5 Nutrition Tips to Cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Do the winter months leave you wishing you were a bear that could simply sleep your way through the season and wake when spring comes?

If so, you aren’t alone. Experts estimate that half a million Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), with another 10-20 percent experiencing “winter blues.”

Since hibernating is not likely an option, consider these changes to your diet, which will lift your mood and boost your energy.

seasonal affective disorder

How To Cope With SAD

1. Control the carb urge

One of the signs of SAD is a strong craving for carbohydrates, which research shows could be your body’s natural way of boosting your mood.

Related: What You Should Eat To Fuel Your Workouts: Carbs, Fats, And Protein

While the cravings may just be for sweets and other high sugar foods, you need to control this urge and go with nutrient-rich carbohydrate choices such as whole grains, beans and vegetables. These slow digesting carbs will keep you fuller longer, give you more energy and provide more of the mood elevating nutrients you are seeking.

2. Fuel with food…not caffeine

Short, drab winter days may make you feel sluggish and wanting to rely on caffeine. However, caffeine can cause you to experience ups and downs throughout the day.

Rather, use small, frequent meals and snacks to sustain your energy. Also, remember to maintain a regular sleep and exercise schedule, which will also reduce your fatigue during the day.

3. Balance your meals and snacks with adequate protein

Balance out all of your meals and snacks with adequate protein from lean red meats, chicken/turkey, low fat cheese, eggs, and seafood.

Related: 10 Protein Snacks Every Health Nut Should Eat

Proper protein intake throughout the day can help your body naturally produce more serotonin, which is associated with improved mood. It also provides satiety and aids in appetite control, which is important for people who tend to overeat in the winter.

4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

You may not feel as thirsty as you do on a hot summer day, but your body is just as prone to dehydration in the winter as it is in the summer. Since hydration is associated with better mood and alertness, ensure that you are consuming hydrating drinks and foods throughout the day.

Keep in mind that low-sodium soup, tea, fruits and vegetables will positively add to your hydration for the day.

Related: 5 Big Benefits Of Drinking Water

5. Oh, omega!

Essential omega-3 fatty acids are associated with boosting mood and reducing seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Ground flaxseed, chia seed, hemp, and walnuts, which provide these fats, are easy to incorporate into your meals and snacks.

Fish remains the optimal way to consume these essential fatty acids, but many people find it difficult to meet the guideline of consuming fish twice per week and find these other sources to be more convenient.

The Takeaway

If you have seasonal affective disorder, maybe you are still wishing you could hibernate until brighter, longer days arrive, but give these suggestions a try, and you just might find that this winter is better than the last. If nothing else, these tip will ensure that it is your healthiest, most energetic winter yet!


allison stowellAllison Stowell, M.S., RD, CDN, is the registered dietitian for the Guiding Stars Licensing Company, a company devoted to helping you find the good, better and best choices at the supermarket. A working mom of two, Allison enables individuals to make positive, sustainable changes in their eating habits. Visit her blog to read more and connect with Allison on Twitter.

Photo by anyaklachi

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