NYC Dietitian Gives 5 Tips to Boost Immune System During the Holidays and Winter

Eat for Health

NYC Nutritionist

Winter is here!

There’s something magical about winter. Snow, sledding, ice skating, holiday shopping, family traditions, delicious treats, shoveling, wet feet, sniffly noses, flu and cold season, doctor’s visits … ahhh winter magic. Winter has a way of throwing our immune systems out of whack: holiday stress, indulging in a high sugar and fat diet, end-of-the-year reports and deadlines, family commitments, financial commitments – the never-ending stream of magic brings a never-ending stream of trips to the pharmacy to buy cold pills, prescription medication and more.

Many of my clients are concerned about gaining holiday pounds, which is a common holiday nutrition problem. But a real problem is the way we compromise bodies’ immune systems because of our poor nutritional choices. It’s a challenge to be well-nourished to keep off the extra weight, but, more importantly, hold back the germs and those doctor visits.

Nothing is a firewall against the germs that float around all winter, but with a strong immune system, you might just get through these winter months unscathed! Investing in healthy eating is the best way to save money on prescriptions this winter.

So here are 5 tips to boost your immune system during the winter months:

  • peas-166969_1920Don’t dismiss frozen fruits and veggies: For some reason, people assume that once a fruit, berry or vegetable is frozen, they lose everything valuable. Give our fruits and vegetables some credit. Nutrients and minerals found in fruits and vegetables are incredibly tough. In fact, the fiber and iron content of fruits and vegetables, whether fresh or frozen, don’t change. Further research has found that there’s not a discernable difference between fresh and frozen corn, carrots, broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, strawberries, and blueberries. So buy those frozen berries to add to your oatmeal or cereal. Add some in-season, winter treats like cabbage, pumpkin sweet potato and spinach to get an anti-oxidant, Vitamin C and beta-carotene boost.
  • A to Zinc: Zinc is key to fighting off infections. Fish, unprocessed grains, poultry, eggs, and milk all pack a punch of zinc and can keep your body’s system stronger.
  • Don’t forget the bacteria : Without good bacteria, our bodies don’t function well.  Prebiotics and probiotics help combat allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, and improve gastrointestinal health. There are many supplements out there, but by balancing your diet with these key foods, you probably won’t need one. (Though, a supplemental boost of probiotics is recommended after taking antibiotics.)
  • Get Your Sunshine: Vitamin D is essential to mental health. Winter’s short, sunless days, can give us that pale, vampire hue. And mood. With lowered Vitamin D, your serotonin levels lower and the risk of depression during winter months heightens. A common side effect of depression is eating – and eating unhealthy. So, get your twenty minutes of sunlight each day. Leave the office midday to sit in the sun. Move your desk by the sun. Do whatever you need to soak up some rays. Or talk to your health care provider about Vitamin D supplements.
  • NYC NutritionistMake smart choices: There’s nothing more tempting than warm, winter beverages. So try low-sugar hot chocolate, without whipped cream. Herbal and green teas offer the warmth you need without the calories. There are some great winter flavors out there: apple cinnamon, orange spice, and chai to keep you in the holiday spirit. Go for low-salt options on canned goods, or rinse canned vegetables, for heart health. Be party savvy. Choose a can’t-live-without-it holiday treat at a party and enjoy! Then stock up on vegetables, fruits, and healthier options to get full without running up the calories, sugar, salt and fat in your diet.

These small adjustments to your holiday eating routine will save you pounds and doctor’s visits during the winter months. Though the less expensive, easy-to-heat meals are tempting, they end up costing you and your health a lot more in the long run. Finding ways to maintain your healthy eating during winter months might just keep the germs, and pounds, at bay.