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Maintaining Mental Pep During Winter

Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team

If you’re finding it hard to concentrate, stay energetic and remain motivated during the cold, crisp days of winter, less-than-stellar food choices could be the cause. Here are a few ways to keep your mood colorful during the gray months of winter.

Mood Check #1:
How’s Your Hydration?

Not getting enough fluids can make you feel sluggish. Coupled with the dry air from heating your home, you may need more hydration than usual.

The best bet for keeping your brain fog free and your energy going, as well as your skin soft and subtle, are staying hydrated with low- or no-sugar-added, and low- or caffeine-free beverages most often. What meets these criteria? Water-based beverages like seltzer water, plain still water, hot tea, herbal teas and coffee. Beverages packed with nutrients like milk and 100% fruit juice are also great options.


Mood Check #2:
Are You Eating Enough Carbohydrates?

That’s right, we want you to eat your carbs! And so does your brain. If you find yourself getting headaches, becoming irritable during certain times of the day or simply distracted, it could be your blood sugar level. Although fats and protein can eventually turn into sugar in your body, your cells and brain prefer going directly to the source for energy with carbohydrates.

Needing carbs is different than overeating carbs. As much as carbohydrates help elevate mood, overdoing your intake can cause a spike and a bottoming out of energy. Neither is good for keeping your mood happy and stable.

The best bet for keeping your blood sugar level constant, and thereby your mood even-keeled, is sticking with fruits, whole grains, starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn, as well as pulses such as dry peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas for the majority of your carbohydrate choices.

As much as these items are helpful in delivering carbohydrates, the volume you eat is just as important. Choose helpings that fall in line with USDA MyPlate recommendations. For example, pairing a small apple with an ounce of walnuts will not only provide your brain the energy it needs to stay on task but, due to the walnut’s heart-healthy fats and quality protein, this combination will aid in slowly releasing the apple’s carbohydrates so your body isn’t overwhelmed with a wave of carbs.


Mood check #3:
Are You Eating Enough Nutrient‍-‍Rich Foods?

You know the ones we’re talking about—they’re colorful, full of texture, or are simply low in added sugar or packed with protein. We’re thinking of vegetables; unsweetened or low-sugar milk products; heart-healthy fats from foods like avocados, plant oils, nuts and seeds; and quality protein from eggs, fish, seafood and lean cuts of meat. Pairing these items with the foods mentioned above will provide essential nutrients your nervous system needs to function at its best and optimize your mental health.


Reviewed 2/20/2023