Sleep and eat to survive Finnish winter

Teksti ja kuvat: Marie Pignot

Arriving from France to Kuopio one month ago, I was really afraid about how to overcome the Finnish winter with healthy conditions. People told me so many stories about how it can be hard and how you can feel tired during the long winter. So I decided to go to the nutrition evening organized by Sykettä.

“Nothern circumstances are very different during winter”, began Hilla Martikainen, a dietitian and Master of Health sciences, who hosted the evening.

Winter in Finland for the most part means no more sun and no more warm temperatures. The darkest time is in December, but already in November, the weather is going be quite dark with snow. The absence of sunlight and cold temperatures increase secretion of melatonin and make one feel tired all the time. To avoid or decrease this feeling, Martikainen recommended the following guidelines: sleep well and enough, eat regularly and healthy to have enough energy during the day and take vitamin D.

According to Martikainen, Finnish people eat five meals per day, including snacks and a supper after dinner.

“Vitamin D can be found in some foods, like mushrooms, eggs, salmon and margarine. You can also buy special milk with vitamin D. But even for Finnish people, it is rarely enough”, Martikainen says.

Vitamin D can be bought in pharmacy without medical prescription. Moreover, sleeping well is very important because it impacts your mood and happiness.

Finnish snacks were offered at end of the presentation.

Eating healthy food is not so complicated and expensive in Finland. Food culture is very rural and you can find lots of natural food from the nature for quite cheap or free. The best rule is to eat by season and have a balanced plate. What is a balanced plate?

“Half of the plate is filled with vegetables, a quarter with protein sources and the last quarter with fibre-rich carbohydrates”, advices Martikainen.
“For your health it is better to eat fish more often than red meat, and always have a moderate portion size.”

During autumn you can find many berries and mushrooms from forest for free. In winter potatoes and cabbages are very cheap in a supermarket. Other options for a well-balanced meal that doesn´t cost a fortune is to eat lunch at a university canteen or cook with a friend. If you cook with friends, everyone can bring an ingredient and it´s the perfect way to meet other exchange students, for example, and share a nice moment.

Some typical Finnish snacks were offered at end of the presentation. We were able to sample some karjalanpiirakka, leipäjuusto and brown bread with butter and share our own food experience. I left the meeting ready to face Finnish winter, but with also with lots of good Finnish recipes, that I’m eager to test.