Staying Fit and Healthy When the Weather Outside is Frightful

Winter means shorter days, longer nights, unpredictable weather conditions, and cold temperatures. All of these factors can make staying fit and healthy seem impossible! Holiday parties and family gatherings can derail even the healthiest eating behaviors. According to the New England Journal of Medicine1, people tend to gain 1 pound during the winter months. While this weight gain seems minimal, the study found that the weight was not lost and, year after year, likely contributes to the increase in body weight that typically occurs during adulthood.

* Make exercise a priority. Enlist a friend to bundle up and walk regularly with you or try a new exercise class with you. Maybe work with a personal trainer to keep your workouts interesting, effective, and consistent. Plan to exercise for at least 30 minutes 5-7 days per week. Put it on your calendar and do it!

* Increase your intake of fresh produce. The bounty of summer may be over, but winter produce, such as citrus fruits and winter squashes, can add much-needed vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your diet, as well as variety. Citrus fruits are a good source of Vitamin C to help boost your immune system and winter squashes are high in Vitamin A, which is key for good vision, a healthy immune system, and cellular growth. Try roasting winter squash, such as butternut squash, for a delicious flavor! Start by peeling the squash, removing the seeds, cutting into cubes, tossing with a bit of healthy oil and your favorite seasonings and herbs and roasting at 425°F for 20-30 minutes.

* Don’t skip breakfast! A recent study followed participants for 5 years and found that skipping breakfast was closely associated with increases in Body Mass Index (BMI) and Waist Circumference2 in men. Starting your day with a warm and satisfying breakfast may prevent overeating later in the day. Try something new, like polenta, for breakfast if you are feeling adventurous, or stick with good old fashioned oatmeal.

* Try some new soups. Soup is a great way to increase vegetable and fluid intake, both of which can decrease during the winter months. Homemade vegetable soup is as easy as simmering your favorite vegetables in broth until tender. Try carrots, tomatoes, bean, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and beans. Season with garlic and onions for more flavor and immune boosting properties, as well as your favorite fresh or dried herbs.

* Increase your Vitamin D intake. Vitamin D is best produced from skin exposure to sunlight. Short days, increased clothing coverage, and less direct rays from the sun decrease Vitamin D production during the winter. Few foods contain Vitamin D naturally. Milk products are typically supplemented with Vitamin D. Fatty fish and fish liver oils are good sources of Vitamin D. Check with your doctor to see if a Vitamin D supplement is right for you.

* Increase your fluid intake. Try hot water with lemon or unsweetened tea, in addition to plenty of fresh water! Cold, dry air, as well as forced heat indoors, can increase insensible fluid losses.