Mountaintop Medicine: Nutrition Notes — Staying Healthy in the Colder Months

Hello again- welcome back to Mountaintop Medicine: Nutrition Notes! As the air gets cooler and the leaves are beginning to change colors, you and I both know that wintertime is quickly approaching. Many of us find ourselves falling off the bandwagon when the snow starts to fall. It can be easier to stay on track during the warmer months, when the weather is favorable for outdoor exercise and fresh produce is abundant. In this week’s article, I want to share some of my best tips for staying healthy in the colder months.

Leah Gardner, EPH Registered Dietitian

Eat whole foods

Whole foods are foods that have not been processed, refined, or had ingredients added to them. This included fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and eggs. I recommend focusing your diet on eating lots of fruits and veggies, healthy fats, adequate protein, and fiber. Be mindful of your added sugar, fat, and salt intake.

The upcoming holidays can be a great barrier to many of us who want to stay healthy during the winter months. This is a time when tasty, sugary candies and desserts can be found within arm’s reach. Give mindful eating a try when it comes to holiday meals. Rather than stuffing yourself with plate after plate of food, listen to your hunger and fullness cues to tell you when to stop eating. This way, you can still enjoy all your favorite foods without the repercussions of overeating them.

Prioritize immunity boosting nutrients

Foods that are rich in vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A, zinc, and in protein support our immune system and can help fight off wintertime sniffles and viruses. Prioritize foods like dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, bell peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, squashes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, egg yolks, as well as lean meats like chicken, turkey, and fatty fish to reap the benefits of a healthy immune system.

Find exercises that you enjoy

I know that it can be difficult to enjoy exercising, especially when most available forms of physical activity are stuck to being indoors. It is important to get sufficient moderate to vigorous physical activity. Ideally, that means 30 to 60 minutes per day, but at a minimum, it should be 150 minutes per week. Of course, walking, running, hiking, and biking are all options in the wintertime, but heavy snow and slippery ice can be a source of danger and cause injury. If you do not partake in winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing, try joining the Recreation District where you can lift weights, run, or walk on an indoor track, go swimming, or take group classes. Trying something new is always a great way to find different forms of movement that you can enjoy all year round.

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water every day is vital for our health, especially in the cold, dry winter months. Aim to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of water. You could add lemon or frozen fruit to spice it up or add in electrolyte powders if you are feeling dehydrated or do not absorb water very well (I.e., you typically urinate quickly after drinking water).

As a reminder, I am now offering outpatient nutrition counseling and education services at Estes Park Health. If you are interested, please contact your healthcare provider for a referral. If you have any questions or if there are any nutrition-related topics that you would like me to discuss here on Nutrition Notes, please reach out at