Falling into winter patterns

Summer has come and gone, and all too soon the weather has turned cold again.

As the days get shorter and darker, it’s no wonder that winter- especially the Canadian winter- is often a challenging time to make healthy choices for any number of reasons.

During winter people often see the sun less, or possibly not at all. As most people can attest, preparing and eating a healthy balanced meal at midnight is not highly enticing, so when it feels like it’s midnight at 4 pm, its easier to reach for convenience foods and packaged items than to whip out the knives and food processor. Many clients even have their “winter weight”, which is often 10-15 lbs heavier than their “summer weight” for exactly this reason.

So Healthy Winter Eating Tip #1: Never (or as inoften as possible) leave cooking to the night of. After walking, or driving, through a winter wonderland, the LAST thing that you might feel like doing is preparing a home-cooked meal  (or maybe that’s just me). Pick a weekend day where you will have the time and prepare all of your ingredients and menu for the week. Ensure your vegetables are chopped and ready to go in the fridge, that any meat you need is purchased, or taken out of the freezer in advance, anything you can do to streamline your winter evenings

Healthy Winter Eating Tip #2 Slow cookers are a healthy Canadian’s winter best friend. Prepare all ingredients in your slow cooker the night before and refrigerate overnight. Then all you have to do to have a healthy warm meal is press the on button the next morning!

Seeing less sunlight can also impact serotonin levels, which can lower your mood and make you feel more tired. It’s not just by chance that when people are feeling tired or sluggish, they reach for a pastry, granola bar or anything else containing carbohydrates. These quick snacks give your body and brain the quick boost of carbohydrates it needs to increase the amount of Serotonin released in your brain, causing a short term pick me up!  And let’s face it- just getting out of bed on a cold winter morning is hard, and enough of a reason to feel like you need to reward yourself…..maybe with a hot chocolate, or warm danish or an extra glass of wine at the end of the day?

So Healthy Winter Eating Tip #3: Choose smart energy and smart rewards. Not all carbs are created equal, so if you want to add some carbohydrates back into your day, it matters which ones you choose!
If you’re looking for a boost, that’s fine!
Just want to maybe add a couple of servings of carbohydrates back into your diet? I am MORE than cool with that.
But choose wisely! Enjoy a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread or a warm bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, or why not make your salad topped with tuna into a sandwich with a side salad at lunch?

As far as treats- if you want hot chocolate…..Great! It’s a winter favourite of mine also. Prepare it with a cup of lowfat milk and 70% cocoa as part of a balanced snack or breakfast. If you’re craving warm apple pie, choose a warm cored baked apple paired with cinnamon greek yogurt.
And Finally: Healthy Winter “Eating” Tip #4: While summer provides many physical activity options, during the colder months people tend to stay indoors. We all know that decreasing physical activity can affect your cardiovascular health and immunity (something you definitely don’t want to reduce in the winter!), but it also means that many people who are used to socializing at the gym, at the park or a weekly basketball game, have also lost that opportunity for social interaction. So GET OUT!! Go for a brisk walk on warmer days, take the opportunity to go ice skating, or invite some friends over for a dinner party. Socializing is an important part of a balanced lifestyle and a part of life that often suffers as Canadians go into hibernation.

So this winter remember that although you may have a winter and summer wardrobe, there is NO reason why they should be different sizes! Staying active, planning meals and snacks in advance, and staying in touch with friends, will help to keep you at your healthiest this winter season.