With chilly temps and rainy days ahead, Mother Nature is basically begging us to wrap ourselves in a blanket while eating nachos. Right?

Avoiding decadent casseroles, tasty, buttery carbs and dense warm drinks is almost impossible when it gets cold outside. And let’s be honest, as the weather cools down, our virtuous lunchtime salads just lose their appeal. C’mon, we’re freezing over here, we need (chocolatey) sustenance! So with this in mind, we enlisted the help of SumoSalad‘s resident nutritionist, Bec Gawthorne, who told us exactly how we should be tweaking our diets to keep us satisfied (and healthy) this winter.

As winter approaches, how should we be changing our diets to boost our energy levels?

Gawthorne: During the cooler months, we need to ensure we get a good intake of vitamins, minerals and low GI carbohydrates to keep us feeling energised. Two key nutrients we need to boost our intake of during in winter include vitamin C and iron, which work to together to transport oxygen around our bodies and help us feel energetic. A great way to do this is to team a cold pressed juice and a fresh salad that includes in season spinach and broccoli.

Low GI carbohydrates are also important during the winter months to prevent drops in energy levels and stop us feeling flat and fatigued. Low GI carbs like ancient grains, sweet potato, lentils and chickpeas are a good option.

What are your favourite in-season produce to add to breaky, lunch and dinner?

Gawthorne: For breaky, my favourite winter additions are fruits high in Vitamin C, especially citrus fruits like mandarins and oranges. A great breaky option is a fruit salad that contains fresh, seasonal fruit topped with yoghurt. Yoghurt is perfect during winter as it contains natural probiotics; the friendly bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis that can help significantly lower your risk of fever and influenza. Ingesting this live bacteria will help improve your immune system’s response to viral infections and also aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients.

At lunch, I love adding in-season avocados to my salads. Avocados contain vitamin E and healthy fats, both necessary to keep your immune system strong. Vitamin E enhances T-cell activity and assists in your body’s production of anti-bodies, while healthy fats will increase the activity of phagocytes; the white blood cells that eat up bacteria.

My favourite winter dinners include the addition of roasted seasonal veggies. I love a mixture of cauliflower, broccoli and pumpkin roasted with onion and garlic for immune boosting benefits.

We’re craving hearty, warm food when the weather cools down. How do we keep our curries, casseroles and slow cooked meals healthy?

Gawthorne: When the weather cools, we naturally gravitate to warm, hearty meals to physically warm our bodies from the inside out. To keep these meals healthy, we must ensure that we use only lean protein options. This means swapping fatty meats like sausages and mince, for healthy, lean proteins like fish, chicken breast (all fat and skin removed), beans, lentils or tofu. To make these meals super healthy, you can also bulk them up with lots of winter veggies like cauliflower, broccoli and pumpkin & flavour them with immune boosting foods like garlic & onion.

Do we really need more carbs when it’s colder or are our cravings unwarranted?

Gawthorne: During the colder winter months, our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), that is, the rate at which your body uses energy while at rest to maintain vital functions such as breathing and keeping warm, increases. This increase in our BMR means we need to consume more energy from food to keep warm. So our cravings for carbs in the colder weather are actually warranted. The most recent research also suggests that carbohydrates act as nutritional immune protectors while providing fuel for your white blood cells, so when the cold and flu season hits, extra carbs may be needed to keep your immune system strong.

Do we need more vitamins when it’s cold? If so, which ones could we be lacking?

Gawthorne: There are certain foods and nutrients that are essential for maintaining a healthy immune system during the colder months. Most of us are aware that Vitamins C can aid in preventing colds and reducing the severity of a cold but there are also essential immune boosting nutrients. These include Vitamin E, zinc, iron, selenium, probiotics, protein and unsaturated (healthy) fats. These nutrients will supercharge your immune system and help fight off infection.

Not sure where to start when it comes to a healthy, Winter menu? Pick up a hearty lunch from SumoSalad and warm your body from the inside out.