Eating Well In Winter

Published by Annie Barrett: 
January 30, 2024

A healthy, nutrient-rich diet is essential for everyone, especially during the winter months when we are all more susceptible to catching a cold or virus. In the winter months, our bodies experience changes in energy levels, metabolism and even food preferences.

Let’s look at some questions and answers related to winter eating.

“I tend to eat more in the winter. Why is that?”

You may actually feel hungrier in the winter.. Our ancestors ate more food during the colder months because the extra calories helped keep them warm. With the advent of modern heating systems we no longer need more calories in the winter months. Nonetheless, research indicates that seasonal changes do affect hormones related to hunger and appetite.

“I crave certain foods, especially comfort foods in the winter. Why is that?”

Researchers have found that fewer daylight hours may play a role in our food cravings. It seems to work like this: There is less sunlight in the winter and sunlight is one of the factors that trigger the release of the hormone serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that boosts your mood. When we eat comfort foods high in carbohydrates, serotonin levels increase and which can improve our mood. So, this is one of the reasons why we may crave comfort foods in the winter. 

“What and how should I be eating in the winter months?

Eating more seasonal, nutrient-rich whole foods and Vitamin D rich foods in winter will help you stay healthy and improve your immune system and will also improve your fitness, mental focus, and mood. 

“What do I need to know about getting enough Vitamin D in the winter?”

Vitamin D-rich foods are an important food item to consider adding to your menu during the winter months there is less sunlight. Vitamin D is crucial for calcium absorption and strong bones. It is also important for your immune system and regulating your mood. 

Natural Sources of Vitamin D Include: salmon, swordfish, sardines, tuna, egg yolks and mushrooms.

Tips for Eating a Healthy Winter Diet and Seasonal Recipes

Enjoy Warming Foods in Winter 

While we’re all different, in traditional wellness systems such as Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, it is considered beneficial for everyone to eat warming foods in the winter months.

Intuitively, this makes sense. In the winter, our bodies crave warmth, and warming foods are thought to stimulate circulation and improve digestion. Warming foods doesn’t just mean foods that are warm in temperature, but also foods that have a warming effect on the body. Warming foods include soups, stews, and cooked food made with warming spices such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, peppers, and cumin. 

Enjoy Warmer Drinks in Winter

Warm drinks can modestly increase body temperature. You’ll also feel warmer because we associate warm feelings with warm drinks. Drinking beverages warm when temperatures are low helps you stay hydrated simply because you’ll be more inclined to drink more. A cup of hot tea is more appealing than an iced drink when it’s cold out. Finally, hot herbal teas with warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon and clove can help clear respiratory passages.

Eat Cruciferous Vegetables like Broccoli, Cauliflower, Rutabaga, Cabbage, and Brussels Sprouts

These vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals such as folate and vitamin K. There are many ways to prepare these vegetables. One of the easiest and most delicious ways to enjoy cruciferous vegetables is roasting them. Roasting makes these vegetables taste sweet and nutty with bitter undertones. To roast them, simply chop them into medium size bites, toss them with olive oil and salt and pepper and pop them in the oven at around 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so. 

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Eat Root Vegetables and Tubers

Local produce can be harder to find in the winter months. But root vegetables and tubers like beets, carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes and potatoes can withstand the cold and keep well for many months in cold storage. These vegetables are healthy sources of carbohydrates and are wonderful in soups and stews as well as roasted or braised.

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Eat Winter Fruit

Oranges and grapefruits, high in Vitamin C, shine in the winter months. Apples continue to be in abundance in the winter months. Pomegranates are widely available in the winter and are rich in antioxidants. Berries, frozen and thawed, are high in flavonoids and antioxidants. Enjoy these fruits on their own or cooked into dishes and porridges.

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Eat Whole Grains

Oatmeal is a convenient and wholesome winter breakfast. It is high in zinc (good for immune function) and soluble fiber (associated with heart health). You can give your oatmeal a boost by adding warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg and fruits such as pears, apples or berries. Winter is a great time to try other whole grains like brown rice, millet, buckwheat, barley and quinoa. These can be enjoyed in soups, porridges, alongside stir-fries, or in baked goods.

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Eat Lean Proteins and Healthy Fish and Seafood

Lean proteins can strengthen your body and its immune system functions. If you eat animal protein, you may include modest servings of lean proteins like turkey, skinless chicken, fish and seafood like salmon, tuna, and oysters. Lean proteins with healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to boost brain functions and cardiovascular health.

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Eat Plant Based Protein: Legumes

Legumes are excellent sources of protein and lower in calories than many animal protein sources. High protein legumes include: tofu, tempeh, edamame, quinoa, lentils, black beans, pinto beans, and chickpeas. Legumes make great soups and stews in winter months. 

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Eat Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are a staple winter food; and for good reason too. Besides being a healthy and easy snack, nuts are full of nutrition, ranging from polyunsaturated fats to vitamins and essential nutrients. Enjoy walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazel nuts, pistachios, cashews, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds. Raw or roasted, on their own, or added to cereals or soups, nuts and seeds will give you healthy energy all winter long.

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Do you have a favorite winter recipe to share? 

Feel free to send me a message!