your house in the morning or evening. You can climb stairs (if possible) during small breaks at work or home. If you exercise outdoors, use appropriate clothes for exercise. Remember to do a brief warm up even if you are exercising at home. This will help reduce the risk of injury.
Due to energy costs it can be difficult to keep our homes at a comfortable temperature during the winter. Some of the things that may help you maintain the heat in your home without breaking the bank include: