Along with cold temperatures and shorter days, winter often means a lack of energy and motivation for many people. Sugary treats and comfort foods always seem to be around, and the cold weather can make the gym feel like the last place you want to go.
Whether you find yourself with a little less energy, a case of the winter blues, or something more serious, a nutritious diet can help you this season. To help you get started, nutrition experts at UPMC Sports Medicine offer six areas to focus on for improving your diet this winter.
Focus on Healthy Carbs
The longer hours of darkness during the winter can lead to drops in serotonin levels, which may cause the sad feelings known as the winter blues. It can even bring on some food cravings. Eating healthy carbohydrates can boost serotonin. Try:
- Whole grains
- Sweet potatoes
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Consider Adding Vitamins C, D, and Zinc Supplements to Your Diet
Vitamin supplements, like vitamin C, D, and zinc, can help meet the challenges of staying healthy in the winter.
- Vitamin C, found naturally in fruits and vegetables, can help boost your immune system and prepare you to fight a cold or the flu.
- Our body usually absorbs vitamin D from the sun’s rays, but in the winter natural absorption becomes more challenging. Adding supplements to your diet this winter may help reduce your risk of developing depression and unhealthy cravings.
- Zinc, naturally found in fish, dairy, eggs, and some cereals, can also help ward off infections.
Keep Your Diet Full of Fruits and Vegetables
Keep your diet full of your favorite fruits and vegetables this winter. Even if your top choices are out of season, try frozen versions as opposed to canned. Frozen fruits and vegetables are generally less-processed and often include less amounts of sugar.
Also consider embracing in-season fruits and vegetables. Some fruits and vegetable that are in-season during the winter include:
- Brussel sprouts
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Drink More Water and Tea
During the winter months, it’s especially important to stay hydrated. Add more water into your diet to avoid dehydration. Many feel tired during the day and in the late afternoon because they are not drinking enough water.
While it’s cold, your caffeine fix may seem even more attractive because it helps keep you warm. Instead of choosing high-calorie seasonal drinks, consider drinking tea. Adding tea to your diet can not only help keep you warm, but also has been linked to:
- Preventing some illnesses.
- Building up immunity.
- Stimulating metabolism.
Instead of avoiding your favorite desserts and decadent meals, use moderation and substitution in your diet. Instead of having multiple cookies, have one and enjoy with a cup of tea.
Eat On a Regular Schedule
Sticking to a schedule of three meals a day, or even six smaller meals, can help keep you full and resist the temptation of overeating. If you follow a schedule of nutritious meals, additions like cookies, cake, and buttery side dishes may seem less appealing. A regular meal schedule can also stimulate your metabolism and keep your energy levels high this winter despite the gloom outside.
About Sports Medicine
Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.