How to Kick Your Winter Blues…Healthfully
By Lisa Zarny, MS, RD, CD-N, Clinical Nutrition Manager and Meghan Donnelly, NYU Graduate Student
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You’re well through the holiday season and into the heart of winter, which means the days of parties, food "hangovers," and over-indulgence are over. It’s no surprise that this time of year may bring on some seasonal blues, but you can prevent them from driving you towards unhealthy choices in the New Year!
The majority of us tend to overeat during this season for a variety of reasons. First of all, the amount of yummy desserts and other treats available entices us everywhere we go. In order to avoid the metabolic low that follows the holiday season, self-control and mindful eating are important. Follow these tips to make this year yours:
1. Cut back the portions. When we overeat, our insulin levels spike dramatically. This spike is followed by a crash later on, leaving us feeling tired and hungry. As this behavior continues, the sugar cravings get stronger over time and will eventually result in weight gain if we continue to eat in excess. Now that the holiday parties are over, reset your mind to eating healthy choices and limit high-fat, high-sugar snacks. Always remember to check portion sizes on food labels, as sometimes what may seem like one serving can be two, or even three!
2. Fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies. This simple rule will leave you feeling fuller for longer periods of time while consuming fewer calories. Vegetables such as kale, spinach, and squash contain plenty of fiber and antioxidants, which maintain blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, and make you feel full. Brightly colored fruits, such as raspberries, cherries and strawberries are also valuable sources of antioxidants and are easy to work into salads or even consume right out of the package. Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables with each meal to get all of your nutrients; don’t be afraid to try seasonal fruits and vegetables, too.
3. Get back on track with physical activity. It's important to get back into a routine right away, especially when you’re fighting post-holiday or general winter blues. Studies show that exercise is a great way to reduce stress and increase energy levels, as well as help you get more sleep at night. Try a new class, such as yoga or cycling, in order get yourself excited about regular exercise routine. Invite a friend to join your workout to keep you motivated. Consider downloading one of the many free fitness phone apps to keep you on track if you’re having trouble with maintaining a routine.
4. Stay hydrated, remember to drink water. Getting back into a healthy routine involves working water back into our diets, with a recommended 8-10 cups daily. This will help control constipation and help regulate our metabolism. Drinking water can also curb our appetites by giving us a feeling of fullness and assist in weight-loss. Remember, water is calorie-free!
In addition to these tips, it’s always important to remember that the 2020 USDA dietary guidelines recommend we consume half our grains whole, choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products and always try to vary our consumption of protein foods (examples include meats, fish, soy, legumes and eggs) as well as our consumption of vegetables. Limiting daily consumption of saturated and trans-fat, sodium, and excess sugar- all nutrients we tend to overeat during the holiday season- can vastly improve the way you feel day to day.
By following these tips and guidelines, we all can look forward to a healthy, fit and happy new year!