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Winter is approaching and it’s a time our bodies are adapting to changes in environment. With this, there’s a tendency to hibernate indoors and develop a greater appetite for more comforting and richer foods. Here are some tips to help you stay fit and healthy through the colder months.
- Lighten the load. To help you get a good, revitalising sleep, avoid a heavy meal at dinner. Plan to finish your last meal before 8 p.m. A full stomach needs a couple of hours to digest and interferes with a relaxing sleep.
- Keep hydrated. Just because you’re not as hot or sweaty, or don’t feel as thirsty, it’s easy to overlook the importance of drinking plenty of fluids when it’s cold outside. Also, dehydration during the colder months may mean you’re more prone to colds and flu. In addition, dehydration is often mistaken for hunger, which may lead to over eating. Try adding a touch of hot water to your glass to warm it up, or add twist of lime, lemon or fresh mint leaves to zest things up.
- Heat up your diet. Make some simple tweak to what you eat rather than reaching for high calorie ‘comfort’ foods. For instance, swap cold cereal for porridge, swap salads for chunky roasted veggies or hearty soups, and add baked or stewed fruit to dishes or for dessert.
- Eat in season. Eating plenty of seasonal fruits and vegetables that are packed full of antioxidant, vitamins and minerals protects and strengthens our immune systems making us better able to ward off the sniffles. Also, eat foods rich in vitamins A, C and E, including carrots, Chinese green leafy veg, broccoli, pumpkin, cauliflower, oranges, mandarins and strawberries.
- Let there be light. Too little sunlight can trigger cravings for heavy, stodgy foods. This is because diminished sunlight reduces the brain’s production of serotonin – a ‘feel-good’ hormone. When serotonin levels are low, you feel anxious, nervous, irritable or even depressed. These downward feelings may call for a remedy of creamy casseroles, pies, crumbles and chocolate desserts. However, there are coping mechanisms other than food to perk you up, like taking a 20-minute brisk walk during daylight to release some welcome energy and endorphins – both will do wonders for your mood and your waistline.
- Make a ‘friendly’ exercise pact. The colder morning and nights make it even more of a challenge to get out of the warmth and exercise. Be realistic about how this may change your exercise patterns but don’t let it stop you. Write down a plan of what you are going to do on what days of the week and pair up with a friend and do it together. This way, you are less likely to back out when the alarm clock goes off and you have to face the cold.
As always, plan to eat right. If skipping meals is the strategy you employ to watch your weight, think again! Starving yourself during the day inevitably leads to “feasting” or overeating at night. Anytime you allow yourself to get too hungry, it’s easy to overindulge. How many times have you eaten a packet of crisp while trying to decide what to have for dinner, or picked on your toddler’s meal because you’re peckish? Rather than let yourself become too ravenous, choose to have breakfast; make time for lunch and two small snacks, and sit down for dinner and enjoy meal time with the family. If you never let yourself feel ‘starving’ then you’re the one in control.