Well This Winter

The first month of winter has already come and gone.  Hopefully you have survived without the winter blues. Our diet can help keep our immune system in good order so here are some tips to keep you well for the next few winter months. 

Winter can be a time of less variety in the diet. There are fewer fruit and vegetables in season, the power houses of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that our immune system thrives on. 

How can we increase the variety? 

Try using some frozen and canned vegetables as well as fresh. Frozen vegetables are snap frozen straight from the grower, with little time for deterioration of the produce. Where possible choose Australian Grown, read the label to be sure. Where a product is packed is not necessarily where it was grown. Australia has strict agricultural laws on farming practices keeping our food supply safe. 

Canned foods despite popular belief are not packed with preservatives. The canning keeps the produce sealed, free from oxygen that would allow many bacteria to grow. Sometimes there may be added salt which you can rinse off.  A small amount of sugar is added in some canned foods to help balance acidity, others might have more.  Read the labels to be sure of ingredients and quantities. 

Fresh will often taste best particularly if the product is in season. A peach out of season does not taste nice, sweet corn in season does. Fresh peas are generally expensive and shelling takes time. Frozen peas therefore make it to my freezer most of the time. To increase your vitamin and mineral intake mix and match, choose some of each. 

To up your vegetable intake add to nice warm wintery meals such as soups, casseroles, curries and stews. One of my favourites is the slow cooker. I set it in the morning and come home to the glorious smells of lamb shanks with vegetables, a hearty vegetable soup or winter stew. As it gets dark early in winter when we get home we often, ‘want it now’. having the slow cooker may avoid the drive through on the way home or instant noodle option. 

Salads can also be a way to eat your vegetables over winter. Salads you say? Try:

  • Adding roasted vegetables from the roast the night before- roasted beetroot, pumpkin, sweet potato, mushrooms and capsicum (has more vitamin C than an orange and still retains some of it when cooked)
  • To add some warmth to the salad for winter we need some carbs. How about some wholegrains such as freekah, quinoa, barley or brown rice?
  • Add legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans or lentils for protein, carbs and fibre 

The wholegrains along with vegetables provide fibre for your gut bacteria. This is a very important for winter wellness. Feeding gut bacteria to increase numbers of the good guys can help keep out unwanted pathogens. More of the good bacteria is like having a strong army. They line up in the gut and help keep the bad bacteria from entering the blood stream. 

Fruit is also important and even though much less is in season we still have some delicious fruits to choose from. Pears and apples are still good after autumn crops. Kiwifruit, oranges, tangarines, mandarins are at their best. Nothing better than digging into a fresh winter orange with the sweet juice dripping down. Kiwifruit can be eaten with the skin for extra fibre and less waste. All of these fruits provide valuable vitamin C, some have vitamin A and folate too. These vitamins help the immune system to function optimally. Vitamin C can help reduce the severity and symptoms of colds, it can’t cure it. try for two fruit a day.

To increase your fruit intake:

  • Fruit salad
  • Fruit platter
  • Adding it to breakfast cereal
  • Poaching for dessert
  • Adding to a cheese platter
  • On top of pancakes, in muffins

In addition the immune system also needs protein for cell growth and maintenance. This can be from meat, legumes, fish, dairy, tofu, seeds, nuts. A combination of sources is beneficial for the range of other vitamins and minerals these foods provide also.

Not as thirsty? In winter we are in heated cars, houses and offices. These environments are  dehydrating. If cold fluids are not appealing try:

  • Warm water with lemon or herbal teas
  • Warm milk with a  sprinkle of cinnamon 
  • Soup
  • Coffee and tea- have some diuretic effect but still overall hydrating- watch quantities for caffeine intake
  • Kombucha
  • Drinking yoghurt

A lack of fluid can make you tired and sluggish and grabbing for a sugar fix. Have a glass of water first. It can leave you with dry skin too.  

Keep up your variety of foods in winter. Reach for the fruit and vegetables and wholegrains too. Add in some protein and fluid and you will be well on the way to being well this winter!

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Simone has a proven track record of success as an Accredited Sports Dietitian. She has experienced 3 premiership years at Hawthorn AFL Football Club, 2 World Cups and an Ashes with The Australian Cricket Team and 2 premierships with Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club. ​ She has also been the dietitian to Melbourne City A-League Football Club for 4 years, the inaugural season with the Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union Club and had 6 years at the Western Bulldogs AFL club back in 1995. Simone works in private practice with any individual wanting to improve their own nutrition, super sporty or not. For many yeas Simone has been a dietitian at Swisse Wellness spreading the H & H (health and happiness) word, assisting with product development and education. Simone has given many presentations on diet and nutrition over the years motivating and educating at work places, conferences, courses and as a guest speaker at events. Her media work ​as a spokesperson for Dietitians Association of Australia has seen her provide special comments on Channel 7, 9 and ABC news, Current Affair and in many print and online newspapers and magazines such as Men's Health, Maree Claire, Woolworths Fresh, Nine MSN, The Age, Herald Sun and The Sydney Morning Herald. She has featured in television commercials and has been involved with the television show The Recruit and on Huey's Kitchen with chef Iain Hewitson. Simone's wealth of knowledge and experiences together with passion for food and health place her in a perfect position to share her thoughts and tips to help make having a healthy diet easier.

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