It may be cold outside, but winter needn’t be the unhealthiest time of year for you and your family. Here are five ways to make sure that, even when your body is telling you to hibernate, you can keep healthy and fit, no matter what the weather’s like.
1. Eliminate your sleep debt
“On average we sleep six-and-a-half hours a night, much less than the seven to nine hours recommended,” says Jessica Alexander, spokesperson at The Sleep Council, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of a good night’s sleep for health and wellbeing.
But in winter, we naturally sleep more because of the longer nights. “It’s perfectly natural to adopt hibernating habits when the weather turns cold,” says Jessica. “Use the time to catch up.”
2. Drink more milk
You are 80% more likely to get a cold in winter, so making sure your immune system is in tip-top condition is important. Milk and dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais are great sources of protein and vitamins A and B12.
They’re also an important source of calcium, which helps keep our bones strong. Try to go for semi-skimmed or skimmed milk – rather than full-fat – and low-fat yoghurts.
3. Eat more fruit and veg
When it’s cold and dark outside, it can be tempting to fill up on unhealthy comfort food, but it’s important to ensure you still have a healthy diet and include five portions of fruit and veg a day.
If you find yourself craving a sugary treat, try a juicy clementine or satsuma instead, or sweet dried fruits such as dates or raisins.
Winter vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, swede and turnips can be roasted, mashed or made into soup for a comforting winter meal for the whole family. Explore varieties of fruit and veg that you may not normally eat.
4. Try new activities for the whole family
Don’t use the cold winter months as an excuse to stay in and lounge around. Instead, get out with the whole family to try out a new activity – maybe ice skating, or taking a bracing winter walk on the beach or through the park.
Regular exercise helps control your weight, boost your immune system, and is a good way to break the tension that can build if the family is constantly cooped up inside the house.
5. Have a hearty breakfast
Winter is the perfect season for porridge. Eating a warm bowlful on a cold morning isn’t just a delicious way to start your day, it also helps boost your intake of starchy foods and fibre.
These give you energy and help you feel fuller for longer, stopping the temptation to snack mid-morning. Oats also contain lots of vital vitamins and minerals.
Make your porridge with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk or water, and don’t add sugar or salt. Add a few dried apricots, some raisins, a sliced banana or other fruit for extra flavour and to help you hit your 5 A DAY target.