With the shorter days and cooler temperatures, it can be tempting to curl up on the couch with a block of chocolate and not move for the next three months! But winter is an important time to support our immune function and take care of our mental health.
As a dietitian and nutritionist, winter wellness is always a top priority for me. The great news is that a commitment to wellness does not need to be complicated or time-consuming. Wellness on a daily basis comes down to sustainable weekly strategies that slip into busy lives, effortlessly.
Here are my seven suggestions for staying well this winter.
1. Start winter with a clear plan
Set yourself up for success, and schedule some time to focus on your wellbeing before winter sets in. Rather than wait until the depths of the season to find your energy and motivation, set some lifestyle goals to help keep you fit, healthy and moving so that you glide through winter feeling great.
2. Set a simple nutrition mantra
Establish habits and routines that ensure fresh, unprocessed foods are the foundation of your diet. Create balanced meals that combine protein-rich foods, like lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, soy and nuts, with good quality carbohydrates, such as wholegrain breads and cereals, legumes, vegetables and grains. This will ensure your body has the energy, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals it needs each day to be at its best. Stock up at Coles.
3. Aim for a 30-veggie week
There is growing evidence to show that plant-based diets are associated with numerous health benefits. Making the effort to include 30 different plant foods in your diet each week can support your gut health and immune function in a really powerful way. This means opting for loads of veggies every day – weave them not only into your meals but your snacks, too.
4. Don’t forget your fluids
When we think of immunity, we often think about food. However, keeping hydrated is crucial to ensuring your cell health and immunity are on track. We need at least 1.5 - 2 litres of fluid every day, even when it is cold outside. Consider herbal tea, soups, vegetable juices and kombucha as part of your overall fluid intake. [Insert food catering businesses/stores that sell some of the abovementioned items.]
5. Get the right vitamin hit
Supporting optimal immunity to help fend off colds is all about ticking the box on essential vitamins and minerals. So, which ones matter the most?
Vitamin A and vitamin C – both found in brightly coloured fruits and veggies, including carrots, broccoli, spinach, beetroot and sweet potato – are important for the immune system. Zinc, which is found in nuts, seeds, shellfish and probiotic-rich foods such as fermented dairy drinks, is also integral to our diets.
6. Go with your gut
Boost your intake of foods that contain good bacteria or probiotics, such as fermented dairy and vegetables, miso, kombucha and tempeh. Pair these with prebiotic-rich foods that help feed the good bacteria, such as green bananas, artichokes and asparagus and garlic. Your gut will thank you!
7. Make your metabolism a priority
We’re often less active in winter, which means we burn fewer calories. The average adult gains a kilo or two from nights sitting on the couch, watching TV. The easiest way to avoid this is to keep a close eye on your activity levels. Monitor your daily steps, commit to regular exercise sessions, ideally with others to hold you accountable, and schedule your exercise at a time of day you are most likely to actually do it.
About Susie Burrell
Susie Burrell is a clinical dietitian and nutritionist, who has worked at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and as a sports dietitian for numerous high-profile sporting teams, before starting her own private practice. Susie is a regular media commentator for Body + Soul, Nine.com.au, Woman’s Day and more. She is also Sunrise’s resident dietitian expert.