If you are looking for expert advice on how to stay fit and healthy during the winter months, you are not alone! Exercising during the winter often presents a challenge, with inclement weather conditions ruling out outdoor sports and even driving to the gym can be ruled out depending on the weather and your mood. With these distractions, what you have is a recipe for disaster: giving up on fitness altogether.
Likewise, you may be more depressed when the days get shorter and darker and turn to overeating or consuming unhealthy foods for comfort. This weakens the immune system and makes you more vulnerable to catching the flu and other diseases.
Fortunately, there are scores of wellness tips from the experts on ways to exercise during the cold weather season, as well as advice on how to eat well, sleep well, reduce stress, boost cardiovascular and overall health, and keep those winter blues at bay.
Physical and Mental Wellness Go Together
When one’s emotional state is compromised by stress, anxiety, fears, and feelings of lack of control – the body is more vulnerable to illness. The good news is that physical and mental health are closely intertwined, so learning how to stay physically fit during the winter and eating well despite difficult times, goes a long way in optimizing the whole system – mind, body, and spirit.
Exercise, for example, has long been associated with improved mood, and recent studies show that people who exercise are less depressed and experience greater mental resilience. Likewise, a balanced, well-nourished diet provides a solid first line of defense against the flu and many other diseases.
Restaurants Play an Important Role in Public Health
If you work in foodservice, you are in an opportune position to not only provide customers with their favorite foods, but to play a key role in educating the masses regarding proper eating habits, recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, and more.
So, let’s begin by reviewing some expert dietary advice.
Best Dietary Recommendations During the Winter
To help you stay healthy this winter, here are some practical pointers:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (fresh or frozen). Shop for colorful produce such as Vitamin C-packed oranges, potassium-rich bananas, vitamin A-boosting sweet potatoes and winter squash
- Choose lean proteins such as poultry and fish over red meats
- Increase your intake of plant-based foods
- Eat whole grains such as brown rice, oats, buckwheat, barley, millet, maize, and quinoa vs. pasta and white bread
- Choose starchy tubers and roots such as yams, taro, and cassava
- Lower your risk of obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and certain types of cancer by avoiding refined sugar and added salt and fat
- Replace butter and margarine with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats such as olive, sunflower, canola, corn, and safflower oils
- Increase your intake of natural unsaturated fats found in fish, avocado, hummus, and nut butters
- To compensate for the lack of sunlight, add vitamin D rich foods such as eggs, cheese, tofu, salmon, sardines, and mushrooms. Moreover, Vitamin D “…regulates the production of a protein that selectively kills infectious agents, including bacteria and viruses.” and adding to your diet has had proven positive effects.
- Drink plenty of water every day (did you know that water transports nutrients and compounds in the blood, regulates body temperature, eliminates waste, and lubricates and cushions joints?)
- Reduce caffeine consumption
- Avoid sweetened fruit juices, fruit juice concentrates, syrups, and sugar-filled fizzy drinks
- Opt for low-fat or reduced-fat milk and dairy products
- Avoid trans fats found in industrially processed foods, fast foods, and snacks, including frozen pizza, fried foods, and store-bought cookies, cakes, pastries, and pies
Healthy 2021 Restaurant Menu Ideas
If you own a restaurant or work as a chef, here are some great health-promoting menu items and superfoods to add to your 2021 menu:
Incorporate hearty bean soups with favorites such as navy, lima, black, kidney, lentils, pinto, garbanzo beans into your menu. Not only do they go a long way in promoting heart health, they are an excellent source of protein, contain vital nutrients, including folate, and are high in antioxidants.
Introduce casseroles to your menu. Family-friendly and budget-friendly, casseroles are a go-to comfort food that has gained immense popularity lately. They can be easily made from many of the staples you already have in your kitchen (pasta, rice, flour, canned vegetables, canned soup, beans, tuna, salmon, cheese, meat) and they make multiple servings, freeze well, and can be prepared vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, gluten-free, plant-based, nut-free, low-fat, low salt, and Keto-friendly.
Be sure to toss superfoods such as sunflower seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, or flax seeds into salads, stews, curries, soups, and desserts. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals that help regulate immune system function and contain Omege-3 fatty acids that nourish cells.
