When the temperature drops and winter arrives, it can become tempting to curl up on the couch with your favorite snacks while the kids play outside in the snow. During the winter months it's important to ensure that everyone in the family continues to eat healthfully. This can be especially tough around the holidays, but by following some simple nutrition tips you can keep your family fit and healthy while boosting your immune systems.
Pick the Right Carbs
During the cold, winter months, you may feel yourself craving more carbohydrates than usual. There's a good reason for this: with fewer hours of sunlight, the level of "feel-good" serotonin stored in your brain can become depleted. To compensate for declining serotonin levels, your brain tells your body it needs more, resulting in an increased craving for carbohydrate-loaded comfort foods that boost serotonin production. Your children will probably be feeling the same cravings, so it's important to help them avoid simple carbohydrates such as sugary snacks and encourage them to eat complex carbohydrates that will take longer to break down and provide a longer, more sustained level of energy. For meal time, think of seasonal foods; good wintertime sources of carbohydrates include pumpkins, squashes and sweet potatoes. Switch from sugar-laden recipes for these vegetables and try soup or casseroles seasoned with dry dressing and dip mix for an unexpected burst of flavor.
Fewer hours of sunlight each day and colder temperatures that keep you indoors can result in your body taking in less vitamin D than it receives during the summer, which is generated in our bodies via sunlight. For this reason, you need to ensure that your family receives enough vitamin D during the winter. Sources of vitamin D include fortified milk and other dairy products, eggs -- especially the yolks -- and fatty fish such as salmon. However, food alone may not be enough to provide the vitamin D lacking in the winter. One solution might be taking vitamin D supplements to ensure you're all getting enough. Always speak to your pediatrician before placing children on any supplement, especially vitamin D. Too much vitamin D is also a concern.
Boost Your Immunity
There's no surefire way to prevent catching a cold, but there are some steps you can take to minimize the risk. Vitamin C supplements, for example, have been shown to make colds milder and shorter. Another tip is to eat plenty of probiotics, healthy bacteria that can protect the body from infection. Probiotics are added to some brands of yogurt, a good food to include as a snack or for breakfast, or use it as a healthy base for vegetable dip made with dry dressing and dip mix. Another tip to help moms and kids boost their immune systems is to eat foods that are rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta-carotene. These are found in foods such as cabbage, broccoli, citrus fruit, sweet potato and spinach. Increasing your zinc intake can also help you fight off infections. Foods rich in zinc include fish, poultry, eggs, milk and unprocessed grains and cereals.
Beware of Overeating
Both adults and kids have a tendency to overeat during the winter, and high-calorie, high-fat diets can have an adverse affect on immune systems. Nutritionists recommend eating no more than 30 percent of your calories as fat year-round, and they advise that the fats you consume should be healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images