Chilly winter weather affects more than just your wardrobe and heating bill. Your body also experiences changes in energy levels, metabolism and even food preferences.
Do you react to bitter cold by skipping the gym and convincing yourself you deserve a calorie splurge to warm up and offset your discomfort? You’re not alone. But the cold truth is that no weather warrants unhealthy eating habits. Just as you shouldn’t overdo ice cream during the dog days of summer, you shouldn’t live on a steady diet of hot chocolate and warm cookies during winter.
Winterizing your diet can be healthy — and tasty — if you add a few favorite cold-weather foods. Start with these.
Local produce can be hard to find when cold weather inhibits crop growth. But root vegetables like beets, carrots and turnips can withstand the cold, so local farmers can provide fresh produce — and you can reap the benefits. Roast carrots for a boost of beta-carotene, or boil turnips for vitamins C and A.
Oatmeal is much more than just a convenient breakfast food; it also provides nutrients that are essential during winter. Oatmeal is high in zinc (important for proper immune function) and soluble fiber (associated with heart health). Although instant oatmeal is more convenient, it is a bit more expensive. To eat healthy on a budget, go with old-fashioned oats.
Soup is winter’s perfect food — as long as you hold the cream, salt and beef. Look for soup recipes that call for chicken broth, vegetable broth or water as the base and include a lot of vegetables. Pair your soup with a side of 100 percent whole grain crackers for a dose of grains. Don’t have any recipes handy? Try Cleveland Clinic’s tasty and healthy Collard and Lentil Soup.
Spicy tuna roll
For a suprising alternative to typical comfort foods — often loaded with fat and sugar — try sushi. Choose rolls lined with tuna or salmon. Both are good sources of vitamin D. During the winter months, when you have limited exposure to the sun, food sources of the bone-healthy vitamin become even more essential. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with impaired growth, weakening of the bones and even the risk of heart disease.
Broccoli and cauliflower
Aside from getting the flu shot and washing your hands regularly, these cruciferous vegetables may be your top defense against winter sickness. Broccoli and cauliflower are both high in vitamin C, which is associated with enhanced immune function. If you can’t find fresh versions, don’t fret — frozen broccoli and cauliflower are just as nutritious.
Contributor: Brigid Titgemeier, BA, nutrition assistant at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute