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Nutrition to Beat the Winter Blues 

Carolyn “Cari” Coulter Thiede, RD, LD 

The beginning of a new year is often filled with a sense of excitement and promise.  After 2-3 months of frigid weather, long nights, and colds, however, you may start experiencing some level of what can be referred to as the “winter blues”.

During this time, the foods and beverages you consume can play an important role in determining how you feel, either exacerbating your feelings of sluggishness or invigorating your body.

Steps for Beating the Blues

Hydration

One aspect of a healthy winter diet that people often let fall to the wayside is hydration.  During the summer months, the heat often encourages us to drink, either as a way to cool down or in an effort to replace fluids lost in sweat.  When it’s cold outside, these helpful cues occur less frequently and you may find yourself less likely to keep your trusty water bottle with you or refill your water glass throughout the day.

In the winter, hydration is not only important for encouraging a healthy fluid balance in the body, it can also help combat the dryness our skin, eyes, throats, and noses experience from the drier air, both indoors and outdoors. 

If you need some additional motivation to drink water, try naturally flavoring it with something winter themed like mint or cranberries and lime.

If it’s just too cold for you to be tempted by a glass of ice water, try incorporating a glass or two of decaf herbal tea into your routine.  You may find that a cup of tea with ingredients like chamomile and/or lavender is not only a great way to meet your fluid needs, it also helps you get a good night sleep! 

Whole Foods

The winter months bring a host of challenges to our immune systems as cold and flu bugs make their rounds.  While store shelves are stocked with countless vitamins, supplements, and homeopathic remedies that promise to contain ingredients that will keep your body and immune system strong, studies show that these items are most effective when provided in the context of whole foods rather than as pills or powders.

If you want to ensure your immune system is in top shape, instead of downing a few packets of Emergen-C, make foods that are high in vitamins and antioxidants an essential component of your plate at each meal. 

You can even make a point to choose produce in season so you know you’re getting it at its peak when it comes to flavor and nutrition.  Try including spinach in your morning omelet or smoothie, sprinkling berries and honey over yogurt for a snack, or topping your dinner salad with clementine slices and almonds.

Comfort Foods

Finally, during the winter months, it can be natural to want to seek out comfort foods that make you feel warm and satisfied.  Many traditional comfort foods are low on nutrition and can exacerbate your winter energy deficit.

However, it is possible to choose comfort foods that comfort you back (i.e. ones that promote psychological and physical health). 

For example, consider making yourself a “rich and creamy” soup by partially or fully pureeing the ingredients, rather than adding cream.  Or, if you’re in the mood for something sweet, baked pears topped with honey, cinnamon, and a handful of walnuts.   

 

BAKED PEARS WITH HONEY AND WALNUTS 

 INGREDIENTS: 

 * 2 large ripe pears 

 * 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 

 * 2 tsp honey 

 * 1/4 cup crushed walnuts 

 * (optional) yogurt or frozen yogurt 

 DIRECTIONS: 

 * Preheat the oven to 350F. 

 * Cut the pears in half and place on a baking sheet insides facing up. 

 * Using a measuring spoon or melon baller, scoop out the seeds. 

 * Sprinkle with cinnamon, top with 2 tsp chopped walnuts and drizzle 1/2 teaspoon honey over each one. 

 * Bake in the oven 30 minutes. Remove, let cool and enjoy! Serves 4.