Healthy eating during winter
Written by: Ursula Herulah, Credentials: Accredited practicing Dietitian
Healthcare professionals play a vital role in promoting and supporting healthy eating habits among their clients, particularly during the winter season. As individuals face distinctive challenges in maintaining a nutritious diet during this time, healthcare professionals can provide invaluable guidance to ensure their clients’ overall well-being. By offering personalised recommendations, education, and providing continuous support, healthcare professionals can empower their clients to make informed choices and prioritise healthy eating throughout the colder months.
Embrace seasonal produce
Winter is a time when the body needs additional nourishment and energy. Prioritise nutrient-dense foods that provide essential vitamins and minerals. Despite the misconception that winter lacks fresh produce, there are plenty of nutritious options available. Seasonal fruits and vegetables during winter include citrus fruits (oranges, mandarins and grapefruit), apples, pears, root vegetables (carrots, turnips and parsnips), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage and kale), and winter squash (butternut pumpkin and zucchini). These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants that support immune function and overall health.
Practicing portion control encourages individuals to adopt mindful eating habits. Being aware of portion sizes helps individuals become more attentive to their food choices and eating behaviours. Mindful eating promotes a greater connection with food, enhances enjoyment, and allows individuals to better recognise their body’s hunger and fullness cues. It can contribute to a healthier relationship with food and prevent mindless overeating.
Two nutrients, in particular, have been shown to improve satiety: fibre and protein. It’s important to note that different types of dietary fibre may have varying effects on satiety. Soluble fibre, found in foods like oats, beans, and fruits, forms a gel-like substance when mixed with water, slowing down digestion and prolonging the feeling of fullness. Insoluble fibre, found in foods like whole wheat, vegetables, and bran, adds bulk to the stool and aids in proper bowel function.
Protein stimulates the release of satiety hormones, such as peptide YY (PYY) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which help regulate appetite and promote feelings of fullness. Additionally, protein has a higher thermic effect of food, meaning it requires more energy for digestion and absorption compared to carbohydrates and fats, further contributing to increased satiety.
While reducing sugar intake is important for overall health, focusing solely on sugar reduction may not be sufficient. Embracing a low GI diet, which emphasises choosing carbohydrates that have a slower impact on blood sugar levels, offers significant benefits in diabetes management. By prioritising low GI foods, individuals can improve blood sugar control, promote sustained energy, support weight management, and enhance cardiovascular health. Consultation with healthcare professionals or registered dietitians can provide personalised guidance on adopting a low GI diet.
Ongoing support and education
By providing ongoing support and education, health professionals can reinforce healthy eating habits and facilitate discussions on diabetes management. This may involve referring clients to a dietitian for tailored dietary advice and personalized recommendations. The NDSS events and group education sessions are also valuable resources, offering free education and support for registered clients.
Healthcare professionals have the opportunity to guide and empower their clients in making healthy eating choices during winter. By embracing seasonal produce, practicing mindful eating, understanding the role of satiety, considering low GI foods, and providing ongoing support and education, healthcare professionals can help their clients maintain a nutritious diet.