It can be hard to stay on track with healthy eating when the weather is turning colder and, while in the summer we crave fresh salads and cold foods, during the winter most of us favour hearty stews, warming soups and generally ‘starchy’ comfort foods. So, it is not only our wardrobe that needs to change at this time of year, but also the way we cook and prepare our foods so that we can keep giving our body all the nutrients it needs to face the chilly temperatures.
With a few simple tips adjusting your diet to the winter season you can still carry on with your healthy eating! My key recommendations to stay warm and well nourished this winter are:
Choose complex carbohydrates
The lack of sunlight during the winter contributes to SAD (Seasonal Affective disorder) or ‘winter depression’ which is associated with strong cravings for carbohydrate rich foods like cakes, biscuits and breads. These cravings affect most people during this time of year whether you are suffering from SAD or not, and the best thing to do is to stay away from all ‘the white starchy foods’ (bread, pasta, cakes, muffins and so on) and choose a healthier option such as complex carbohydrates. These break down slowly and release glucose gradually into the bloodstream, maintaining a steady flow of energy. Some of the best choices include whole grains like millet, quinoa, buckwheat, oats, brown rice, legumes and vegetables.
So, swap your sugar loaded cereals for some warming porridge in the morning. Oats (choose organic and not the instant variety) are high in zinc (important for immune function) and beta-glucans a specific type of fibre linked to heart health. Remember to add a scoop of protein powder (I find Pulsin’s whey powder works very well with porridge) and sprinkle some seeds on top, to boost protein and nutrients level.
Swap salads for soups at lunch time
Soups are winter’s perfect foods and an amazing way to squeeze loads of vegetables into a single meal. Dark green leafy vegetables like kale and chard are thriving in the winter and easily available. They are very rich in vitamin A, C and K which are all immune boosting nutrients. You should also remember to add some protein like beans to your soups Alternatively, you can add a scoop of protein powder as an easy option to boost your meal. I find that the best protein powder to add to soups is pea protein. This works well because it blends in with the all the different flavours.
Choose stews for dinner
Winter weather really calls for cooking a meal slowly and stews are guaranteed to make your home smell delicious for hours. However, we live in a busy world and most of us, myself included, don’t have the time to slog around the stove for hours on end. A slow cooker might came in handy at this time. You choose some good quality plant protein, , then add stock, lots of warming vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, and top everything up with some spices to add flavour. Leave it to cook on a low heat and go to work. By the time you get home in the evening, you have a wonderful meal ready.
However, if you don’t own a slow cooker, you can still put together a quick casserole at the weekend and freeze some of it, to use during the week. It is just a question of getting organised and plan ahead, so you always have a healthy option available.
Spice it up
Add different spices to your foods to improve flavour and add warming power. Culinary herbs that help us to feel warmer include black pepper, cayenne, garlic, ginger, cumin, paprika and horseradish. Experiment with different combinations and choose the ones you like the best.
Don’t forget you need to stay hydrate even during the colder months as dehydration can happen as easily in winter as in the heat of the summer. Being dehydrated can also make you more susceptible to colds and flu. When it’s cold outside, drinking something hot increases the sensation of being warm, so having a warm herbal tea is your best choice. Lemon and ginger, apple and cinnamon, cardamom and fennel tea are all very tasty warming options.
Stay warm, keep on track with your healthy eating and enjoy the winter!
Looking for a guilt free snack? Check out Pulsin’s High Fibre Brownies!