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  • Denise Scott

Nutrition for the Winter Season - Eat Your Way to Staying Healthy

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

Nutrition plays a role in maintaining your and your child’s health during the winter. There are ways you can use food to offer protection, in addition to frequent handwashing, covering your mouth with coughing and sneezing, and/or mask-wearing.

Eating healthy during the colder months can be challenging for numerous reasons -

  • The holidays offer too many appealing high-sugar, high-fat, and high-calorie treats

  • Some of your favorite fresh produce may be more limited during these months

  • Lack of sunshine and vitamin D exposure can add to the “wintertime blues”

  • Colder weather tends to make us want to eat more high-calorie, high-carb food, and fewer salads.

Although there is no cure for the cold or many respiratory illnesses, one way to shorten the duration of an infection is to maintain a healthy immune system. By choosing whole, unprocessed foods - fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts - you can maintain the nutrients your family needs throughout the year. You can boost this with vitamins A, C, D, and zinc rich foods.

Increase your family’s intake of antioxidants with foods abundant in vitamin A (beta carotene) and vitamin C. These include citrus fruits, cabbage, broccoli, sweet potatoes, winter squash, pumpkin, tomatoes, bell peppers, and spinach.

Zinc-containing foods include fish, oysters, poultry, beef, eggs, milk, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and cereals.

Get vitamin D from milk and dairy, egg yolks, fatty fish like salmon and canned tuna, mushrooms, and vitamin D-enriched plant milk.

Remember that frozen fruits and vegetables offer the same nutrition as fresh.

During the winter, more root vegetables are available that are delicious roasted. Eating what is in season is a great way to supply needed nutrients. Look for sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, onions, radishes, parsnips, and turnips. The more variety of colors, the better! Aim for three colors for each meal. Involve your child in selecting and identifying these.

Foods with Tryptophan to Increase Serotonin

To counteract those wintertime blues, increase serotonin-boosting foods by choosing foods high in tryptophan (foods don’t contain serotonin, this is made from tryptophan, an amino acid). These include healthy carbs such as brown rice, oatmeal, and whole grains. Salmon, nuts and seeds, eggs, turkey and poultry, soy products, spinach, dairy, and pineapple are also good sources.

A walk in brisk weather can also be a mood booster!

Increasing probiotics by eating fermented foods improves the health of our gut microbiota which is directly related to our immunity. These can be found in yogurt with active cultures, kefir, sauerkraut, and tempeh.

Add polyphenols by sipping black or green tea, using herbs and spices such as oregano, sage, cinnamon, coriander, and cloves, and eating whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, beans, nuts, grapes, and citrus.

Tea contains flavonoids and polyphenols which are anti-inflammatory

Choose homemade soups over canned ones and add beans and vegetables. Canned beans and lentils, and frozen vegetables can be a time-saver.

Adding beans and veggies to homemade soups increases their nutrient content significantly

Don’t forget to hydrate, hydrate! We often don’t drink as much during the winter, but we still lose body fluid during these cold, dry months. Water intake is vital. Encourage your child to drink 4-6 cups or more daily.

The best defense against illness is the powerful offense of a healthy immune system. The best way to build this is with good nutrition.

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