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Winter health - Five ways to stay healthy this winter

NHS Choices Feature

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It may be cold outside but winter needn't be the unhealthiest time of year for you and your family.

Here are five ways to make sure that even when your body is telling you to hibernate you can keep healthy and fit, no matter what the weather's like:

1. Eliminate your sleep debt

"On average we sleep six-and-a-half hours a night, much less than the seven to nine hours recommended," says Jessica Alexander, spokesperson at the Sleep Council, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of a good night's sleep to health and wellbeing. But in winter, we naturally sleep more, due to the longer nights. "It's perfectly natural to adopt hibernating habits when the weather turns cold," says Jessica. "Use the time to catch up."

Read more about how to get a good night's sleep.

2. Drink more milk

You are 80% more likely to get a cold in winter so making sure your immune system is in tip-top condition is important. Milk and dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais are great sources of protein and vitamins A and B12. They're also an important source of calcium, which helps keep our bones strong. Try to go for semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, rather than full fat, and low-fat yoghurts.

Read more about healthy eating.

3. Eat more fruit and veg

When it's cold and dark outside it can be tempting to fill up on unhealthy comfort food, but it's important to ensure that you still keep your diet healthy and include five portions of fruit and veg a day. If you find yourself craving a sugary treat, try a juicy clementine or satsuma instead, or sweet dried fruits such as dates or raisins.

Winter vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, swede and turnips can be roasted, mashed or made into soup for a comforting winter meal for the whole family. Explore varieties of fruit and veg that you may not normally eat.

Read more about how to get your 5 A DAY.

4. Try new activities for the whole family

Don't use the cold winter months as an excuse to stay in and lounge around. Instead, get out with the whole family to try out a new activity, maybe ice-skating or taking a bracing winter walk on the beach. Regular exercise helps to control your weight, boost your immune system and is a good way to break the tension that can build if the family is constantly cooped up inside the house.

Read more about different types of exercise for your and your family.

5. Have a hearty breakfast

Winter is the perfect season for porridge. Eating a warm bowlful on a cold morning isn't just a delicious way to start your day, it also helps you to boost your intake of starchy foods and fibre, which give you energy and help you to feel fuller for longer, stopping the temptation to snack mid-morning. Oats also contain lots of vital vitamins and minerals.

Make your porridge with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk or water, and don't add sugar or salt. Add a few dried apricots, some raisins, a sliced banana or other fruit for extra flavour and to help you hit the five-a-day target.

Read more about healthy breakfasts.

Medical Review: September 13, 2012

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