How to stay more hydrated in the winter

I know for me (and for many people) it’s harder to stay hydrated in the winter. I don’t feel as thirsty. I’m not outside in the sun or getting as warm. Drinking cool or cold water doesn’t sound as refreshing as on a hot summer day.

Plus, the air is often drier due to the season and due to being inside with the heat on – so we might even need a little more hydrate than normal.

If that sounds like you, here are some ways to make winter hydration easier!

  • Drink decaf or noncaffeinated tea or coffee. The liquids in these hot drinks are still hydrating.
  • Drink herbal or other types of tea! Lemon, ginger, hibiscus, mint, chamomile, lavender – there are so many to choose from!
  • Drink hot or warm water – add a little lemon or other flavoring if you feel like the taste of hot water is weird
  • Regular coffee or tea – there is some thought that the caffeine in these drinks is actually dehydrating due to its diuretic effects, but research shows that in general the overall effect is hydrating, especially if you are drinking in moderate amounts and not more than you are used to. (Read about health benefits of coffee here)
  • Hot chocolate or other hot milk beverages like chai – these beverages can also provide extra nutrition like calcium, vitamin D, protein, potassium, etc.
  • Eat more soup! The liquid in soup can still hydrate you even if it’s not a drink! You can also drink broth – just choose one with a lower sodium content if you can.
  • Make sure you are still eating your fruits and veggies! Fruits and veggies have a high water content and can take care of a good portion of our total fluid needs for the day!
  • Make time to hydrate. Having a little tea or coffee break can be a nice cozy part of a cold day and can be a welcome break from work or studying.
  • If it helps, count your fluid intake. Just doing this for a few days might help you realize what times of day you need to add in fluids.
  • If you still like cold drinks in winter, enjoy!

How do you know if you are hydrated enough? Read this post for more information

How do you stay hydrated when it’s cold outside?

This post is intended to be informational only and is not medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about your unique needs, ask about a custom meal plan or speak with a registered dietitian-nutritionist near you.

Why I write about nutrition basics

I write posts about Nutrition Basics because nutrition terms get thrown around a lot. That can make words like calories, fat, protein, etc. seem familiar. It also means we can say the same words but be thinking of different concepts!

I write posts about Nutrition Basics because it’s important to me that my audience and I are thinking of the same things when I say protein, or carbs, etc.

I also write these posts because I want them in my voice. I want you to hear what I think and believe about carbs, or protein, or sugar, for example, and just to explain in simple terms what those things mean, with a little bit of basic background.

That way when I say, add some healthy carbs, or make sure you have enough calories! you know what that means.

Here are some nutrition basics I’ve written so far:

Protein

What is protein?

A list of protein foods
How much protein should you eat?

Plant-based protein

Hydration

How much water do I actually need to drink?

More to come!

What nutrition basics do you want me to write about? Add your suggestion to the comments or send me a message!

How much protein should you eat?

Read about which foods are considered protein foods here. Read about protein and amino acids here.

As always, this post is meant to be informative and educational and is not a prescription or recommendation for you as I cannot know your individual situation and needs. If you have concerns about your protein intake and want a specific recommendation, speak with a dietitian!

My goal in writing these blogs is to give you practical, easy to understand, not overwhelming nutrition information. Breaking down how to eat protein has been more difficult than I expected because there are so many different opinions about what the best amount of protein to eat is.

While this can be confusing and overwhelming, my takeaway for you is this: there is a wide range of protein intake that can be healthy. The amount of protein you eat can be flexible and for the most part can be adjusted to your preferences. (It is harder to get it wrong than a lot of people would like you to think it is.)

Two fast and easy ways to know how much protein to eat:

MyPlate is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended eating pattern. It isn’t perfect, but if about 1/4 of what you eat is protein food, you will most likely get enough protein – pretty easy to visualize if most of your meals are eaten on a plate.

If you only eat plant protein (vegans, and maybe some vegetarians), this still applies, but it is especially important for you to make sure you eat plenty of whole grains and vegetables as well. Keep reading here, but check out this post next.

Another super quick and easy method is to aim for about a palm-sized serving of protein foods with each meal. I like this method because it scales to the size of each person. A large person (who will need more protein) generally has a larger hand size. A tiny toddler (who needs less protein) has a tiny palm.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

These two illustrations are also helpful because there is some research showing that eating your protein throughout the day (with each meal) is more beneficial than eating it all at once. (As your body uses protein throughout the day for many many purposes)

Now, as I said above, the amount of protein in a healthy diet can be very flexible, so you can eat more protein than this and totally still be healthy, as long as you aren’t excluding other necessary foods.

