You've got this.
The dark days of winter may be cozy, but they’re also the time of year when it’s easier to hit the snooze button on your phone or alarm clock than meet a friend for an early morning walk. Turns out there’s an interesting reason for this: Cold winter days generally mean less sunlight, which supplies us with vitamin D. The lower our vitamin D levels, the lower our fitness levels, according to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Still, there’s no reason we can’t defy the odds this winter season and be our healthiest selves. Read on as our experts share some innovative nutrition tips (including healthy snack recipes) and clever ways to boost your energy—even if you have a condition like diabetes—when the mercury drops.
6 Energy-Boosting Tips for Winter
1. Balance your plate
To help manage your blood sugar levels and eat better in general, stay hydrated and eat consistently throughout the day, suggests registered dietitian Kim Pierce, a certified diabetes care and education specialist at Cleveland Clinic.
“To avoid snack attacks, don’t go over five hours without eating,” Pierce says. “Then, when you do sit down to eat a meal, focus on the ‘plate method,’ meaning your plate should be filled with one-fourth carbs, one-fourth protein and one-half non-starchy vegetables, such as salad, broccoli, asparagus and green beans.”
2. Eat energy-boosting snacks
It also helps if your favorite snacks are healthy, simple to make—and low in carbs, says Joy Bauer, the Today show’s nutrition and health expert. “I love making my fiesta lime popcorn as this snack is flavorful and low in calories,” she explains. “Popcorn is a whole grain and the cheese adds some protein, which, when paired together with fiber, can help offset the carbs.”
Bauer also snacks on DIY rosemary spiced walnuts and tortilla pizza. “The walnuts are toasty and tasty and they deliver omega-3 fats, which can help protect heart health,” she says. “And pizza…need I say more? This one is cheesy and easy-breezy.” Tip: Choose a low-carb wrap (such as Tumaro’s) to keep carbs under control, Bauer suggests.
3. Get your energy-boosting vitamin D!
Take a walk during sunny hours
Consume fish such as swordfish or salmon
Look for vitamin-D-enhanced yogurt or a nutritional shake
Eat a good breakfast of D-rich eggs or fortified cereal
4. Try not to self-sabotage
Sometimes we’re our own biggest barrier to getting the exercise we need to boost our energy and mood. “For example, imagine it’s a chilly winter morning and you’re sleeping cozy and warm in bed. Suddenly the alarm rings and it’s time to get up a half hour earlier to get in a quick workout before your day gets busy,” says Chris Gagliardi, scientific education content manager for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). “This is the moment when the voice in your head starts to think, It’s so cold out and it’s warm and cozy in bed. Let’s just stay right here under these covers for just a little longer. The next thing you know you’ve overslept by two hours and are now running late and feeling extra stressed.”
Instead, practice positive self-talk and focus on how happy you’ll feel when you accomplish that goal of walking the dog just a little bit farther than the day before, or even training for a spring 5K, Gagliardi says.
5. Be prepared for winter weather
As they say in Norway, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes, says Jack Raglin, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University Bloomington’s School of Public Health. “That’s why preparation is key,” he explains. “One way to do this is to check the weather forecast and put out your gear the night before. It’s a reminder that can make it harder to skip out on that workout.”
You're making movement a habit, the outdoor or workout clothes are ready, you have a plan for walking to the post office instead of driving—these all help change your attitude and perception about being active. “If you do this, before long, you’ll actually start to see yourself as an active person who seeks out movement,” Raglin says.
6. Find creative ways to get moving
There’s nothing like a heart-pumping workout to boost your mood—at the very least, you’ll be happy when it’s done! Here are some ideas from Gagliardi and the ACE team.
Stair challenge: Run up and walk down the stairs in your house or office as many times as possible in five minutes.
Power clean: Set a timer for 10 minutes and see how fast (and thoroughly) you can clean your house in that time period. You can get quite a bit done in 10 minutes and get your heart rate up too.
Use commercial breaks: While you’re watching TV, see how many different exercises you can do during commercial breaks. Or make a game out of a show. For example, every time the main character says a certain word do five push-ups, or each time music plays do as many squats as possible for the duration of the song.
Kim Pierce, certified diabetes care and education specialist at Cleveland Clinic
Joy Bauer, the Today show’s nutrition and health expert
Chris Gagliardi, scientific education content manager for the American Council on Exercise (ACE)
Jack Raglin, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University Bloomington’s School of Public Health