Many people, especially busy students, struggle with maintaining a healthy diet during the winter months. Many weekends are filled with holiday parties stocked with delicious treats and beverages, making it challenging to resist. A recent study by the National Institutes of Health showed that, on average, a person gains one to two pounds from September to March. However, this is just an average. One person may gain nothing, while another person may gain five pounds.
There are a number of reasons for this winter weight gain. Two of the most important reasons are that most of us exercise less in the winter and the holiday season offers enticing and not-so-healthy foods. You don't have to just accept this winter weight gain as inevitable — eating right doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. There are some easy and affordable dietary choices you can make this winter to maintain your health.
Healthy lifestyle and dietary choices to make this winter
Do you want to eat healthier this winter and avoid gaining that extra pound or two, maybe even lose a couple of pounds instead? Do you want to avoid that January or February bout with the flu or a sinus infection? We have a few tips to help you get started in the right, healthier direction.
Eat leafier, green veggies
Ideally, vegetables of all kinds should make up around 50 percent of your daily food intake. However, not all vegetables are equally nutritious. Some are more beneficial to your body than others. For example, kale, spinach, and other leafy greens are loaded with zinc, which can help ward off winter viruses like the flu and bolster your immune system.
Seek complex carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates, such as legumes, seeds, beans, nuts, and whole grains, digest more slowly than other foods and help you to feel full longer. When you feel full, you’re less likely to consume additional calories through unnecessary snacking. Complex carbohydrates also contain a good amount of fiber, which helps with digestion and keeping your blood sugar levels at an even level.
Not all carbohydrates are consistent with a healthy lifestyle, though. Avoid foods and beverages with simple carbs, such as sugary treats, breakfast cereal, sodas, and concentrated fruit juices. Not only are these high in calories, but they digest quickly and leave you with spikes and valleys in your blood sugar and energy levels.
Choose foods with vitamin C
Foods with vitamin C, such as citrus fruit, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and strawberries, offer a wealth of health benefits. Vitamin C is believed to help boost the immune system and make you less vulnerable to infections and viruses. Some doctors believe that vitamin C helps to prevent chronic illnesses like type-2 diabetes and heart disease. It's also believed to help lower blood pressure and may even offer memory benefits.
We’ve all heard it before — one of the best things you can do for your body is to stay hydrated. Ideally, this means drinking at least eight 8-oz glasses of water a day, according to the Mayo Clinic. While water is the best source of hydration, juices and other beverages can also contribute to that total. Keep in mind, however, that some beverages, such as coffee, tea, alcoholic beverages, and most sodas, actually have a dehydrating effect since caffeine and alcohol are diuretics.
Staying hydrated helps your body convert food to energy efficiently, keeps your blood from thickening, lubricates your joints, and helps your digestive system work well. Drinking enough water also keeps you from feeling hungry — an easy way to assist your weight loss plan.
Add root vegetables to your diet
Root vegetables — those that grow in the ground like beets, onions, garlic, carrots, fennel, turnips, and parsnips — are a great source of fiber, which also benefits your digestive system. They are also rich in nutrients and antioxidants, such as potassium, vitamins A, B, and C, and manganese.
This is good news for a winter diet — root vegetables are prevalent during the cold weather season and will last for several months when stored in a cool, dark place like a basement or cellar.
Root vegetables are a great addition to hearty soups or roasted in the oven with a little olive oil.
Eat on a regular schedule
Eating your meals at the same times every day helps you keep your energy level constant and reduces spikes and ebbs in your blood sugar level. Ideally, you should consume three to six small meals a day to avoid cravings, snacking, mood swings, and feeling “hangry.” While skipping a meal may seem like a good way to reduce your calorie intake, it usually ends up having the opposite effect.
Commitment to education — earning your nutrition degree at Johnson and Wales University
If you enjoy eating a balanced and healthy diet, why not share your enthusiasm for nutrition with others and help your community by earning a degree in nutrition? Nutrition is a growing field. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for nutrition and dietetics professionals in the United States is expected to grow 11% by 2030. This is faster than the average rate of job growth across all professions.
Johnson and Wales offers a two-year Master of Science in Nutrition program that is available exclusively online to make it easier for students to fit the program into their busy home and work lives. The program focuses entirely on career-related topics, like nutritional counseling and education, nutrition for athletic performance, advanced clinical nutrition, and grantsmanship and publication.
Graduates of this program are well-positioned to work in a wide variety of areas in the nutrition/dietetics field, including in athletics, corporate institutions, and clinical settings. According to the BLS, the average nutritionist earns an annual salary of $63,090 or about $30 per hour.
Applicants for this program are required to have earned an undergraduate degree in nutrition, dietetics, or a related field, such as exercise physiology, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, health sciences, kinesiology, microbiology, or physician's assistant studies. Applicants with degrees in other fields will not be considered for admission into this program. Successful candidates with degrees in fields other than nutrition and dietetics may have to take one or two nutrition courses in addition to the course material.