Wondering how to stay healthy in winter? From feeling isolated to experiencing disruptions in your normal routine, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed during the colder months. However, easy and approachable wellness routines can help you stay healthy when winter weather comes along.
Read on for how to stay healthy in the winter months, including the top tips from health experts.
How to Eat Healthy in Winter
Whether you want to eat seasonally or are trying to avoid seasonal sickness, there’s a winter eating tip for everyone.
Try Seasonal Produce Picks
From citrus fruits to root vegetables, there are plenty of foods in season during winter that are both delicious and nutritious. Fruits and vegetables that are in season often offer more vitamins and minerals, and are fresher from farm to table.
Popular winter produce items include:
• Snow peas
• Sweet potatoes
• Winter squash
Eat To Improve Immunity
Did you know your diet is integral to keeping your immune system healthy? Getting enough vitamins and minerals may help you fight the flu and protect against other seasonal diseases. Instead of focusing on or obsessing over a single nutrient (like vitamin C), try to eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods (like fruits and vegetables) to help fortify you.
Keep Shelf-Stable Foods On Hand
Winter weather can turn nasty at a moment's notice. Instead of being stuck with a mish-mash of ingredients that you can’t turn into a meal, keep your pantry or food storage stocked with shelf-stable foods (i.e .canned food or pasta). Ideal options for emergencies require no cooking or refrigeration (i.e. crackers and canned tuna).
Ask Your Dietitian About Vitamin D
Depending on where you live, you might not be getting enough vitamin D in the winter. Sunlight helps your skin convert vitamin D into a form the body can use. Since more hours are spent indoors during winter, it’s worth asking your dietitian about possible supplementation.
Create Healthier Comfort Foods
Comfort foods and healthy foods can coexist! Winter seems like the prime time to cozy up with favorite comfort foods. Choose lighter versions of the classics to keep your health goals in focus.
Drink Your Calories In A Nutrient-Rich Way
Healthy hot cocoa can be a great way to get your daily dose of nutrients. This winter staple doesn’t have to be loaded with sugar but can deliver nutrient-rich ingredients instead. Try swapping premade packets for homemade hot chocolate.
Other Ways to Stay Healthy in the Winter Months
Have a handle on diet, but want to stay healthy in other ways? Here are seven additional tips for staying proactive and protected this winter.
Don’t Forget To Drink Water
It’s easy to remember to stay hydrated when the weather is warm. Signals like sweat and sunshine make drinking water the obvious choice. However, it’s just as important to drink hydrating fluids during winter.
Since the temperature typically drops, your body may expend more energy trying to stay warm. Supporting your body with warm, hydrating fluids (i.e. bone broth) cab be a great way to meet your daily drink requirement. Knowing the signs of winter dehydration can also help you spot serious symptoms in yourself or others.
Protect Yourself Against Seasonal Threats
Getting an annual flu vaccine (often referred to as the “flu shot”) can help protect you against seasonal strains of the flu virus. Since the common cold and flu are viruses and not bacteria, they don’t respond to antibiotics.
The flu is commonly contagious right at the peak of winter season, being easily spread from October to May. Special populations, like the elderly, children, or pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. Talk with your healthcare provider about getting a flu vaccine, which can help protect you from the flu or decrease the severity of symptoms if you do catch it.
Wash Your Hands With Warm Water & Soap
Perhaps one of the most simple ways to be proactive and protect yourself against disease is by washing your hands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water (preferably warm but not scorching hot). While you lather, just remember you are protecting your loved ones from harmful germs and chemicals.
Have A Fully Stocked First-Aid Kit
Winter weather can make it harder for emergency vehicles to reach you, or for you to make it to the hospital in a timely manner. While it may seem like a simple measure, having a fully stocked first aid kit on hand can come in handy. Keep at least one in your house and one in your car, and be sure that medicines have not expired.
Equip Your Spaces For Winter Safety
Have you heard of the term “winterize?” In regards to your home, it means to adapt or prepare your home for winter weather and cold spells. Even if you’re county doesn’t experience clear shifts in climates or seasons, it’s worth taking special steps to ensure your living environment is safe for winter.
For example, it’s important to invest in the following before the weather gets frosty:
• Cleaning out gutters
• Installing weather stripping and/or storm windows
• Insulating water lines and exterior-exposed walls
• Materials or expelling icy patches
• Repairing the roof
It’s also recommended to equip your car for winter commutes. This can include:
• Checking your tires’ tread (or replacing with all-weather/snow tires)
• Maintaining antifreeze levels
• Servicing the radiator
• Switching your windshield washer to a wintertime formula
Regularly Check On Heating Systems
The middle of a snowstorm is not the time to check if your heating systems are up-to-date. Before the winter weather alerts arrive, check the following systems in your home to ensure safety during snowy weather:
• Chimneys (are they clean?)
• Safe alternative heating sources and fuels (for emergencies like power outages)
• Smoke detectors
Dress Properly During Cold Weather Exercise
Frigid winter air can quickly take the fun out of winter activities if you aren’t dressed for the weather. Plan to stay active in the winter by dressing properly for cold weather activities. This includes:
• Dressing in wind-resistant jackets or coats
• Layering with light materials that can also keep you warm
• Protecting our feet with waterproof shoes or boots
• Utilizing accessories (i.e. gloves, hats, scarves) to protect extremities
• Wearing clothes with a tight weave
Check The Weather Before You Leave
Another tip that seems simple at first, but can actually save lives, is checking the weather before trying transportation. Sometimes, checking the weather before you leave can save you from a scary trip in worrisome weather. Most institutions, from work to school, understand that the weather may cause unavoidable delays and prioritize safety first. Make it an instinct to check the weather before you leave your house so that you are better informed about the risks that lie outside your door.
Don’t Skimp On Stress Relief
The winter season may seem like a naturally stressful time. From spending time with family to trying to capture the magic of the holidays, there are plenty of activities that distract from your normal routine. However, winter can be a perfect time to reset and refocus on the activities that keep you sane.
Managing stress successfully can also serve your immune system, which plays a crucial role during winter time. Beyond the above-mentioned tips (like eating well), try incorporating the following activities in your stress relief routine:
• Exercising (a powerful mood booster)
• Journaling (a great activity for when you’re stuck indoors)
• Maintaining firm boundaries and learning to say “no”
• Setting aside specific times for rest and relaxation
• Sleep hygiene (i.e. no screens 30 minutes before bed)
In Summary On How to Stay Healthy in Winter
Fall and winter wellness can seem tricky, especially when you’re stuck indoors. However, simple snowy weather tips can make it easier to manage wintertime stresses. When things slow down in the winter, remember practices like hand washing and healthy eating can do wonders for your immunity.
Badali M. W.I.N.T.E.R. Stress-Busting Tips By Dr. Melanie Badali. Anxietycanada.com. Accessed 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu Shot. Cdc.gov. Published August 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hand Hygeine FAQs. Cdc.gov. Published November 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stay Safe and Healthy in Winter. Cdc.gov. Published December 2021.