Eat Your Way to a Healthier You This Winter

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | December 21, 2016

As the chilly weather rolls in, it’s time to start taking extra precautions to keep yourself in tip-top health this season. Since calories are heat-inducing, you tend to eat more to stay warm. Exercising also seems out of the question when it’s so cold and gloomy outside. While it’s tempting to stay bundled up indoors with a bowl of your favorite holiday sweets or comfort food, you’re not doing your immune system any favors.

As you spend more time indoors around more people and even more germs, you’re putting yourself at a greater risk for becoming sick. This doesn’t have to be the case! If you’re mindful of boosting immunity through a nutrient-rich diet, you can outsmart the dreaded cold and flu season. Keeping your body active and well-nourished during the winter is the key!

Boost Mood First

You can’t motivate yourself to stay healthy when you’re not in the mood. With less sunlight, we tend to feel blue, so get bundled up and get outside as much as possible during daylight hours. Not only are you basking in the sunlight, but you’re also stretching your legs. On days when you can’t get outdoors, try pulling back the curtains and rolling up the shades to let the sunlight in. You’ll be surprised by how much better you’ll feel!

Lack of sunlight can lead to cravings due to your need for serotonin, which helps regulate your mood, energy, and appetite. With that being said, you can also get serotonin through your diet. Boost your meals with healthy foods like whole grains, Greek yogurt, bananas, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and other foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates. They’ll provide your body with energy and improve your mood.

Eat for Immunity

Adding more vitamin C-rich foods to your diet is one way to give your immune system a mighty boost. Studies show that supplementing with vitamin C over the winter may help reduce cold symptoms and even duration. Increase your intake of vitamin C with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables like citrus fruits, cabbage, broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potato, and spinach.

Increasing zinc intake through your diet can also help strengthen your immune system. Foods that are rich in zinc include fish, oysters, poultry, eggs, milk, whole grains, and cereals. In addition to vitamin C and zinc, probiotics can also help boost good bacteria in your gut while protecting your body from infections. Such foods include fermented products like kefir, yogurt, and sauerkraut. Talk to your physician or registered dietitian about taking a probiotic supplement during the winter months.

Sipping on tea is another immunity-building winter habit. Not only will it warm you up, it’s also high in polyphenols that work to combat viruses.

While there’s no cure for the common cold or flu, you can still stop them in their tracks by maintaining a healthy, nutrient-rich diet that promotes a strong immune system. Ward off diseases by giving any of our immunity-boosting recipes a try, filling your plates with fruits and vegetables, and staying physically active. Don’t let the chilly and gloomy weather get in the way of your health this season!

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Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/ Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

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