Tips for staying healthy and active this winter

Benita Zahn“Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. Since we’ve no place to go, let it snow…”

It’s that time of year when we all want to hunker down, chow down on carb-laden feel-good foods and skip the workout. But that would not be in our best interest. A poll a few years back published in The Daily Mail (okay, not scientific) found women, on average, gain 4.5 pounds during the winter months. We all know how tough it is to drop “the last 5 pounds” so it’s easy to see how the winter weight gain adds up. The key is prevention. Here’s a three-step plan for winterizing your body: bolster, move, cover.

BOLSTER. Start by limiting your “empty” carb consumption, including those sweets that are so tempting. Remember, sugar consumption triggers sugar consumption so you’re best not to start.

Instead stock your kitchen with healthier snacks. Nuts can fit that bill. At ¼ cup they deliver approximately 150 calories and a dose of omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber. While fruit choices are not as abundant during the winter, consider frozen products including berries. Don’t limit yourself to old standbys when you purchase produce. For example, consider the variety of squash available, each with a unique flavor and texture. 

One of my favorite snacks is a roasted golden beet. Beets are high in manganese, Vitamin C, potassium, beta carotene and fiber. Green leafy vegetables should also be on your shopping list for their nutritional value. Like beets they’re low in calories and provide antioxidants, as well as Vitamins A and C. You can braise, sauté, steam, roast, grill and blend them into a smoothie.

I recently spoke with Jill Edwards, director of education for the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, who touted the value of whipping up a nutritional drink. You can blend an array of health-boosting fruits and vegetables for a satisfying snack or meal that’s easy to make and take. Drinks are an easy way to add these foods to your diet. Edwards also encourages us to go vegan at least once a week. There are myriad reasons to try this including an energy boost. Plant-based foods are easier for your body to digest. Additionally, you’ll cut added sugar and fat, both of which can slow you down. And bottom line, the nutrient boost helps bolster your immune system and that’s something we can all embrace. 

One more thing: drink up. Dehydration can occur during winter. Besides water, a cup of tea or cocoa is both warming and provides a dose of antioxidants. Antioxidants are important because they help fight the effects of everyday living, which causes free radicals to form. Free radicals can damage our body. Antioxidants fight the free radicals. 

MOVE. The next step in winterizing your body is making a plan for action on the days your bed looks especially appealing. Prep your workout clothes the night before. Those sneakers are like a friend waiting for you to get walking or get to the gym. Sign up for a virtual workout on the days you absolutely don’t want to venture out. Keep in mind that getting outside and maximizing the reduced daylight helps ward off the winter blues, so consider taking up a winter sport. If skiing or skating isn’t in your wheelhouse, try snowshoeing. It’s great fun, social and low impact. You can rent snowshoes at many outdoor venues to give it a try. 

Activity not only helps keep our waistlines in check; it lifts our mood. If you do find yourself struggling emotionally because of the limited daylight you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Talk with your doctor about light therapy. 

COVER. The final step in winterizing your body is taking care of our skin. Genn Shaughnessy, the Backstage Stylist, reminds us to limit our skin’s exposure to the elements. She suggests putting on hand cream before donning gloves or mittens, but taking care not to go outside with wet hands to avoid chapping. When moisturizing your face, don’t forget the sunscreen. Sunlight reflecting off the snow can burn your skin. And go for fragrance-free products. As Shaughnessy notes, fragrances can irritate sensitive skin.

Benita Zahn is a certified health and wellness coach working in the Capital Region. Visit or follow her on Facebook

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