5 Tips To Stay Well This Winter

Nothing says winter like dark evenings, wet and wild weather, and, of course, a dreaded sniffly nose. When the weather gets colder, sometimes prioritising our wellness can take a backseat, but most of us want to do what we can to protect our family and selves from seasonal colds and flus. So, is there really a magic food or supplement we could be taking to shield ourselves from winter gripes? As a Dietitian, I appreciate the power our diet can have on our health – so here are my top diet tips for winter wellbeing, and supporting your immune system this chilly season! 

1. Eat the rainbow! 

Our immune system is exactly that, a full body system, made up of many different types of cells, tissues and organs that need to work together to protect us from sickness. Because our immunity involves so many different processes, to have it working in tip-top shape we need to support it with a number of different vitamins and minerals – and no, not just Vitamin C. It’s well established that Vitamin A, E, B6, B12, E, D, folate and minerals such as copper, iron, selenium and zinc all work together to support our immune system too (1). To be able to get enough of the variety of nutrients we need, we need to eat a variety of foods. 

“Eating the rainbow” is often promoted by Dietitians, and there’s a reason! Focusing on eating as many different colours of fruits and vegetables across the day makes us focus on dietary variety  – helping us to hit our vitamin and mineral goals. Focusing on variety also highlights the shortfalls of fad diets that ask us to cut out an entire food group and narrow our diet.

2. Prioritise your fruits & veggies!  

Fruits and vegetables don’t just have crucial vitamins and minerals – they also boast a range of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in plant foods which work to protect the plant, but also play a really important anti-inflammatory and antioxidant in our bodies too – both of which support our immune response (2). In the winter (and all year round!) think about ways to eat at least 5 servings of vegetables and 2 of fruit each day. Our Fresh Start meals tend to have 2-4 servings of veggies for dinner, but also consider how you can incorporate vegetables into your breakfast, lunch and snacks. Try veggie sticks, veggie packed sandwiches, greens in your smoothie – or even grating courgette or carrot into porridge before you cook it (I know what you’re thinking, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!)  

3. Treat your gut right.

We’re all becoming increasingly aware of the trillions of bacteria living in our gut, and how important it is to keep them happy! The research around gut health and its role in immunity continues to develop – but it’s becoming clearer that keeping our gut healthy is an important way to support our immune system (3). One way to support your gut is by limiting highly processed foods, and eating a wide range of fibre rich plant foods – such as whole grains, fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts and seeds. Fibre reaches our gut undigested, which makes it a fantastic source of fuel for the friendly bacteria living there!

4. Ditch the pills and potions.. 

Plenty of products promise to ‘boost’ our immune system – sounds great doesn’t it? In actual fact, ‘boosting’ our immune systems makes little sense – more immune cells doesn’t necessarily translate to better health. International groups of researchers are still working hard to understand what combination of cells and tissues makes for a better immune system (4). Often, a product will claim to increase or decrease a particular cell, which may (or may not) be true, but whether or not that actually translates to a better immune system is highly debatable.

Fortunately for our wallets, provided we eat a balanced diet, the evidence that any nutrition supplement can improve our immune system is only supported if you currently have a vitamin and mineral deficiency. Keep in mind also that the evidence continues to suggest that the vitamins and minerals in supplements do not behave in the same way as those found in food, which are accompanied by a wide range of other beneficial nutrients. Some research shows us taking Vitamin C before you’re unwell may reduce the duration of a cold – but, not always (5) – and supplementing with vitamin C can cause stomach upset. So, save your pennies for fruits, veggies and whole foods this winter!

5. Consider holistic wellness.. Beyond only diet!

Research has shown that diet is just one of many lifestyle factors that play a critical role in supporting our immune system (6). Don’t forget to focus on being physically active, getting outside, prioritising enough sleep and minimising stress and alcohol during the cooler winter months.

All in all, eating a healthy balanced diet packed with whole foods, fruits and veggies this winter is the best thing you can be doing to ward off the winter sniffles! Check our new Super badge on your Fresh Start recipes – letting you know this recipe has an impressive 4 or more servings of veggies per person! It’s healthy made easy this winter.  

You can support your immunity through eating well and a variety of fresh fruits and veggies. Our Fresh Start recipes always contain 2-3 servings of vegetables, but look out for our range of Super Recipes in our Fresh Start Choice bag which contain 4+ servings of vegetables!

Catherine ‘Cucumber’

Dietitian, My Food Bag

As My Food Bag’s nutrition guru, Catherine makes sure all our recipes and products follow Nadia’s ‘Nude Food’ philosophy. She works closely with departments across the whole business including the Development Kitchen, Innovation and Marketing! “I have always loved people, food and science in equal parts, so I decided to base my career off nutrition science and become a Registered Dietitian. I like helping people to understand what I like to call ‘down-to-earth’ nutrition – no fads, detoxes, or buzz words here!” Her My Food Bag journey started a few years ago, when she was part of our Customer Love team during her studies. Before returning to My Food Bag, Catherine worked as a clinical Dietitian at a hospital.

When it comes to food, this foodie’s favourites couldn’t be more different! On the one hand, she can’t go without a good bread (especially a sandwich loaded with veggies!), and on the other hand she sneaks spinach into anything and everything that she can. When she’s not working, you’ll find her getting outdoors, escaping the city for a big walk and a picnic lunch, or enjoying the sunshine with live music and friends.

  1. Gombart, A. F., Pierre, A., & Maggini, S. (2020). A review of micronutrients and the immune system–working in harmony to reduce the risk of infection. Nutrients, 12(1), 236.
  2. Poles, J., Karhu, E., McGill, M., McDaniel, H. R., & Lewis, J. E. (2021). The effects of twenty-four nutrients and phytonutrients on immune system function and inflammation: A narrative review. Journal of Clinical and Translational Research, 7(3), 333.
  3. Wiertsema, S. P., van Bergenhenegouwen, J., Garssen, J., & Knippels, L. M. (2021). The interplay between the gut microbiome and the immune system in the context of infectious diseases throughout life and the role of nutrition in optimizing treatment strategies. Nutrients, 13(3), 886.
  4. C Calder, P. (2014). Biomarkers of immunity and inflammation for use in nutrition interventions: International Life Sciences Institute European Branch work on selection criteria and interpretation. Endocrine, Metabolic & Immune Disorders-Drug Targets (Formerly Current Drug Targets-Immune, Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders), 14(4), 236-244.
  5. Hemilä, H., & Chalker, E. (2013). Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (1).
  6. Brodin, P., Jojic, V., Gao, T., Bhattacharya, S., Angel, C. J. L., Furman, D., … & Davis, M. M. (2015). Variation in the human immune system is largely driven by non-heritable influences. Cell, 160(1-2), 37-47.

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