Beat The Winter Blues
Lifestyle During the winter months in Canada, it is important to include food sources with vitamins and minerals to support the immune system, as well as sources of vitamin D.
Due to the angle of the sun and the fact we bundle up during the winter, we cannot produce vitamin D from the sun as we do in summer months. Therefore, look for vitamin D rich foods like milk or fortified milk alternatives like soy milk and fatty fish like char or salmon. It is difficult for most Canadians to meet their vitamin D requirement from diet alone, so you may wish to take a supplement.
Give your immune system a boost
No one wants to end up with a cold or flu during the winter. A healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals combined with proper hand washing can boost your chances of prevention!
There is no need to run to the drug store for supplements to boost your immune system. Research shows that meeting your daily requirements for vitamins and minerals like zinc, vitamin C and selenium from diet is sufficient for most Canadians.
Here are some great sources of these important nutrients:
- Vitamin C: vegetables and fruits such as red peppers and citrus fruits
- Selenium: brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, tuna, grain products, milk and fortified milk alternatives
Warm up your winter
Taking a few minutes to enjoy a bowl of oatmeal, topped with sliced nuts, fruit and milk (or a fortified milk alternative) in the morning with your family can lead to healthier weights and better concentration at school and at work.
To maximize the nutritional content of your breakfast, aim to include foods rich in fiber and protein. Here are some examples of nutritious winter breakfasts:
- Oatmeal topped with sliced brazil nuts, frozen berries and milk or fortified milk alternative
- Scrambled eggs sprinkled with shredded cheese and diced peppers
- Whole wheat pancakes spread lightly with almond butter and topped with a sliced banana
Be mindful of portions sizes. It’s often not what you are eating but how much that can lead to overindulgence. Use your hand as a rough guide for portion sizes: Your fist is approximately 240ml (or 1 cup) — equivalent to two servings of grains or two servings of vegetables. A small handful is approximately 60ml (1/4 cup) — equivalent to a serving of dried fruit or nuts.
- Avoid mindless snacking between meals by keeping sweets and salty snacks out of sight. Instead, choose a nourishing snack that may help you from overeating at the next meal.
- Choose fresh vegetables with healthy dip as an appetizer instead of chips and creamy dips.
- Make physical activity part of the holiday fun to provide a balance to eating. Plan a cross-country ski afternoon, skating or a hike combined with a potluck.
Understanding your food
You can use the Nutrition Facts table on food labels to choose nutritious products with less, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium. The "% Daily Value" tells you if the food has a little or a lot of a particular nutrient. For example, 5 percent DV means a food has a little of a nutrient and 15 percentage DV means a food has a lot of a nutrient. Remember that the calorie and nutrient content that is listed is based on the amount of food specified at the top of the table.
You can also check out the list of ingredients. This will help you to find foods that are less processed and help to avoid any potential allergens that you or your family need to avoid.
"Ask for help and encouragement to overcome barriers and temptations that you will face along the way."
Stay on track this new year
Setting goals is an important part of making changes to your diet. Start off on the right track by setting SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific Measurable, Action-orientated, Realistic and Timely. Setting SMART goals will help you stay on track because you’ll be focusing on the specific behaviours you want to change and your goals will be realistic and achievable.
- Instead of “I want to eat less," set a goal like “I will reduce my portion sizes over the next three months by using a salad plate instead of a large dinner plate every night at supper for the next three months.”
- Find a support system. Share your goals with a spouse, a coworker or a friend. Ask for help and encouragement to overcome barriers and temptations that you will face along the way. A registered dietitian can help you manage your goals and find creative ways to help overcome barriers.
- Stay positive. If you don’t reach your goal, take time to reflect. Setbacks are a normal part of the change process.