Don’t let cold and flu season get the better of you this winter! These six simple ideas from Aramark dietitians can help give your body the T.L.C. it needs to strengthen your natural defense systems, and keep you on the path to winter wellness.
THINK VITAMIN D
Vitamin D from the sun helps jumpstart your body’s natural defenses. But during the colder, shorter days of winter, getting enough vitamin D from the sun is hard. That’s where food becomes important. Try adding fortified low-fat dairy products, whole grain cereals, and fish with healthy fats like salmon or tuna to your shopping list. On sunny days, pop outside for a little while for a natural dose of the sunshine vitamin. But if you’ll be outside for longer periods, don’t forget sunscreen! The skin on your face and hands still needs protection from UV rays during the colder winter months.
The best defense is a good offense! Improve your chances of staying well all winter long with immune-boosting foods. Eating a balanced diet high in antioxidant vitamins is a great way to up your game. Try sweet potatoes, carrots, and other orange foods for vitamin A; turn to citrus fruit for a daily dose of vitamin C; and get vitamin E from sensible portions of nuts and fortified cereals. Looking for an antioxidant trifecta? Reach for spinach! Dark leafy greens like spinach are true nutrient powerhouses that also help process and unlock energy from other foods.
Cold weather paired with long days indoors can be a recipe for overindulging in snacks. Resist temptation by practicing mindful eating and by setting a regular snack time as part of your daily routine. It’s okay to nibble between meals if you’re hungry—just keep snacks under 150-200 calories, and make them count toward your daily servings of fruits and veggies. We love this blueberry Greek yogurt toast that’s great any time of day!
Quenching your thirst in the summer heat is a no-brainer, but cold weather hydration is important for optimal health all winter. In addition to water, warm up with hot beverages like antioxidant-rich teas and coffee (practically calorie free without add-ins). If you like milk in yours, opt for skim or low-fat, and go easy on the sugar and sweeteners. You can even feel good about the occasional cup of hot cocoa as long as you choose a version that’s low in fat and sugar. Studies have shown that the antioxidant compounds in cocoa can be good for you. And don’t forget that hydration can also come from food!
CATCH SOME ZZZs
A strong immune system is one that’s had enough time to restore itself. Sleep is critical during cold and flu season. Being run-down can affect your ability to fight off infections. A good night’s sleep does more than help us stay awake during the day—sleeping well can help you be well! Hit the hay for seven to eight hours each night to reap the benefits.
Exercise can help keep your weight in check, and stave off stress and the winter blues—all to the benefit of your immune system and general well-being. Cure cabin fever with an outdoor walk or hike, or, if you can, enjoy a winter sport like skiing or skating! If you’d rather not brave the cold, pop in a workout DVD or stream one of the millions of online videos featuring everything from dance routines to yoga and Pilates.
Too many tips to keep track of? Just remember these three “R’s”: REPLENISH with the right foods, REVIVE with exercise, and REJUVENATE with rest.
Note: Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.