Working Outdoors in Winter: Essential Nutrition

October 23, 2013
By Erick Palacios, Safety Supervisor, Wright Tree Service

As the winter season approaches, some of us embrace the change from the summer’s heat, and others complain. In an industry where we have no choice but to work outdoors, both those who embrace it and complain about it should be aware that proper nutrition can provide essential benefits in cold weather.

Layers of dry clothing combined with proper nutrition can chase away the chill.

Working outdoors can increase your metabolism seven to 10 times above the resting level. If you were to work vigorously for an hour without releasing heat, you could raise your body temperature from 98.6 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit – basically cooking yourself in the process!

In the summer, you dissipate body heat by sweating, but in the winter, keeping body heat trapped in layers of clothing helps you survive a cold environment. Because food provides the energy needed to generate that heat, the right diet is particularly important for outdoor workers.

Eating generates heat, and helps warm your body. This process is called thermogenesis. Thirty to 60 minutes after you eat, your body generates 10 percent more heat than on an empty stomach, and the energy released during digestion increases your metabolism.

For safety sake, outdoor workers should always carry a source of fuel. A drop in body temperature stimulates the appetite, causing increased hunger.  It’s important to keep a supply of dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, an energy bar, or cookies nearby in case body heat needs to be re-fueled.

Our bodies also require extra sleep and heartier meals during the cooler months. Some suggestions for eating well during this time include:

  • Eat warming foods. This includes rolled oats, vegetable soups, lentil curries and bean stews.
  • Include warming spices like cayenne pepper, chili, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, fennel and anise.
  • Eat more cooked than raw foods. Eat ground foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnip, celery root, pumpkin and beetroot.
  • Have warm drinks in the morning. If you are going to have juice, drink it at room temperature.
  • Eat immune boosting foods. Add garlic, leafy greens, and other fresh foods, and load up on fruits rich in vitamin C (citrus, kiwi, brussels sprouts, strawberries papaya, etc.).

With a little knowledge of the right nutritious choices and some daily planning, you will be amazed at how enjoyable the cool air can feel. It’s important to take care of yourself and others while working outdoors, especially during the winter months. The cost of an injury or down time from an illness can affect not only you and your family, but coworkers and your company as well.