Did you know that onions promote healthy gut bacteria, that garlic is your go-to spice as a first defense against stress, anxiety, and depression, that cherries boost melatonin levels and can help your customers suffering from insomnia sleep better, and that hot oatmeal (featured on your breakfast and brunch menus) is full of calming magnesium and potassium that can set diners up for a more tranquil day?
Another stress-relieving nutrient to add to your restaurant menu during the corona winter is magnesium. Known as the relaxation mineral, magnesium plays a vital role in scores of chemical reactions in the body, including blood pressure, heart function, blood sugar levels, and the body’s response to stress. Sources of magnesium include leafy greens, salmon, soybeans, and pumpkin seeds.
Finally, be sure to promote menu items that package and transport well for your take-out deliveries, with instructions for serving, freezing, and reheating. Also be sure to include a note with each dish describing the nutrients it contains and how it can help boost your customers immune system during the winter months.
Healthy Desserts to Ward Off the Winter Blues
Here is some more tasty news. There are myriads of decadent desserts that are nutrient dense and healthy to boot! Cater to your customers’ sweet tooth during the dark, cold winter with favorites such as cheesecake, pumpkin pie, assorted muffins, blueberry pancakes, apple tarts, lemon squares, strawberry truffles, coconut mousse, and more.
Last but not least, as we all know: Dark chocolate relieves stress at the molecular level, inducing feelings of calmness by boosting serotonin levels and reducing stress hormones. Its cocoa content contains antioxidants, fiber, potassium, calcium, copper, and magnesium and is thought to improve cognitive function and mood. So be sure to promote your dark chocolate recipes as the perfect antidotes to high anxiety and as the ideal comfort foods during the winter.
How to Stay Active During the Cold Weather
Here are some toasty ideas for how to warm up to cold weather activities by making them ‘user-friendly,’ interesting, and appealing.
- Invest in warm outdoor gear that will help you enjoy Mother Nature without running back inside for relief
- Dress in waterproof or sweat-resistant layers that are easy to add and remove
- Mix things up, experimenting with a wide range of winter activities
- Turn outdoor sports into a memorable family activity
- Instead of jogging on a wet pavement or pedaling a bicycle inside a gym, try your hand at cross-country and downhill skiing, snowshoeing, skating, mountain climbing, wall climbing, winter camping (complete with a cookout and marshmallows), and more
- If you are a cyclist, get some snow tires for your bike
- Go ice fishing
Fortunately, even moderate exercise such as climbing stairs, raking leaves, shoveling snow, and taking a brisk walk can go a long way in improving your physical health, mental health, and mood.
Using Technology to Exercise
In the digital age, you might be interested in digitalizing your exercise routine and making the workout paradigm more accessible and appealing. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools to choose from. This winter, consider staying fit by: Downloading one of over 1,000 health and fitness related apps; turning your mobile device into a personal trainer or using it to access free workout guides, Pilates classes, and yoga retreats; check out what’s new in on-demand fitness videos and DVDs that allow you to work out from the comfort of home; YouTube is also bursting with a vast array of instructional exercise videos; invest in one of a growing number of wearable electronic devices that allow you to count your steps, track activity levels, count calories, and more. Just grab your phone and get moving!
Upgrade Your Home Space with Ergonomic Furniture
In the aftermath of the pandemic, many companies found that people prefer to work from home, or learn from home, and computer use at large has proliferated. Unfortunately, unlike most modern office spaces, the at-home environment is frequently not set up to support the body in the right way. Learning about ergonomic furniture and small changes you can make to improve your posture and focus will go a long way in improving how you feel at the end of each day.
How to Relax Your Nervous System During the Winter
If you are experiencing the winter blues, low energy, feeling stressed, anxious, are sleeping less or oversleeping, or if your nerves are starting to fray from the ongoing ramifications of current events, it’s time to relax with practices such as restorative hatha or yin yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and more. Fortunately, you can find free classes online for all the above on YouTube.
Boosting Your Emotional Health
Finally, when the going gets tough, complete your menu of coping skills by seeking social support, psychological support, and/or professional counseling. Whether you live with chronic illness, or just need a friendly ear, reach out! Help is available and you deserve it.
Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and hearty Winter!