10/22/2013 10:12:00 AM Guest column: Stay healthy and fit during the winter months
Janine Rotter Nutrition Specialist
Fall is the perfect time of year to get your health, fitness, and immunity in check, because you will need all three to get you through the cold winter months ahead.
With the temperatures changing, we find ourselves wanting and craving those warm comfort foods that are loaded with empty calories and sugars that are bound to pack on the undesired winter fur that we worked so hard to get off this past summer. These tantalizing treats tempt us everywhere we turn: fall flavored lattes, hot apple ciders, the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls, Grandma's homemade apple pie. What can seemingly appear to be a guilt-free treat, such as a flavored seasonal latte, can really pack on the pounds and destroy our immunity if taken advantage of. Here are the numbers: a 20 ounce flavored latte can have as much as 660 calories, 22 grams of fat, and 95 grams of sugars. Why not go for a 16-ounce non-fat latte instead with 190 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 17 grams of sugars (the sugar comes from lactose, naturally found in milk).
With the change of seasons also comes Thanksgiving and we all know there will be traditional temptations such as home made pies and baked goodies. So how does one stay focused? The key is to stay motivated and keep your energy levels high. Eating 5-6 smaller meals a day versus 2-3 large meals will keep your blood sugar levels maintained throughout the day, which is crucial so you don't crash and reach for the sweet stuff that can leave you on a roller coaster ride of insulin highs and lows.
The weather is still nice enough to get outside and enjoy a walk, run, or even a hike up the mountain to take in the gorgeous sights of the changing colors. If it's too cold for you, why not join the local gym. When you find yourself with a food craving, getting out in the fresh air will help take your mind off the temptations and when you exercise, you release hormones that will help with the cravings. When we crave sugar, that is our body's normal way of trying to balance out both physically and mentally. It is telling you that you are lacking in natural micronutrients that are found naturally in fruits. Exercising will release the feel good endorphins that will help ward off these cravings. If you still have a sweet tooth, grab a fresh piece of fruit and pair it with a lean protein or healthy fat. This will help stabilize your blood sugar levels immediately and the cravings will subside.
Along with fall and winter comes dry winter air which holds less moisture than the warmer summer months, so staying hydrated is key and will also help ward off cravings. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb for the average person is three liters of fluids per day. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables will also help hydrate you.
Stress - we all have it, but it too causes food cravings. When we are depressed, worried, or have anxiety, we tend to turn toward food to comfort us. When you have a balanced diet rich in micronutrients and macronutrients, the main components that are essential for energy, mental and emotional wellbeing, we tend to handle stress better. Stress weakens our immune system and leaves us more susceptible to colds and flu. People that eat primarily whole food diets high in these nutrients are less likely to get sick because these foods help build our immune system. To say that your diet does not have an effect on your stress levels is absurd; sugar can wreak havoc on your immune system. The healthier your diet, the healthier your organ systems will be. The healthier your organ systems are, the more optimal they will function. What does this mean for you? The healthier you become by implementing whole nutrient rich foods, the better able you will be to tolerate stress in your life. A healthy body is a happy body.
Maintaining a healthy, happy mind and body also means compromise. We live in a world full of family and friends, Thanksgiving dinners, holiday parties, birthday parties, etc., but if you eat poorly 80 percent of the time and healthy 20 percent of the time, you will get nowhere. If you reverse those numbers and eat fresh whole foods without labels 80 percent of the time and indulge in the sweeter things in life, baked sweets, pumpkin lattes and ciders 20 percent of the time, you will get somewhere with your health and your immunity. Always remember to get back on track; it's a new day.