Do you like to do math and want to calculate the amount of protein you need? This section is for you.

(If you don’t like math, just skip to the next section πŸ™‚ )

The minimum amount of protein required to prevent loss of lean body mass (muscle) in adults with no physical activity is generally calculated by dietitians as 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. (0.8g protein x kg of body weight). Factoring in a minimal amount of physical activity raises needs to about 1 gram per kilogram of body weight. In case you don’t feel like converting kilos to pounds, this works out to about 0.45g of protein per pound of body weight. If someone is critically ill, more active, or pregnant, this amount could increase, up to 2.0g/kg.

In terms of actual food, 1g per kg works out to about 1 oz of “meat equivalents” per 15 lbs of body weight. This is a rough estimate best suited to finding the base amount of protein you should eat. If you are concerned about your protein intake, or have questions, consult a dietitian! (I know I said it before – but it’s important! Also that’s what dietitians are here for!)

1 oz “meat equivalent = 1 oz meat, poultry or fish – about matchbox-sized
About 7g protein=1 egg
1 8-oz glass of cow milk or soy milk*
1 oz cheese – about thumb sized
1/2 cup beans or lentils
1/4 cup or 1 oz nuts or seeds
2 Tbsp peanut butter or other nut butter
1/4 cup Greek yogurt or 1 cup regular yogurt (check the label)
2 oz tofu
*almond milk, rice milk, and other alternative milks generally have less protein, check the label.

Whole grains and vegetables also contribute a small amount of protein (2-3g per serving)

There are some people who believe that everyone should eat more than this amount, and there are studies showing benefits of higher protein intake – such as improved muscle maintenance and function in older adults (1-1.2 g per kg body weight), improved satiety, and improved blood glucose control, among other things. Most people can eat up to 2g protein per kilogram of body weight without problems (those with chronic kidney disease would be an exception).

For some perspective, The Institute of Medicine recommends 10-35% of calories come from protein. For a 2000 calorie diet (which is the one used to calculate Nutrition Facts on labels), that is between 50 and 175 g of protein, or between 7 and 25 1-oz “meat equivalents”. Quite a large window. If 10-35% of your calories come from protein foods and you are above the 1g per kg minimum, you will probably be fine. Of course, (yes I’m going to say it again) if you have concerns, speak with a registered dietitian.

Question time!

What happens if you don’t eat enough protein?

Too little protein intake results in a loss of lean body mass (muscle) because your body will break down the protein it is already carrying (muscle) to maintain its function. That’s why it is important that you are eating at least the minimum that your body needs. See this post for more information about how protein is used in your body.

Can you eat too much protein?

Yes. But if you don’t have a specific condition that would make it directly harmful, harm from eating too much protein is much more likely to be from two other causes:

1. Not eating enough from other food groups, like fruits, vegetables, and grains because of eating so much protein. This might mean missing out on important nutrients like vitamin C or fiber that come from those other food groups. This is especially likely when eating only animal protein foods.

2. Getting too much of the other nutrients that are often present in protein-rich foods. For example, cheese is high in saturated fat and sodium, which can be harmful for blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Many processed meats are very high in sodium and saturated fat as well. Again, this is more likely to be a concern with animal protein foods.

Extremely high protein intake can be harmful to the kidneys, however this is usually only in extremely high intake (like more than 2.0g/kg) over a long period of time. If you are getting most of your protein from foods, incorporating your other food groups, not taking excessive protein supplements, and don’t have any medical conditions, you are unlikely to be harmed by eating too much protein. Again, if you are concerned that you may be eating too much protein, consult a dietitian.

If you eat a lot of protein, will it make your muscles grow automatically?. No

If you aren’t exercising (or growing, or using steroids) to stimulate muscle growth, that extra protein will just be used for energy or stored as fat. See this post if you want more information about how this works.

Can you eat as much protein as you want without gaining weight? No

If you eat more protein than your body needs for its building and energy needs, it will still be converted to fat, just like any other food. See this post if you have more questions.

However, diets that allow unlimited protein (and limit carbohydrates or fats) have been shown to be helpful for weight loss. So why is this?

Protein tends to be more satisfying than carbohydrates or fats, so the thought is that eating more protein than other food groups makes you “full” faster and so limits the total amount you end up eating, resulting in weight loss.

So protein isn’t a magical weight loss food. But if it helps you eat less and still be satisfied, then it may help you lose weight (and as long as you are getting all the other nutrients you need, that’s fine).

What if I don’t eat meat? What about plant-based proteins?

