Beat the winter blues with food

Beat the winter blues with food, with special contributor, Expert Eats

The bright, crisp days of autumn don’t get much better than in country Victoria.  The clear blue skies lend themselves perfectly to tending to the garden while the cooler afternoons beg to be spent indoors in front of the fire with a hot bowl of vegetable soup. Eating with the seasons is important for our bodies and better for our planet. As the months cool down, our eating patterns change, and we find ourselves needing warm, comfort foods. During winter time, eating enough nutrient rich foods, like fruit and vegetables, are essential for building a strong immune system and supporting health, both physically and mentally.

Unfortunately, many Australians are not aware of how important it is to include fruit and vegetables into their diet. As high as 8 out of 10 Australians do not eat enough vegetables and 3 out of 5 do not eat enough fruit.

Not eating enough fruit and vegetables increases the risk of developing health issues, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and poor mental health. For this reason, finding ways to include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables is key to keeping yourself healthy this winter and throughout the year.

What do our bodies need for the cooler months ahead?

Preparing your immune system for winter is not only about warding off the common cold but also making sure that you stay healthy and avoid the ‘winter blues’. The food that we eat every day is directly linked to our mood and mental health.  Scientists from across the world have now confirmed that by eating a well-balanced diet, we can improve mood and reduce the risk of depression, regardless of age. In contrast, a poor quality diet that is highly processed, low in nutrients, and high in fats and sugars, can increase the risk of poor mental health.

Include unprocessed foods

Eating a variety of unprocessed foods, including seasonal vegetables, is a great place to start on your journey to eating for good health and good mood. Unprocessed foods are often high in fibre and nutrients, such as fruit and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, legumes and pulses, nuts and seeds. Fibre rich foods are the main food source for the trillions of bacteria, or microbiome, that live in your gut. Surprisingly, over 70% of your immune system is located in the gut and the microbiome is central to how the immune system functions.  For this reason, feeding your gut bugs the right fibre rich foods is essential. Having a healthy gut can not only improve your immune system, lessen inflammation and improve sleep, but has also been found to have a huge impact on your mental health; creating positive pathways to your brain and producing serotonin which is known as the ‘happy hormone’.

Variety is the spice of life!

Eating different foods is one of life's great pleasures. Each food has unique nutrients, flavours and textures that make it interesting and enjoyable. To keep your body and brain healthy and your tastebuds happy, it is important to eat a variety of foods each day. As well as eating plant based foods, including lean meats, fish, dairy, eggs and healthy fats, like extra virgin olive oil, is essential for achieving a balanced diet.  By doing this, you will give your body vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats that will keep your gut, brain and body healthy for a happy future.

Don’t forget to take a good 30 min walk in the sunshine too. Not only will you get a good dose of vitamin D, but it will boost your mood. So keep exploring new foods and enjoy the benefits of healthy living.

How to eat more fruit and vegetables?

Find a good local producer, grocer or supermarket

We are blessed with the abundance of locally grown produce that is easily sourced at farmers markets, local food stores, and green grocers across the Macedon Ranges and surrounding areas. If you are unsure what is in season, ask a local producer at your local market or store.

Grow your own at home or in the communal gardens

If you are a home gardener, now is a great time to be planting all of your brassica vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and kale, as well as hearty herbs such as parsley, thyme and rosemary.  Our seasons are magical, and if we listen closely to the garden we may also find that all of the nutritional qualities from the vegetables are exactly what our bodies need to get us through the winter season.

Keep veggies on hand

Frozen veggies are a brilliant alternative to fresh vegetables and contain similar nutritional value to fresh produce. Keep a variety of mixed veg or different packets in your freezer to boost any meal and include vegetables that are out of season.

Include a variety of different fruit and vegetables in each meal and snacks

Add veggies to your cooked breakfast such as tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, capsicum, have veggies in soup or sandwiches at lunch, and include a range of different coloured veg in your evening meal. Snack on fruit and crunchy veggies during the day.

Making small changes has a BIG impact

We understand that change is difficult so try making small changes to improve your eating, such as adding different foods or new recipes that add interest and taste and remind ourselves that food is not just about nourishment, but nourishing to body, mind and soul too.

Eating a wide variety of unprocessed foods is the best way to boost mood and general wellbeing. The best way to achieve a balanced, highly nutritious vitamin intake is to introduce a rainbow of coloured fruit and vegetables into your diet. We often think of salads but let’s face it, who wants to eat cold salads in winter!  We have created a couple of wonderful dishes below that combine all of the delicious (and nutritious) vegetables, but the chicken bake is a total winter warmer and the soup will become one of your favourites.

Thanks to Jessica and Jennifer from Expert Eats for their contribution!
HLC Expert Article March 2023 - image
HLC Expert Article March 2023 - image

Rate this page

Is this page useful?