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How to stay healthy along with the changing seasons

You may notice that it’s not just the seasons that change, but the way in which we feel, behave, and interact with others changes too. It’s normal for our lifestyles to change around the seasons, but it’s important to realise when these changes are impacting our goals and if there is anything we can do to stay on track.

When it gets darker and colder… 

Eating well 

–          Avoid comfort eating – it’s common to crave carbohydrate-rich comfort foods in the winter because eating carbohydrates can help to trigger the release of serotonin, delivering a short-term pleasure boost. We may be particularly tempted by carb-rich foods high in added fat, salt and sugar (such as cakes, crisps and pastries) because these are even more rewarding. While it’s normal to want to feel better, these foods offer short-term fix only. Regularly indulging can exacerbate our cravings over time, and sabotage our healthy eating and weight goals. 

Combat cravings by: 

1)      Making a note of your thoughts and feelings around food, and whether we are eating for physical hunger or for something else. 

2)      Including a healthy high-fibre source of carbohydrates in moderation with each meal. Try to fill ¼ of your plate with lean protein, and ½ with non-starchy veg as well as a source of healthy fats to help balance your meals and keep you feeling full. 

–          Buy frozen– it can be difficult to get out when it’s cold and icy, so buying frozen produce and items in bulk can make this easier. Frozen fruit and veg are just as nutritious as fresh produce, because they are frozen shortly after picking. If going for tinned items, chose produces in natural water/ juice and avoid fruits in syrup or added salt. 

–          Consider a Vitamin D supplement – we need vitamin D to keep our bones, muscles and immune system healthy. We get most of our Vitamin D from exposure to the sun, so in the dark winter months, Public Health England recommends all adults take a Vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms per day. Supplements are widely available in supermarkets and pharmacies, and can be taken alongside dietary sources of vitamin D such as oily fish, egg yolks, meat, and vitamin D-fortified breads and cereals. 

Moving more 

–          Adjust your schedule – find time to do your activity in daylight, or try to mix up your routine with some activity before the sun rises to help the day feel longer 

–          Have a backup plan – when you’re unable to take part in your planned activity due to the weather, make sure you have another activity in mind to get some movement into your day 

–          Update your wardrobe – invest in some warm clothes to encourage you to continue activities outdoors, such as thermals, gloves, warm hat, comfortable, warm socks, snood, and weather-proof shoes 

–          Drink plenty of water – when it’s gets colder, we often opt for hot drinks like tea, coffee or hot chocolate, but it’s important to keep hydrated with water before and after any activity 

Taking charge 

–          Spend time with family and friends – it can be easier to socialise more often in the warmer months, as we often have holidays and outdoor events, so make sure to plan a walk, coffee meet up, or even just a phone call with others to stay connected during the colder months 

–          Consider your hobbies – what activities or hobbies can you do in the cold weather? Think about something for both physical and mental wellbeing 

–          Practice self-compassion – we may have limited choice for activity and more social events surrounding holidays and celebrations in the winter months, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Appreciate the time spent with friends and family, and enjoy some treats here and there, remembering that there are no bad foods, it’s all about balance and moderation! 

–          Check in on how you feel – it can be more apparent to experience low mood in the winter months from less sunlight and serotonin, so make sure you write down how you feel, and speak to someone if you notice these emotions and feelings becoming more intense 

When it gets lighter and warmer… 

Eating well 

–          Make a plan – if you are attending evenings out, BBQs or going on holiday, make a plan for how to stay on track. If you’re going for an evening meal out or BBQ, have a balanced meal at lunchtime to help moderate your portion sizes in the evening. 

–          Base your meals on the portion plate – it can be hard to keep track of your portions at summer BBQs and picnics. Try serving up a plate of food based on the portion plate, rather than dipping in and out of the food offerings. Don’t double up on carbs (have a burger bun or potato salad), fill half of your plate with fresh seasonal salads, and enjoy lean, minimally processed meats and fish or plant-based alternatives. Watch out for condiments with hidden sugars! 

–          Be mindful of fruit intake – although fruit has many health benefits, and should be included in a healthy diet, the amount of natural sugar can add up. Monitor your intake and aim for 2 portions a day, enjoyed as part of a meal and spaced apart. 

–          Read the menu ahead of time – think of swapping sides, opting for sugar free soft drinks, sharing desserts or asking for smaller portions when eating out. 

–          Watch out for fad diets – it’s common to be more aware of our bodies during the summer months, but try to focus on having a well balanced diet, full of variety and energy, rather than short-term fixes 

–          Snack smart! Create some delicious treats to enjoy in the sun or on the go. Why not try plain low-fat yoghurt with summer berries, veg sticks and hummus or our plantain chip and yoghurt dip recipe in the Wellbeing Way app? 

Moving more 

–          Adjust your schedule – find the best time to be active 

–          Choose your favourite outdoor activity, and try to do this in the morning or evening when it’s the coolest 

–          Update your wardrobe – invest in some cool clothes to continue activities comfortably outdoors 

–          Drink plenty of water – it’s important to keep hydrated before and after any activity 

–          Try out gardening! Or perhaps see if there is an allotment nearby? Plant your own fresh produce and watch it grow 

–          Change up your commute – walk to work or to the shops, get off a bus stop early, or park the furthest away from the entrance to get in them extra steps! 

–          See the world through a new lens – grab your phone or camera and take pictures of the local scenery. Take a new picture each day and create a monthly collage 

Taking charge 

–          Consider your hobbies – what activities or hobbies can you do in the warm weather? Think about something for both physical and mental wellbeing 

–          Practice self-compassion – appreciate the time spent with friends and family, and enjoy some treats here and there, remembering that there are no bad foods, it’s all about balance and moderation! 

–          Maintain a good sleeping schedule – have a set bedtime and set a regular alarm to wake up 

–          Consider reducing your screen time – can you think of ways to connect with others outside of social media, or do another activity away from the screen 

–          Practice mindfulness – spend some free time this summer practicing the art of being mindful, whether that’s through deep breathing, focusing on your senses, or making note of your feelings