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  • Schenkenberger R.D.

It's Winter Outside: Is your Diet Changing With It?

Registered, Licensed Dietitian; American Council on Exercise The autumn season marks the transition from summer to winter. The days start getting shorter and the trees lose their colorful leaves. During this transition, we too change our dietary intake. We tend to drink less water and seek warm comfort foods.

It is important to be mindful of our choices throughout the colder months, especially when it comes to water intake. Ice cold water sounds refreshing on a hot summer day, but in the middle of winter it loses its luster. Up to 60% of the adult human body is water. Water is vital as it helps regulate body temperature, flushes out waste, lubricates joints, and transports nutrients throughout the body. Being dehydrated can interfere with these activities leaving you feeling physically and mentally drained. It is best to consume an average of 6 to 8 cups of fluid per day, the majority of it coming from water. Remember, too many caffeinated drinks will have a diuretic effect by flushing water out of your system and can dehydrate you instead. So limit caffeinated beverages to no more than two cups per day. Food can actually provide up to 20% of your daily water needs. Many fruits and vegetables have high water content such as watermelon, grapes, cucumbers and tomatoes. Aim for one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetable at each meal.

Piping hot soups and steamy casseroles usually take center stage as comfort foods when the weather outside is bone chilling cold. Make sure your comfort foods aren’t too high in sodium before making your favorite comfort food dish. If the recipe calls for canned broth, bouillon cubes or a can of cream of “something” soup, then it is time to reinvent the recipe. Too much sodium in the diet not only affects blood pressure, but can hinder your body’s ability to absorb calcium, makes the heart work harder, increases the filtration load of the kidneys and can trigger acid reflux. Don’t be fooled by “low sodium” food labels. They may still be too high to include in your diet. Aim for no more than 300mg of sodium per serving on any nutrition label and no more than 2000mg per day. Try making your own broth. Boil beef, ham or chicken bones in water with other fresh herbs and spices. Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots as well as shucked ears of corn or cheese rinds can be used to add more flavor without adding sodium to the broth. To ditch the creamed soups, start by making a roux. In a sauce pan over medium heat, add 2 Tbsp of olive oil and stir in 4 Tbsp of flour. Once a paste forms, whisk in 1 cup of low-fat milk. Slowly bring to a boil and simmer till thickened.

Ever feel blah during the winter or have the blues? This depressed mood during the winter may be due to lack of vitamin D. When we expose our skin to the beautiful summer sun, we are helping our bodies make vitamin D. During the winter, our skin does not get the sun exposure it usually needs to make enough vitamin D so we need to find it from other sources. Vitamin D food sources include: salmon, mackerel, mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light, tuna canned in water, milk, yogurt, egg yolks and cheese. If winter has got you down, talk to your doctor about having your vitamin D level checked as supplementation may be needed.

For in depth nutritional counseling contact Erin Schenkenberger R.D., L.D., ACE at or 330-334-3578. For more nutrition tips and recipes follow her on Facebook at Nutrition Exercise Counselor or on the web