Prioritize your health instead of hibernating

Try these eight ways to a healthier winter

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When cold weather hits, it’s easy to prioritize hibernating over health—abandoning outdoor activities and opting for comfort foods and the couch. However, you can keep up your healthy habits — and even add some new ones — even if you’re stuck inside.

Here are some strategies for prioritizing health when you’re cooped-up indoors during the cold weather.

Here are 8 ways to prioritize health instead of hibernating:

1. Make some soupInstead of a snow day baking sweet treats, try making a big batch of soup. You can experiment with different ingredients all winter long, providing you with a healthy distraction from the cold and an endless source of nutritious, warm meals.

Want to increase the fun factor? Try a “Soup Swap” with friends, where everyone makes a different type and divides it into batches for easy sharing.

2. MeditateChances are you’re already spending a lot of time sitting indoors in the winter months, so why not take advantage of your downtime to try meditating? Research shows it can have positive effects on the mind and body, all without having to leave your home or buy special equipment.

3. Stream and sweatWhen it’s so cold outside that you don’t want to leave the house to work out, consider turning to digital streaming services instead. Not to binge-watch videos or TV shows, but to exercise! Scroll through the variety of workout offerings and choose an exercise or two – or a full workout. Remember to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.

4. CalisthenicsStuck at home with no easy access to your gym? Skip thepushup barbells and use your own body weight to become stronger. Common exercises include squats, lunges, push-ups, and crunches. Again, be sure to check with your doctor before making any changes to your exercise program.

5. Get your steps in on the stairsStep counts often dwindle in winter, when walking outdoors is at a minimum. Take advantage of indoor time by walking up and down your building’s stairs, if your building has them. Just be sure to watch for ice and slippery spots.

6. Try teaBeing stuck inside can encourage snacking, and chilly weather can lead to comfort food cravings. Before reaching for a plate, though, pour yourself a mug of warm tea. You’ll find it often lasts longer than a quick snack, and it can be surprisingly satiating.

7. Stand up for your health

“Sit time” peaks during winter, when we want to stay at home and avoid the outdoors. It’s easy to while away the time watching movies, reading, or browsing online, but remember to set a timer on your phone that reminds you to walk around every hour – even just a few trips back and forth to the other side of your home.

8. Read an inspiring bookAnother great way to prioritize health – even when low bookstemperatures have you feeling sluggish – is to turn to a book for a major dose of motivation. Find a health or nutrition book online, at a bookstore, or your local library, and use it as a source of inspiration to get you through winter. You could even start a “healthy book club” with friends and instead of reading the same book, assign different titles so everyone can share notes and maximize motivation

Source: Harvard Health:

Butternut squash soup

Serves 6-8 people
one 3.5-4 lb. butternut squash
1 medium leek
1 small yellow onion
1 medium shallot
3 medium cloves garlic
1 medium carrot
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
6 cups homemade vegetable stock
black pepper
kosher salt
extra virgin olive oil
3-4 sprigs parsley
2-3 sprigs thyme
10 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Small bunch of chives
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1. Heat an oven to 350 degrees. Cut the neck off of the squash and set aside. Cut the base in half through the root and scoop out the seeds. Put 1-2 sage sprigs in each half, lightly rub in olive oil, put on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and roast until very tender, 45-60 minutes. Cool the squash down, discard the sage, and scoop out the flesh and set aside.
2. Peel the next of the squash and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Cut the root off of the leek(s) and remove the dark green leaves, keeping only the very light-green and white parts. Take off the outer layer. Cut the leeks in half vertically, then into half-moon slices about 1/2 inches wide. Soak the leek pieces in a bowl of water for 5 minutes, then lift them out (don’t pour them out) and place them in a colander to drain. Cut the onion, shallot, and carrot into a 1/2-inch dice. Smash the garlic cloves and roughly chop. Wrap the parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns in a bundle of cheesecloth and tie with a string. If you don’t have cheesecloth, omit the peppercorns, and tie the parsley, thyme, and bay leaves in a string bundle.
3. Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to a dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, shallot, carrot, garlic, and a pinch of kosher salt, and sweat for 5-8 minutes until translucent. Add the diced squash and cook for 4-5 minutes more. Add the honey/maple syrup and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add the stock and herb bundle, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat until the water is barely at a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes until the squash pieces are tender.
4. Add the roasted squash to the soup pot and simmer for another 30 minutes. Remove the herb bundle. Add about 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, and blend the soup in batches (or with a stick blender) until smooth. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
For balsamic reduction:
5. Put the balsamic vinegar in a small pot over very low heat. Keep the vinegar on the heat until it has reduced to a semi-thick sauce. Make sure the vinegar never comes to a boil — it can burn very easily. This will take several hours. Once it starts to thicken, keep an eye on it and swirl it around semi-regularly. It will continue to thicken off of the heat, so pull it off when it is just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
For the pumpkin seeds:
6. Heat an oven to 350 degrees. Pour the seeds into a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast for 3-6 minutes until toasted. Be careful not to burn. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and toss with a sprinkle of kosher salt.
To finish:
7. Ladle soup into each bowl. Add a swirl of balsamic reduction, a few pinches of toasted pumpkin seeds, and a sprinkle of finely chopped chives.

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