Six Ways to Stay Healthy during the Winter Months
It’s tough getting you and your family through a long British winter without succumbing to illness somewhere along the way. Here are our top tips for making it through to spring without getting out the tissues!
Eat for Immunity
Eat food that is rich in vitamins and minerals. Foods high in zinc, like lean meats, poultry, and baked beans can help balance your immune response. Green leafy vegetables like kale and Brussels sprouts are high in Vitamin C, which will also keep you healthier. Family lunches or dinners which include warm winter soups packed full of vegetables or fruit smoothies for breakfast (with some vegetables sneaked in if your kids will let you) are an excellent way to ensure you are all having more than your 5 a day.
The NHS recommends that all children from the age of 6 months to 5 years are given vitamin supplements with A, C and D in them every day. Please note if your baby/child is having 500ml of formula or more, do not give them vitamin D, as formula milk is fortified with it. You may also be able to get vitamin drops for your baby if you qualify for Healthy Start. (Check eligibility at https://www.healthystart.nhs.uk). If you give your children a chewable supplement, make sure it is after they eat because some vitamins cannot be absorbed without food.
It’s also a good idea for adults and children over 5 years to supplement with Vitamin D during the winter. It’s vital to keep our muscles and bones healthy and is primarily made by our skin's reaction to the sun. During the winter months in the UK, the sun doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation to create it so we must rely on food and supplements. Vitamin D is found in meat, oily fish and eggs. Many nutritional experts recommend everyone taking Vitamin D supplements during the winter; try at least 10mcg of Vitamin D a day.
You could also consider supplementing with Vitamin C and Zinc to ward off colds. It’s been scientifically proven that dosing up on Zinc in the first 24 hours of getting a cold can mean a quicker recovery. If you are not sure whether to give your child vitamin supplements always take advice from a medical professional or nutritional expert.
Make sure you and the family get outside. It’s thought that at least 2 million people in the UK suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which is caused by lack of sunlight and it’s recommended that you should try getting out for at least an hour a day in natural daylight. Midday on a sunny day is a good time to go out as that is when the sun is at its strongest. Using a light box, exercising and talking therapy can help people afflicted with SAD and if you think you or one of your family is affected, then talk to your GP.
Make sure adults in your family are getting 8 hours of sleep every night. If you are run down through lack of sleep, you are more susceptible to illness. Getting enough sleep will boost your immune system and help you fend off any nasty colds and illnesses. Sleep also supports healthy brain function and maintenance of your physical health. Toddlers should be getting 11 to 14 hours sleep a day, while pre-schoolers need 10-13 hours. School age children need 9 to 11 hours and teenagers 8 to 10 hours. Make sure your offspring have time away from electronic devices before bed. Having a hot bath and reading book is a great way for all ages to wind down for a restful night’s sleep.
Being stressed can make you more likely to catch a cold or illness because it reduces the body’s ability to fight off infection. Regular exercise helps you de-stress and get fitter, whilst meditation can also help you unwind. There are some excellent meditation and relaxation apps available. Headspace for kids focuses on calm, kindness and bedtime (www.headspace.com/kids). Calm (www.calm.com) also provides mindfulness and sleep stories for children of varying ages, whilst www.dreamykid.com has lots of great meditations and visualisations just for children and teens. Yoga sessions or a daily walk are also great ways to help you all wind down.
Wash your Hands
Emphasis to all your family members the importance of washing hands regularly. Around 80% of infectious diseases are spread by touch. Make sure you explain the need to use hot water, anti-bacterial soap and wash hands for 45 seconds or longer. Teach children to rub the backs of their palms and hands, including their thumbs!
Try Something New
Don’t stay cooped up indoors, try something new as a family. Invest in wellies and wet weather gear and get exploring whatever the weather.