The Winter Blahs: Energize Properly!

We’ve all felt it – the winter blahs – often characterized by low motivation and low energy levels. Too many six a.m. skates, a lack of sunshine and poor nutrition choices can compound our natural desire to hibernate as the days become shorter and nights become longer but there is good news! There are several dietary habits (and recipes) that you can adopt to help to energize you and your family through the winter months.

What is energy and what nutrients are important for energy?

As discussed in October’s post, carbohydrates are our bodies’ main source of energy, especially during exercise. Good sources of healthy carbohydrates include vegetables and fruit and whole grains, such as whole wheat, quinoa and brown rice. However, giving our bodies carbohydrates alone won’t suffice to keep our bodies energized throughout the winter. We also need vitamins and minerals, which allow our bodies to make use of the food that we eat and help with energy levels. These ‘micro’ nutrients include the B-vitamins and iron.

Vitamin B1: Thiamin – Helps the body’s cells convert carbohydrates into energy

Dried milk Egg
Whole grains Lean meats
Tuna fish Legumes
Sunflower and sesame seeds Organ meats

Vitamin B2: Riboflavin – Helps the body in releasing energy from carbohydrates, in formation of red blood cells and in making use of other B vitamins.

Dairy products Eggs
Spinach and other leafy greens Lean meats
Soy products Almonds
Mushrooms

Vitamin B3: Niacin – Helps our bodies to use food to make energy.

Dairy products Eggs
Enriched breads and cereals Fish
Lean meats Legumes
Nuts Poultry

Vitamin B5: Pantothenic Acid – Helps our bodies in releasing energy from carbohydrates and fats.

Avocado Broccoli, kale and other vegetables in the cabbage family
Eggs Legumes and lentils
Milk Organ meats
Mushrooms White and sweet potatoes
Poultry Whole-grain cereals
Yeast

Vitamin B6: Pyridoxine – Helps your body to make and use protein and glycogen, which is the stored energy in your muscles and liver. Also helps form hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in your blood.

Tuna, cod and halibut Potatoes
Chicken and turkey Bananas
Avocados 100% bran
Instant oatmeal Liver
legumes such as soybeans, chickpeas and lentils Pistachio nuts
Sunflower seads

Iron – Required for energy production and transport of oxygen throughout the body.

Beef Liver
Legumes such as soy, lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans Olives
Spinach and leafy greens Sesame Seeds
Enriched grains Blackstrap molasses


How to keep your energy levels up?

The best way to keep you and your family energized throughout the winter is to ensure three well-balance, healthy meals that include many of the foods mentioned above. Proper snacks, that include complex carbohydrates and either healthy protein or fat sources are important for those who are active or if meals are more than four hours apart.

What are some family-friendly ideas for keeping everyone energized?

Breakfast: Pair protein with complex carbohydrates to set the foundation for your day.

Ideas:

  • Whole-grain toast with peanut butter and sliced banana and a glass of milk
  • Instant oatmeal topped with sliced almonds and chopped apple
  • Greek yogurt with granola, sliced banana and sunflower seeds
On-the-go-Egg-Wrap-Recipe
Mexican-Chicken-Salad Lunch: Start with a base of protein and complex carbohydrates and add in veggies to provide extra nutrition.

Ideas:

  • Whole grain wrap with lean roast beef, spinach, cheese and mustard with an apple
  • Vegetarian chilli with shredded cheese and whole-grain crackers
Dinner: Stick to the ‘Healthy Plate’ method of eating: reserve ½ of your plate for vegetables, ¼ of your plate for a lean protein and ¼ of your plate for a healthy starch.

Ideas:

  • 1 cup mixed salad, 4 spears steamed broccoli, grilled halibut and mashed sweet potatoes
  • Home-made pita pizza and side salad(whole wheat pita with tomato sauce, cheese, peppers and left-over chicken).
  • Beefed –Up Mac’n Cheese: mix 4 cups cooked whole grain macaroni with 1 pound cooked lean ground beef, 2 cups shredded cheese, 1 cup frozen peas and 1 package thawed chopped spinach in a casserole dish and bake until cheese starts to bubble.
Hearty-Turkey-Ragout

Snacks: Pair complex carbohydrates with healthy proteins and/or fats.

Ideas:

  • 6 whole grain crackers with cheese
  • Sliced apple with peanut butter
  • Yogurt with granola
  • Cheese string and an apple

Resources:

Dieticians of Canada (2012). B Vitamins. Available from: http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/B-Vitamins.aspx?categoryID=3 [Accessed 11 October 2013]
Dieticians of Canada (2012). Functions and Food Sources of Some Common Vitamins. Available from: http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Vitamins/Functions-and-Food-Sources-of-Common-Vitamins.aspx [Accessed on 11 Oct 2013]

About The Author

Lisa Cianfrini, MSc, RD
Lisa’s passion for yummy, healthy foods began at a young age and cultivated with the influence of her uber-health conscious mother, bake-master grandmother, and Italian food extraordinaire nonna. After initially starting a degree in biochemistry and genetics, Lisa completed a BSc Honours degree in Nutrition and Nutraceutical sciences from the University of Guelph as well as a BSc Honours degree in Food and Nutrition from Brescia University College, and has graduated from their MSc Foods & Nutrition program, where she also completed her registered dietitian internship. CONTINUE.

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