Winter can be a challenging time for many people to lose or maintain weight. Not only is it difficult to get out of bed and brave the cold and dark winter mornings in your exercise gear, but we also tend to crave warm and comforting meals.

Its important to remember that the immune system is under attack during the winter months, and it’s therefore vital to include nutrient-rich food to help ward off winter illnesses. The weather outside may be glum and frightful, but your diet doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips to optimise your nutrition without compromising on taste and comfort…

  1. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables rich in powerful antioxidants.

Choose fruit and vegetables in season: Citrus fruits, apples, guavas, melons, peppers, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, are all good sources of immune-boosting vitamin A and C.

So how do we incorporate these into our diets if we’re not really up to having a cold salad on a chilly day? How about a scrumptious vegetable soup? Make a large batch and freeze in containers.

Stews / casseroles are also a great idea to help increase your vegetable intake during the winter months. All you need is a variety of vegetables, lean meat (preferably on the bone), and your favourite fresh herbs and spices (paprika, coriander, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, etc.) Vegetables and meat add their own unique flavours to a dish. Add a can of legumes (chickpeas or kidney- / any type of beans or lentils) for a low fat, high fibre, and low GI protein source.

For a healthy treat or sweet breakfast, stew / poach pears, apples, or dried fruit in rooibos tea (or freshly squeezed orange juice), cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Add a few tablespoons of plain yoghurt and some roasted nuts. Delicious!

  1. Hydrate

We often do not feel as thirsty during cold winter months, so we tend to drink less water. We still need to drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid per day. Although new research show that tea and coffee may count towards your fluid intake, water remains the best way to stay hydrated. Add lemon, mint, basil, or any fruit to make an infused water if you do not like the taste of plain water. Green tea may also be a good addition as it contains valuable antioxidants.

  1. Watch your portion sizes

To avoid eating too much try to eat your meals at the table with the family, turn off the TV, use smaller plates, and reserve half your dinner plate for vegetables.

  1. Don’t forget vitamin D

Because many of us are exposed less to sun during winter months, dietary vitamin D intake may be more important during this time. Good sources include fresh or tinned fish (salmon, sardines, tuna), egg yolk, fortified milk and cereal, and mushrooms. Vitamin D is known to be vital in regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and facilitating normal immune system function. Research has also shown that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression. This might be a valuable factor to consider seen that many people are suffering from depression (and possibly comfort-eating) during lock down.

  1. Stay active

I cannot exclaim this more: Exercise during cold winter months is not just beneficial, its indispensable!!! There is only 1 known downside… and that is braving the elements. Some of the positives of exercising: It burns fat, regulate body temperature, feel-good endorphins are released, it improves sleep, it boosts self-esteem, reduces stress, increase energy levels, strengthens heart and muscles… do I need to say more. Why not go for a walk or do online aerobics (or even Zumba) class the next time you feel the urge to reach for the cookie tin?

If you have any health conditions, please consult with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

With thanks to Melissa Ludick for the contribution.

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