A Nutritional Guide to Surviving Autumn

As we move into autumn and the days get shorter and colder, our in-house nutrition expert Chloe Lyons offers some tips for food and drink to reenergise, lift the spirits and keep you warm and cosy…

Chloe Lyons is a London-based Nutritional Therapist. She gives individual and family health consultations in person or over skype, specialising in digestive health, hormonal conditions, fertility, pre and post-natal health and paediatric nutrition

Suggestions for a nice hot drink to ease us out of bed in the morning and prepare us for the day?
My current favourite is ginger and turmeric tea. These warming spices are so comforting on wet miserable mornings and will fortify you for the day.

Simply slice ginger and turmeric and infuse for five minutes. Add honey and/or a slice of lemon. Play around until you get it just right. For something so wholesome it feels quite indulgent.

As the days get shorter and darker, what ‘superfoods’ should we be eating more of?
Well, autumn is the season of fungi and my top tip for autumn transitioning is the mushroom Shiitake. Yep, it’s a ‘superfood’. This Asian super-shroom is full of powerful antimicrobial and antibacterial compounds and antioxidants, strengthening immunity at this damp time when colds and flu are rife.

Easier to get than they used to be, you can buy them fresh at Asian supermarkets and good greengrocers, or buy dried ones from health food shops and some farmers’ markets.

Do we need to be eating more when it’s colder?
Great question. Yes – it’s natural that as we need to expend more energy to heat ourselves and we get less energy from the sun, we do need more food to fuel ourselves.

We’re also likely to crave more rich and comforting carb-heavy foods, which encourage the production of serotonin, to get us through dark days.

It’s in our biological imprint to harbour a few extra pounds over winter, we shouldn’t give ourselves a hard time about this – it’s just the natural cycle of the seasons. We’ll shed them easily enough come spring.

What foods should we avoid (it’s often easy to grab a sugary treat to reboot in the afternoons, what are the worst things to be eating?)
The afternoon pick-me-up is a tough one to avoid in our busy modern lives, but anything sugar-laden like biscuits and cake (yeah I know, exactly the things you want at 4pm) is going to pick us up temporarily then send us crashing down again, bringing on more sugar cravings.

This blood sugar yo-yo-ing is what causes us to put on weight. Life is miserable without treats and everyone loves cake so go ahead, but the clever trick is to find healthier alternatives that still make you happy.

So what is a good, healthy, nutritious alternative snack?
I’m an almond butter addict. The sweetness and stickiness give the feeling of an indulgent treat, hitting that sweet craving but the protein and healthy fat content leave you satiated and keep your energy stable.

Have it with oatcakes if you need some carb comfort or smeared on celery sticks for something fresher and crunchier. Less worthy than it sounds, I promise. Great for little ones, too.

If we’re at home with kids, do we need to be making hot food for lunch and dinner?
Warm food is important as the weather get colder as we have to use a lot more energy to digest cold food and it can be hard work for little ones. But it’s not always possible to cook a full meal for lunch, so do what you can.

Include a warm element to the meal – a small portion of soup or stew, some steamed spinach or sautéed courgettes – alongside cold elements so the whole meal isn’t too cold. Try to serve food at room temperature rather from the fridge which is very hard work for our digestion.

What should the kids be eating – same as the adults, or do they need anything specific (like vitamin D-rich foods)?
In general kids need many of the same nutrients we adults do, however there are some nutrients that are particularly important to their growing and developing bodies.

There’s too many to mention here but feeding them plenty of vegetables rich in vitamin A and C is important, as are foods rich in calcium. This doesn’t have to be dairy, green leafy veggies are packed with it too. In the winter, food rich in vitamin D is particularly important – for them and us; this means plenty of eggs and oily fish like salmon and trout.

Ideas for a quick, easy, healthy midweek dinner?
You can’t get quicker and healthier than a stir-fry. Stir-frys are often my go-to quick midweek meal. Throw together piles of broccoli, carrots, sugar snaps, courgettes and baby sweetcorn with shiitake mushrooms and a ginger, soy and honey sauce. Serve the little ones then add more ginger and chilli flakes for the grown ups if you want more immune-supporting spice.

I also get really into my slow cooker as it gets colder. In the morning assemble together a cut of meat (sealing the meat first), some root veg, garlic and herbs; then cover with stock. Let it bubble away all day. Voila, 20 minutes work in the morning and dinner is ready whenever you want it – just steam some greens to go with it. You can’t get easier than that.

Any other tips for surviving the colder, wetter months – food-wise?
Probiotic foods are super important for our immune systems, and especially for those still growing. Get real live yogurt (watch for fakes, not all that say live are the real deal!) or other fermented foods into your winter wellness regime.

To contact Chloe about nutrition or to arrange a consultation, please email her via info@theearlyhour.com