Realistic Nutrition Tips for Gentle Winter Self-Care

Ask Ashley Koff, RD, Calmful Living Nutrition Editor


I have a hard time in the winter. I am not sure if it’s the cold or the darkness or what, but I feel like I struggle more to eat good-for-me foods and to be active. Any help would be much appreciated.


Dear Winter Woes,

You are so not alone! It’s actually all of the above—the weather and the lack of daylight— that combine to have us feeling like a bear, wanting to hibernate! In a recent segment on The Better TV Show I shared my favorite foods—those rich in nutrients like magnesium, essential fats and folate that can help us get and stay a little happier this time of year. So, what else can we do?

    • Give in to winter wants: Maybe you need a little extra sleep; maybe you want your food to be warm and creamy; maybe you don’t want to go outside for a run. The change in seasons is a good reminder to change things up—so the body and the mind don’t get complacent. A quick nap or an earlier bedtime can be the thing that perks you up better than an extra espresso shot. Warm and creamy can be mashed cauliflower or coconut Thai basil soup; or skip the run and have a dance party or indoor boxing session. As long as you get your sweat on and as long as you don’t overdo it on food, you will net out better come spring.

    • Warm up with spices not salt: Winter foods and beverages can be a great way to get in the healing, helpful benefits of spices—from ginger to turmeric to rosemary and garlic and chili spices; and the good news is beyond being helpful to support healthy immune systems, they also help rev the metabolic engine. Conversely, too much added salt (think soups, potatoes, packaged foods) can slow us down and actually contribute to winter blues from dehydration, resulting in everything from dry skin to metabolic slowdown.

    • Get and give winter support: I told you before, you aren’t alone—and to that end, you can choose to be a winter health enabler or you could risk being a winter health breaker. Does your partner support your desire to sleep through your morning workouts daily? Or do you support each other by picking a new workout—maybe a home video—you can do together, even after a latte you have at home made with a timer that also functions as an alarm clock? How about turning drinks with friends into a health spa day: an infrared sauna or massages or steam room post workout? And while it may not be fun to shovel snow alone, it can be fun to burn calories and gossip with pals or build a snow fort with the kids outside.


Winter blues can be a more serious issue, so be sure to talk to your healthcare practitioner if you are having trouble participating in your daily activities or notice quick weight gain or loss.

Ashley Koff is an internationally renowned registered dietitian on a mission to improve the health of people across America and beyond through raising public awareness of the value of quality eating. Visit her site at: www.ashleykoffapproved.com