Healthy eating over winter

 Photo by  Mathew Waters  on  Unsplash

Photo by Mathew Waters on Unsplash

Winter is on its way! And with it comes cold days and comfort foods. Hot soups, warm pies and creamy porridge are returning to the menu! Here are our 4 top tips for staying healthy, this winter.

Follow your Hunger

Eating when hungry is key to being healthy, including having a healthy relationship with food and a healthy body weight for you. Our body's are very good at telling us what foods we need to eat and when, so it pays to tune in! Eat when hungry and stop just before you're full. when we ignore our hunger signals, it can lead to us over-eating later, usually on foods that are easily accessible and not as nutritious, compared to eating a meal. 

If you are not sure about how much you should be eating or if you are used to ignoring your hunger signals and over-riding them with diet rules, try using portion size's or the healthy plate, as a guide. When it comes to what you eat, size really does matter and yes and you can have too much of a good thing. But what is too much and how much should you be eating?

Portion sizes are a general guide for good amounts of certain types of foods. They are useful as different sized people will need different amounts of food to keep their body fuelled. Aim for: 

  • a serve of red meat is about the palm of your hand (chicken and fish can be the size of your palm and fingers),
  • the carbohydrate portion (e.g. potato, kumara, pasta or rice) is about the size of your clenched fist, and
  • a serve of fruit fits into the palm of your hand, vegetables fit in two hands cupped together. At your evening meal, aim to have two cupped-hands of vegetables on your plate.

The healthy plate is a general guide for healthy eating. Aim for ½ the plate filled with non-starchy vegetables, ¼ with protein (legumes, fish, seafood, eggs, poultry or meat) and the remaining ¼ with wholefood based carbohydrates (potatoes, kumara, brown rice, oats, quinoa).

Snack right

Skipping meals can lead to increased snacking, usually on foods that aren't super good for us. If you've eaten a good meal with enough protein, plants and healthy fats you should be full enough to not need a snack. But whether you need to snack or not depends on your energy requirements, how active you are, whether you are a growing teenager or child and how you like to eat. If you are hungry at morning or afternoon tea time, then have a snack. If you are not hungry and can easily wait to the next meal, then don't have a snack. 

Aim for snacks that will keep you feeling satisfied and give you sustained energy until the next eating time. snacks are really mini meals, so make sure they are half fruit and vegetables with a wee bit of protein and healthy fats to keep your energy levels stable. Reaching for snacks which not only fill you up, but also provide you with some vitamins and minerals. Foods which provide protein will help to keep you feeling fuller for longer; while foods rich in fibre (like fruit and vegetables) will reduce how much you eat at the next meal.

Some examples of nutritious snacks include:

  • Vegetable sticks dipped in hummus – vegetables provide a range of nutrients and important phyto-chemicals which help arm your body’s defences against disease and infection. Hummus is a good source of fibre and protein too. Try dipping baby carrots, celery, broccoli florets or radishes
  • Fresh fruit – it’s the season for apples (including our favourite, the granny smith!), pears, citrus, kiwifruit and nashis. Like vegetables, fruit provide a range of nutrients and phyto-chemicals which can help to arm your body’s defense system against the winter ills. They also contain fibre to help fill you up.
  • Unsweetened yoghurt – provide’s you with protein and nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and zinc, which are important for bone health. Add a few frozen berries or a tsp of LSA for extra flavour.
  • Tinned salmon or tuna in spring water on wholemeal toast – Fish are a good source of protein and oily fish such as salmon or tuna provide omega 3 fats which are good for your heart and brain. Wholegrain toast is a good source of fibre.
  • A small handful of raw nuts and/or seeds - nuts contain lots of healthy fats, especially raw walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds - they are high in omega 3 fatty acids which are super important for our brain and heart health. Nuts and seeds are also high in fibre, so help keep you regular. 

Give your traditional comfort foods a healthy make-over

During winter we tend to fill up on heavy, warm comfort food rather than reaching for salads or other light meals. Just because we are not having salads, doesn't mean we should ditch our daily dose of veggies. 

For example:

 Vege up your favourite meals by either adding more vegetables to your favourite dish or serving some delicious seasonal winter vegetables on the side.

Vege up your favourite meals by either adding more vegetables to your favourite dish or serving some delicious seasonal winter vegetables on the side.

  • Veg-up your traditional lasagne, by adding fresh vegetables to the meat sauce. Try adding grated carrot or courgette, chopped onions and broccoli and of course lots of tomatoes! 
  • Baked kumara (sweet potato) can make for a quick, tasty and nutritious meal. Try topping with chilli beans, salsa and cottage cheese, natural yoghurt, grated cheddar cheese or a dollop of sour cream.
  • You can also veg-up your traditional casserole by adding onion, kumara, carrots, courgette, celery, peas or tomatoes. And you guessed it; make sure you watch your portion sizes!

Move it, or lose it

 Moving our body is so important and not just for our body weight, but for keeping our muscles strong, maintaining strong bones and studies show exercise reduces stress and improves our mood! The most important factor is to choose a way of moving your body that you enjoy! Aim to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity, each day. This can be broken up into intervals too.

Get creative with your exercise

 Photo by  Justyn Warner  on  Unsplash

Photo by Justyn Warner on Unsplash

Over winter it can be pretty hard to get motivated to do some exercise – especially when it is wet, cold and miserable outside. If braving the weather for a walk, cycle or run isn’t your thing, try going to your local gym or in-door pool. Choose activities that you find fun and enjoyable. If you like dancing then find a dance class. If you don’t like sweaty exercise try pilates or yoga. Some people like group activities the most, so if that’s you; join a walking group or sports team. You can even work exercise into your regular day.


  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator. Even try walking a few flights of stairs on your lunch break, if you work in an office building.
  • Talk an email – instead of emailing a colleague, get up and go over to their desk instead. It's much more personal and will no doubt save countless emails going back and forward all afternoon.
  • Park your car further away or get off the bus a few stops earlier than you need to.
  • Get up during the ad breaks on TV and walk around the house.
  • Cleaning the house or garden. Not only will you have a nice clean house and garden to relish on those winter days but you will have also burnt off some kilojoules in the process.
  • Window shopping at your local shopping mall. Walking briskly around a cosy mall is a great way to scope out the shops while raising your heart rate at the same time.