Stuck in hibernation mode? Between the early sunsets and frigid temperatures, it can be easy to let the winter season get the better of you. But rather than reach for that second or third afternoon cup of coffee, or worse, that sugary energy drink, make smart and healthy decisions by incorporating naturally energising foods into your diet.
It is the season for warm dishes like soups, stews and crunchy stir fries, and these meals are just the nutritious energy kick you need to put the pep in your step, says Gauteng dietitian, Michelle Hawksworth.
Hawksworth tells Health For Mzansi, “These meals are great in the sense that they include multiple vegetables as well as protein and carbohydrates to help fuel our body with energy and essential micronutrients while keeping us warm.”
Cape Town chef, Nondyebo Mgoboza, agrees and adds that ingredients like oats, sweet potatoes, avocado, beans, almonds, eggs, bananas, berries, and poultry are essentials in her fridge and pantry throughout the winter season.
“Eggs give fuel that is slowly released and assists in satiety. Beans are an excellent source of protein. Additionally, choose meals that are high in fibre to promote delayed digestion and magnesium to help your cells produce energy,” she says.
Why do we need energy-dense meals for our bodies?
According to Hawksworth, our bodies are a bit like cars. “They need fuel to function. Our fuel is in the form of carbohydrates, protein, and fat,” Hawksworth explains.
While it may be cold, it’s important to keep hydrated. “If you do struggle to drink water during these months, opt for warm water or herbal teas with minimal sugar.”
Celebrity chef Siphokazi Mdlankomo believes that energy feeds and controls the body’s natural internal processes.
She says that digestion and absorption of the nutrients in meals use five to 10 percent of the daily energy saved to make more energy, build bones, and support muscles.
“Optimal winter dishes, such as soups, stews, curries, lasagne, meatloaves, and pies are always prepared in my kitchen. I feel that eating hot beverages keeps us warm and satisfied for longer in winter”
Mdlankomo adds that no matter what we eat in the winter, we should watch the size of our portions, so we don’t gain too much weight.
When to begin turbocharging your body.
Hawksworth says that we can start fueling our bodies in the morning with breakfast and continue to fuel our bodies by having small, frequent meals throughout the day.
Mgoboza suggests starting our days with citrus-flavoured dishes, which also provide vitamin D, which is especially important during the winter. Soups flavoured with lemon and oranges, as well as herbs and teas with lemon slices, are also recommended.
“For fibre purposes, morvite is one of the suggested healthy porridges to choose in the winter; it is enriched with several vitamins and may help keep you active throughout the day,” suggests Mgoboza.
Keep it smart!
Mgoboza says that people might have more energy throughout the day if they start it with a protein-rich breakfast.
“Chicken fillet is an excellent source of lean protein that will sustain you until dinner. Therefore, if you have protein-based meals in the morning, you have provided your body with the energy-based nutrients it requires.”
According to Mgoboza, nuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, which is used for energy by the human body.
“Another winter-friendly food, in my opinion, is samp and beans. Beans have the daily amount of protein that we all need, especially vegans, and the combination of samp and beans is known to be the best carbohydrate combination for weight loss assistance.”