At this time of year, it can feel pretty tempting to wrap up, whack on something binge-worthy and avoid all human contact outside of festive celebrations until Feb …well, maybe not that excessive, but you catch my drift.

Whilst I’m totally down with the hibernating amidst chocolate orange wrappers vibe, it doesn’t have to mean takeaways every night – trying out a new recipe you’re excited about each week can help you to look after your health and your pennies over these moody months.

HOW CAN FOOD HELP YOUR MOOD?

We all know that getting our 5+ a day is good for our health – this month it’s time to take advantage of reduced seasonal staples like parsnips, squash and celeriac. They’re not just for roasts; try in soups, added in to chilli, seasonal coleslaw or even make a batch of gnocchi if you’re feeling fancy. Eating 30 different types of plants / week has been linked to improved gut health – which in turn is linked to good overall health and mental health. Eating the rainbow of different coloured fruit and veg can be a simple and affordable way to get that variety in – fresh, tinned and frozen all count!

IT’S NOT JUST WHAT YOU EAT – HOW YOU EAT COUNTS TOO

Eating regular, fibre-filled meals can help to stabilise your blood sugar – which in turn can balance your energy levels and have an impact on your mood. No-one likes the hanger, so try to plan in some balanced snacks.

TAKE A STROLL

While hours of sunlight are few and far between, why not grab some outside time – a walk down to the beach at lunchtime? Potter to the park? Being outside amongst a bit of nature can give you a mental boost, plus you won’t feel like you’ve not seen the sun (even if it’s hiding) for days – you won’t regret it!

RECIPE TIME

Not feeling the dark mornings? Try out this festive, fibre-filled granola so that you have a quick, tasty brekkie to look forward to. The oats will also help you to reach the recommended 30g fibre / day which can help look after your gut health and keep you feeling good over winter.

Not Terry’s Granola – always reminds me of my fave xmas choc.

Makes around 8 servings

Ingredients:
300g oats
25g chocolate, chopped into small chunks (If you want a more authentic choc orange experience then go for milk chocolate)
2tbsp golden syrup
2tbsp rapeseed / veg oil
2tbsp thick cut marmalade (any will do, this just gives a nice texture)
Pinch of salt

Method:
Preheat oven to 180 degrees (adjust accordingly for fan ovens) and lightly grease a large baking tray (I use ~33 x 23cm size)

Gently heat the syrup, oil and marmalade over a low heat in a large saucepan until melted together

Take off the heat, stir in the oats and salt and mix until thoroughly coated in the marmalade mixture

Add mix to baking tray and press down gently with the back of a wooden spoon

Bake in centre of oven for 15 minutes (check it at 10 minutes to make sure nothing’s burning, ovens can be temperamental!)

Remove from the oven and carefully stir through the chocolate.

Set aside to cool completely before storing in an airtight jar (or burn your mouth eating it hot like I do, s’up to you!)

Enjoy with your fave milk and fruit for breakfast or try with yoghurt and nuts as a snack. If you want to up the festive feels you can also add in some dried cranberries and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Jess English is a registered dietitian. Find out more at: www.levelupnutrition.co.uk

@levelupnutritionuk