Let’s Talk About Food
Winter is a time that can bring us many different feelings: the joy of the holidays, the excitement of snow falling, the dismay of staying warm in the cold, the undeniable couple of pounds we tend to gain, and the dread of cold and flu season. Do not fret! One way to help all of the above is to fuel your body with the right foods for the season! Choosing nutrient dense foods this time of year will make the holidays more exciting, keep you warmer, boost your energy level, and decrease your chances of catching a cold or the flu. Being knowledgeable about the foods you are consuming can make the biggest difference in having a consistently happy, energetic, warm, and healthy winter season. Our bodies are complex and we need all parts to function properly in order to keep us strong and healthy!
Dark Leafy Greens
Talk about a diverse amount of benefits! Spinach, broccoli, kale, cabbage, romaine, brussels sprouts, and collard greens are packed with nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, zinc, fiber, calcium, and antioxidants. They are also very low in calories, sodium, and carbohydrates. I’m sure we’ve all heard the craze about how good kale is for you… Well it really is! Along with nutrients previously mentioned, kale also contains potassium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and protein! Whether you blend it in a smoothie, make a salad, wrap it, bake it, or just eat it raw, make sure to incorporate your greens!!
Fish, Poultry, and Red Meat
Salmon, tuna, and cod are great ways to get in your vitamin D, B-12, healthy fats, and protein. Salmon is also packed with potassium, vitamin B, magnesium, and Omega-3’s. Other oily fish like herring, anchovies, and sardines are excellent sources of your Omega-3’s (as well as walnuts, eggs, chia seeds, and flax seeds). Poultry is also a good source of protein, vitamin A, vitamin B, selenium, and phosphorous. Consuming chicken broth (not from a can) is GREAT for your metabolism, immune system, intestinal health, joint health, respiratory infections, chronic inflammation, and hydration, so make sure to eat your soups! Red meats are high in iron, vitamin B, zinc, and protein; however, make sure to choose the leaner cuts (e.g. round steaks/roasts, filet mignon, loin chops/roasts) and monitor your portion sizes.
Fruits, Vegetables, and Nuts
I know you all remember your parents forcing you to chew that tart, powdery orange vitamin C tablet. Though vitamin supplements are a good way to get your daily dose in, you should incorporate nutritious foods that can provide more benefits than just one. Red peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and citrus fruits are great sources of vitamin C. Broccoli and cauliflower also contain great sources of vitamin A, K, and fiber. Squash (butternut, acorn, delicate, spaghetti) are rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, B-6, folate, potassium, and manganese. Potatoes (especially sweet potatoes) are great sources of vitamin B, Beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and fiber. When lacking in vitamin D, try drinking fortified orange juice or adding mushrooms to your meal. If you’re needing some antioxidants, blueberries and pomegranates (and dark chocolate!) are an excellent choice. Legumes like black beans, white beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and lentils are also a good source of fiber, folate, and protein. Nuts (e.g. almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, peanuts) are good sources of protein, fat, fiber, vitamin E, and magnesium, while staying relatively low on the carb side. One thing to watch out for though is the sodium content and portion size (it can sneak up on you).
Don’t underestimate the benefits that spices and herbs bring to the table! Garlic is full of surprises. It has antibacterial and antiviral properties, stimulates white blood cell production (i.e. good for our immune system!) and contains vitamin C, vitamin B, potassium, calcium, and manganese. Try to incorporate spices like turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, ginger, and cardamom this season. Turmeric and ginger help reduce inflammation, alleviate headaches, aid in fighting a cold, and assist in the digestion. Cinnamon, cumin, and cloves also help with digestion, as well as lowering blood sugar, improving blood circulation, and providing antioxidants.
The daily recommendation of water intake for women is 91 ounces and 125 ounces for men. Staying hydrated keeps you warm and boosts your immune system. This includes consuming hydrating foods and drinking your water! If you have trouble getting in your water, you can try staying hydrated by drinking teas (e.g. green tea, spice tea, cinnamon tea) or flavor add-ins like frozen fruits. Try to set a goal throughout the day to make sure you get your water in! You can also try using a reusable straw and water bottle to increase your water intake! Choosing hydrating foods like oranges, celery, soups, and oatmeal, while limiting the consumption of sugary beverages, sodium, fried food, and processed food will make a big difference as well!
Keeping a consistent, healthy diet will make the biggest difference in these cold months! Most of these foods make easy swaps to make your meals more nutritious, like swapping regular pasta noodles with spaghetti squash, adding spinach to your omelette, or swapping a coke with strawberry infused water! Also, don’t be afraid to use frozen fruits or vegetables; they hold more nutritional value than you might think. Be proactive and fuel your body right with what it needs to stay warm, get active, be cheerful, and not get the flu this winter!