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Anneke Spitaels - Nutritionist & Life style coach

Every year, as autumn arrives, many of us dread the shortening days, the cold, common colds and other viruses, fatigue, mood swings, or worse, moments when we feel a little depressed. It's the perfect time to slow down and take good care of yourself and your loved ones.

Here are 5 practical tips for surviving the winter.

1. Go outside!

Autumn is the season for cocooning. During the winter we get totally wrapped up in the warmth. Sitting on the sofa with a nice hot tea, a blanket and a Netflix series, we love it, don't we? But what if you kept it as a reward after your daily outing on those dark, cold days?

You bet! It's the best thing you can do for your (mental) health! Staying indoors too often and for too long makes you feel a bit down and susceptible to viruses. So dress warmly and go outside for at least 20 minutes every day. Walk at a good pace, breathe in and out a few times deeply, and relax. Look around you, and pay attention to the colours and smells of autumn and winter. Take a walk with awareness. Leave your sunglasses at home and fill up on light at the same time. Light will stimulate your biological rhythm and boost your energy. And why not challenge yourself to plan a nice longer walk every week with a friend?

2. Drink!

If you work in a well-heated space, drink several cups of coffee a day, and maybe even a small aperitif or glass of wine with a meal, then you are very likely permanently dehydrated. Coffee, alcohol and heating dehydrate the body and skin terribly. Headaches are often the result. A dehydrated body is a body under stress. For coffee lovers, do as the Italians do, drink one glass of water per cup of coffee. Drink good quality teas, without sugar. Coconut water is an excellent alternative to sugary and energy drinks. Its high concentration of electrolytes (e.g. magnesium, calcium, potassium) hydrates faster than water. It is perfect to drink before and after a sports session, and to use in your smoothies.

3. Fill up on protein!

Protein is essential for keeping your immune system up to speed, but also for recovering from stress, burn-out, viruses, operations, or simply an intensive sports session. Ideally, you should eat 1gram of protein per kg of body weight. If you weigh 70 kg, then you need 70 grams of protein per day. You can easily find protein food charts on the internet. An egg, for example, contains about 13 grams of protein, and a 100 gram chicken cutlet contains about 30 grams. If you can't get your daily protein intake, you can opt for a protein powder. Preferably a vegetable one, which does not contain unnecessary fat.

4. Let go!

The change of seasons is a good time to detox. It's important to prepare your body for the cold, dark days of autumn. Not only the body needs it, the mind needs it too. Take time to reflect on things that are cluttering up your life, things you no longer need, people who may be draining your energy, unhealthy habits etc. ...and let go. Surround yourself with positive and nurturing people. Write down what you are grateful for. Think about the goals you want to achieve this winter in your professional and private life. And don't forget your health!

5. Vitaminize yourself!

The fibre in fruit is ideal for the gut bacteria, which are responsible for 80% of our immune system. Eat at least 2 fruits, preferably in season, a day, 1 of which should be at breakfast. Keep the other as a snack, along with a small handful of nuts. Put the fruit on a plate in your kitchen, we are more tempted to eat it when we see it. Cut a pear or apple into small wedges and offer them to the children before they ask for biscuits. Prepare portions of cut fruit and put them in the freezer for faster mornings. You can either warm them up with your oatmeal or make smoothies.

Here you go ! King Winter will have no effect on you.

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