What to eat to beat the winter blues

Written by Mellissa Hay, Accredited Practising Dietitian 

Have you noticed that when the cold air rolls in and it’s dark outside it can bring a change to your mood and energy levels? It’s a natural inclination to want to hibernate in winter and do less of the things that can boost your mood and more of the things that leave you sluggish.

It’s very tempting to cosy up on the couch with a blanket, a movie and some comfort food when it’s dark and chilly outside. However, it’s important for your mood and energy levels to get out. Rug up and enjoy the sunshine when you can; just by moving and socialising you will naturally be boosting your mood.

While lots of things affect your mood, it’s undeniable that what you put in your mouth can have a big impact on your how you feel.

For feel good food, eat more of…

Minimally processed plant foods (think nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables). If you do nothing else – just eat more veggies. Stock the pantry with a bunch of herbs and spices and get roasting, sautéing, slow cooking or souping. So many options! Roasting is such a quick way to get more veggies in during colder months and use up those veggies at the back of the crisper (you’ll reduce food waste too – bonus). With your favourite herbs or spices they can also be delicious, warming comfort foods too. Sprinkle with some crunchy roasted seeds and nuts for an extra dose of mood boosting nutrients.

How much? Try to eat a good helping of veggies at least twice per day but the more the merrier.

Eat less of…

Processed junk foods like pastries, biscuits, sweets, fried and fast food. No surprises here? Full of refined carbs, unhealthy fats or salt – while ‘junk foods’ might make us feel happy in the moment, it’s not long before you’re back on that rollercoaster crashing down to earth, bringing that bad mood with you. Apart from the blood glucose spikes (and maybe guilt too?), they can have a nasty effect on your happy gut bugs. Trust me, you don’t want to make those guys unhappy! Research shows that when your healthy gut bugs are happy  – you are more likely to be happy too.

How much? Eat in small portions only and less than two to three times per week – but less is definitely more!

Don’t forget to drink!

Water NOT alcohol (sorry). Staying hydrated is vital to mood and energy. Unfortunately, 10 cups of coffee a day is not the way to go – all that caffeine will just have you back on that emotional rollercoaster. Try to stay hydrated with water or herbal teas and maybe finish off the evening with a cup of warm milk.

NOTE: If you suspect your mood drop is more than just the winter blues, please seek help from your healthcare professional to get the support you need.

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