We have had some truly warm and beautiful days this month. 70-degree weather in February is truly a gift. It made me think about how easy it is to maintain energy and positivity with warm weather and how difficult it can be during the winter.
My dietetic intern, Emily, and I were both complaining about these harsh winter days of rain, gray clouds, and cold and how they zap our energy. Of course this led to a discussion on a few things we both do to stay warm and happy in the winter and they are:
1. Hydrate With Everything But Ice Water
In the summer our bodies crave fluids due to the heat and the need to cool down. During the winter, we may not feel as thirsty, but our bodies need just as much fluid as they do in the summer (sometimes I feel even thirstier in the winter!) Mild dehydration can lead to impaired brain function, affect mood, and make you feel sluggish. Dehydration can also, oddly, make you feel hungry, and this might be why some of us put on some winter weight. Making sure we are getting enough fluids during the winter will also allow our bodies to properly function and ward off germs during cold and flu season.
Tip: Aside from keeping a water bottle nearby (I like my water room temp in the winter!), remember that coffee and tea are both sources that count towards hydration. Yes, they have a diuretic effect, but the amount of water outweighs the amount expelled.
2. Eat More Oatmeal
(Yes this is one of my tips 😉 ) There is something to be said about a bowl of oatmeal during the winter. It’s a stick-to-your-ribs comfort food that also happens to be good for you. Oatmeal is also a great source of fiber and is 100% whole grain. Whole grains have a low glycemic index which gives you a slow and steady release of energy throughout the day. Fiber also helps to control blood sugar level. It slows the absorption of sugar, which maintains your blood sugar levels and keeps them from sky rocketing or dipping below normal which can lead to extreme fatigue.
3. Seek Out Vitamin D
During the winter we may not be stepping outside as much to get the “sunlight hormone” also known as vitamin D. Increasing our intake by eating foods rich in vitamin D will help keep maintain our serotonin and energy levels. Fatty fish, cheese, and egg yolks are all notable sources that contain vitamin D.
Tip: Grab a can of sardines! Sardines are a great rich source of vitamin D, calcium, and omega 3s.
4. Move For 30 Minutes A Day
We all know that moving and exercising equates to more energy. This can be challenging during the winter months as leaving the house when the temperatures dip below 30 is the last thing that anyone wants to do. I have found that if I bundle up in a down coat with gloves and a scarf I’m rarely cold once I get moving. Get outside if the weather permits for a walk or run. The brisk air coupled with movement will promote circulation, increase serotonin levels, and boost energy.
Tip: If you can’t make it outdoors or simply going to the gym sounds excruciating, try one of the home workouts from Aaptiv or Popsugar on You Tube. They have great routines that can be completed from the warmth and comfort of your home.
5. Boost Your Immune System
Our gut is home to a diverse group of bacteria, which plays a significant role in supporting our immune and digestive systems. An unhappy gut can directly affect the brain, leading to fatigue and stress, which negatively impacts energy levels. Probiotics, the good bacteria, promote a friendly environment in our digestive tracts. Probiotics help to increase other forms of good bacteria, they decrease inflammation, and they keep other harmful organisms from reaching the gut, like all those kindergarten germs.
Tip: Getting all of your probiotics from kombucha, yogurt, kefir, and etc. is ideal, but the thought of eating these every day may not be the most appealing or cost effective. Try using a probiotic supplement as a simple way to keep your gut health happy. I take a grown-up one, and Mazen loves his gummies.
And when all else fails, remember: spring is just around the corner!