With the winter months getting ever closer, we know how tempting it is to slip into hibernation mode. Baggy clothes, comfort food and general avoidance of the outdoors… let’s admit it, we’ve all been there. And If like us you, work in an office tied to your desk all day, falling into this routine is not hard.

So to keep you motivated over the winter we will be doing a series of features of tips and products to keep you in top shape. To kick off the series, we spoke to nutritionist and author, Fiona Kirk to get the low down on how you can stay focused and energetic.

Her advice – get your vitamins, especially vitamin D.

Vitamin D has become one of the most researched and positively-publicised vitamins over the past few years and for good reason. It seems that hardly a week goes by without another study highlighting a new benefit. Most of us already know about its role in helping to form and maintain strong bones by aiding the absorption of calcium, but it appears that thi bone-strengthener may also be a brain-sharpener.

Fiona pointed us to one recent study which compared the cognitive performance of more than 3,000 men between the ages of 40 and 79 and found that the men with the highest levels of vitamin D showed the best cognitive function. In fact, the men with higher levels of vitamin D performed consistently better in a simple neuropsychological test that documents an individual’s attention and speed of information processing.

Vitamin D is primarily synthesised in the skin after exposure to sunshine. It was previously thought that as little as 5-10 minutes of sun exposure on arms, legs and face 3 times a week without sunscreen between 11am and 2pm during the spring, summer and autumn months should provide a light-skinned individual with adequate vitamin D and allow for storage of excess for use during the winter with minimal risk of skin damage. Those with dark
skin may require twice or three times the exposure. However, a recent survey in the UK indicates that more than half the adult population are deficient and in winter around 1 in 6 people show a severe deficiency. If the body cannot produce enough vitamin D because of insufficient sunlight exposure, we need to up our levels with D-rich foods but even then we may be short.

So if you want to stay sharp and avoid winter lethargy try and get out of the office for a brisk walk at lunchtime and get plenty of D-rich foods into your day. This includes foods like canned salmon, sardines and mackerel, soya milk, yoghurt, cheese, cow’s milk, egg yolks, orange juice and cereals fortified with vitamin D.

Fiona even shared a meal plan with us designed to not only keep you on top of your game, but to help you avoid blood sugar peaks and troughs which are the enemy if you are looking to shed a few pounds and/or keep your waistline in check.

Meal Plan:

Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs (add an extra yolk), a couple of slices of lean,
grilled bacon, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, rye toast and a large glass of
D-fortified orange juice

Mid Morning Snack: tinned, mashed salmon on oatcakes and a latte made
with soya milk

Lunch: Bean or Lentil Soup and a big mixed salad with lots of colour topped
with a dollop of cottage cheese and mixed seeds or pine nuts

Mid Afternoon Snack: Couple of pieces of fresh fruit with a chunk of hard

Evening Meal: Very Quick Mackerel (bake a couple of smoked mackerel, skin
side down, in a medium hot oven until deliciously hot and smokey, about 4-
5 minutes) and serve with lots of roasted vegetables, drizzled with soy sauce
and sweet potato chips.

For more fitness advice check out Fiona’s latest book ‘2 Weeks in the Fast Lane’