By the time you get your keys into the lock, your cheeks are bright red, your hair is tossed and wrapped around your scarf, and your fingers are practically numb, moving ever so slowly to open your front door. When the heart of winter strikes, all signs point to staying in for the evening. But why do nights in have to equal movie watching with junk food? Here are some healthy winter activities and tips to heat up your evenings.
Winter activity #1: Collect warm and wonderful recipes
Cooking by yourself, the roommates, or with your significant other can be a great hands-on activity and much healthier than ordering in take-out. Prep for a staying in by collecting recipes that will up the cozy factor – particularly hearty comfort foods. Start compiling cold-weather recipes to create your own cookbook.
Winter activity #2: Get cooking
As long as you are giving the take-out menus a break, you might as well take advantage of lower calorie, more nutritional alternatives, too.
“Whether a quiet evening for two or a group of friends or family, this is the time of year I like to serve hearty soups and stews,” says Monica Reinagel, Nutrition Data’s chief nutritionist and author of The ND Blog: Notes From the Nutritionista.
According to Reinagel, soups are an incredibly easy and often inexpensive way to get more vegetables into your diet and a cinch to throw together. (Try these super soup recipes.)
“Pureed soups are particularly easy to make and capture all the nutrition and fiber of the vegetables,” says Reinagel. “Although they are creamy in texture, they usually contain little or no cream. Root vegetables such as carrot and parsnip, healthy greens such as spinach, beta-carotene rich winter squash, or wild mushrooms all make delicious pureed soups.”
Bean soups like white bean stew, split pea soup, etc., are cost-effective and satisfying, explains Reinagel, because the protein and fiber in beans makes them stick to your ribs. Also, don’t be afraid to add a little kick to spice things up.
Winter activity #3: Spice things up
“Spices such as curry or chili peppers make soups extra warming on a cold winter night. Try a curried butternut squash soup, chili, or hot and sour soup,” says Reinagel. Spices are full of antioxidants and even have anti-inflammatory properties – both big bonuses to your health.Try these seven superfood recipes with herbs and spices.
Winter activity #4: Eat to fight off cold and flu
Aim to use ingredients good for fighting off colds or viruses. Reinagel suggests including the following foods in your winter diet:
Vitamin C: Foods such as peppers, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries and citrus fruit are chockfull of vitamin C and have the ability to help bolster your resistance against colds. Your body doesn’t store vitamin C so try to eat vitamin C-rich foods throughout the day.
Garlic: This aromatic kitchen essential contains a compound that helps strengthen resistance. For maximum benefit, choose recipes containing raw chopped or crushed garlic, like guacamole or hummus, and add the garlic right before eating it as the active compound starts to break down after the garlic is cut.
Zinc: Foods high in zinc such as oysters or sesame seeds help guard the immune system. Have a fish stew containing oysters and sprinkle sesame seeds on hot cereal, cooked veggies, rice, pasta and desserts.
Winter activity #5: Massage
When the dishes are done, it’s time to move onto the next course. Be sure to take care of – and pamper – yourself. Try a massage, a therapeutic activity proven to have numerous beneficial effects on health and well-being that is literally at your fingertips.
According to Tiffany Field, Ph.D., founder and director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, massage has been proven to reduce stress by lowering the release of the stress hormone cortisol, reduce depression, enhance alertness, reduce pain and enhance immune function.
Field says that if there is a specific area of the body that is tense, focus giving that area moderate pressure. In the case of headaches, try massaging the lower back or nape of the neck. If there are no problem areas, the key to a beneficial massage is not so much where it’s performed, but rather making sure that consistent, moderate pressure is used to achieve the health benefits. If you have never given a massage or want your partner to pick up some stress-relieving massage moves, check out these self massage videos.
Winter activity #6: Warm up and relax with aromatherapy
Throw some aromatherapy into the winter evening equation with scented candles, oils and lotions for added relaxation. Have some fun with massage oils that mix it up like a lavender and vanilla aromatic candle that liquefies to a massage oil, or massage bars – massage oils in bar form made out of shea butter. Or simply waft spicy scents into the air with an essential oil diffuser. A few deep breaths and you’ll be glad it’s winter.
Try these healthy tips the next time the cold weather threatens to put a damper on your night, and you won’t even feel like you missed an evening out.