Plant-based protein post coming next week! (I tried to fit it all in one post but it was too long!)

What other questions do you have about protein? Leave me a comment!

Resources if you would like to learn more:

What is protein?

Plate full of protein foods: tofu, beans, nuts, shrimp, chicken, eggs

When dietitians speak about eating protein, or “proteins”, they usually mean eating foods like these, that have a lot of protein in them.

Image used with permission by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

But what is protein actually? Proteins are large and complex molecules made out of different combinations of amino acids. Amino acids are like the LEGO blocks that make up proteins.

Amino acids combine in nearly endless ways to create nearly endless different types of protein. These proteins are the building blocks that make up animals, plants, bacteria, viruses, and humans.

Amino Acids

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

↓

Proteins

When we eat foods with protein, our bodies take apart the protein into the amino acids it’s made from (like you might take apart a LEGO structure) and use those amino acids to build new proteins in our bodies that become hair, skin, muscle, hormones, mitochondria, etc.

Our bodies use 20 different amino acids to build the proteins it needs. Nine of these amino acids we must get from the food we eat. The other eleven our bodies can manufacture, but we can also get them from food.

That’s why its so important to eat enough foods with protein in them, so our body has all the materials it needs to grow, maintain bones and muscles, make hormones and neurotransmitters, and heal itself, among many many other things.

Our bodies can also burn protein for energy. If we have enough protein for our building needs, our bodies take the extra protein and either burn it for energy or, if it already has enough energy, will store it as fat for future energy.

On the other hand, if we are not eating enough to meet our energy needs, (and especially if we are also not eating enough protein) our bodies will begin to break down the protein in our muscles to use for energy. Of course, it will also begin to break down stored fat, but most weight loss involves some muscle loss.

Now you know what protein is, but how should you eat it? How much should you eat? What are “lean” proteins? What are plant-based proteins?

Check back next week for the answers! Do you have other questions about protein? Leave it in the comments and I’ll try and incorporate it into next week’s post.

(Sorry, this wasn’t an intentional cliff hanger, it just seemed better to break it up rather than doing a super long post!)

If you want to see a list of foods that have protein, click here.

Need protein? Here’s a list of foods that provide a good amount of protein

This post is a list of foods that provide protein. This list is for you if:

  • you’re not sure which foods have protein,
  • you are tired of the protein foods you are eating and want to find different ones,
  • you’re looking to add more protein to your diet and need ideas

Keep reading to find some new protein foods to try!

Poultry

  • Chicken breast
  • Chicken thighs
  • Chicken drumstick
  • Chicken wings
  • Chopped or shredded chicken
  • Ground chicken
  • Canned chicken
  • Chicken feet
  • Turkey, white and dark meat
  • Shredded or chopped turkey
  • Sliced deli turkey
  • Ground turkey
  • Turkey jerky
  • Turkey bacon
  • Duck
  • Pheasant
  • Liver and organ meats (pretty much any kind)

Eggs and Dairy

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Soy milk
  • Goat milk
  • Sheep milk
  • Cheese (pretty much any kind except cream cheese)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Goat cheese
  • Sheep cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir

Beans/Lentils/Pulses

  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • French lentils
  • Split peas
  • White beans
  • Lima beans
  • Garbanzo beans/chickpeas
  • Hummus
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh

Meat

  • Pork chops
  • Pork loin
  • Pork shoulder
  • Ground pork
  • Ham
  • Bacon
  • Canadian bacon
  • Sausage
  • Bologna
  • Salami
  • Ground beef
  • Roast beef
  • Corned beef
  • Hot dog
  • Hamburger
  • Steak
  • Beef roast
  • Beef jerky
  • Bison
  • Elk
  • Venison
  • Lamb
  • Mutton

Various Plant Proteins

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Pecans
  • Nut butters
  • Soy milk
  • Quinoa (at least 1 cup)
  • Seitan
  • Meat substitutes like veggie burgers or vegetarian sausage (always check the label for protein content)
  • Edamame
  • Sprouted peas
  • Green peas (1 cup)
  • Grilled Portobello mushroom (1 cup)

A word about protein powders: Many people find protein powders helpful, however I haven’t included them separately because most of them are made from one of the foods listed above like milk, eggs, soy, or peas.

These foods, in a typical serving size, provide at least 10% of the recommended daily amount of protein (%DV). Note that many of them provide much more than 10% and that the the %DV is based on a very general figure. This post does not give serving sizes or recommend amounts of protein to eat. Protein needs vary widely, and there is a wide amount of protein intake that can be healthy! If you have questions about how much protein you need, speak with a registered dietitian or your doctor!