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How To Boost Vitamin D In the Winter Through Diet

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How To Boost Vitamin D In the Winter Through Diet

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During darker, colder days, a major source of vitamin D—sunshine—is harder to come by. The effects of daylight savings time play a role, as do common lifestyle changes. I mean, when the weather is chilly, nothing hits like being inside with a mug of warm herbal tea, blankets, or a steaming bubble bath, amirite?

A dietitian validates that getting enough vitamin D can be tough at any time of year. “It’s not easy for the average American to get enough vitamin D unless they spend a significant amount of time outside, are super intentional about choosing vitamin D-containing foods consistently, or take a daily vitamin D supplement,” says Kristi Ruth, RD, CNSC, LDN, the owner of Carrots and Cookies. “It’s especially tricky during winter because we tend to spend less time outdoors and wear clothing, socks, and footwear with more coverage to stay warm.”

“It’s also important to note that people with disabilities, infants, elderly populations, and other groups are at risk of low vitamin D3 production,” says Robert D. Ashley, MD, an internal medicine physician, which can lower bone density and increase the risk of bone fractures.

“Additionally, people whose cultural or religious beliefs require them to be covered from head to toe may not be able to get their vitamin D from the sun, either,” adds Karl Insogna, MD, FACP, a Yale professor and internal expert in metabolic bone disease.

And while the sun can play a major role in giving us vitamin D, it’s (thankfully) not the only easy way to meet those goals. Ahead, dietitians share how to get enough vitamin D in winter—and year-round—through your diet, plus other nutritious go-tos to keep in mind regarding this all-important nutrient.

How to get more vitamin D in winter months through your diet

Eat more fish

In particular, Ruth lists salmon and canned tuna as options that are rich in vitamin D. “Other foods like herring, beef liver, and sardines are also notorious for being good sources of vitamin D, but may be an unrealistic recommendation for some people based on personal preference,” she adds.

Anna Lutz, MPH, RD, LDN, CEDRD-S, a dietitian with Lutz, Alexander, and Associates Nutrition Therapy, agrees that fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon, are great sources. She adds sushi is very much included here.

If you need a little extra inspiration on fishy dishes (that also aren’t too complicated), Lutz recommends mixing canned tuna with mayonnaise and pickle relish for a quick tuna salad, grabbing frozen salmon burgers at the grocery store, downing some sushi rolls, or trying the tinned fish trend.

Enjoy some eggs in all their (yellow) forms

Eggs are another natural source of vitamin D. In particular, Lutz says, it’s the egg yolk—so she encourages eating the whole egg, not just the egg whites.

Eggs can also be enjoyed at any time and in a variety of ways. Lutz says you can slice up a hard-boiled egg and put it on toast; scramble some eggs for breakfast, lunch or dinner; or put them into a delicious quiche. Regarding the latter, she adds that quiches “are easy to make with a prepared pie crust and are great as leftovers,” or suggests you “buy a prepared quiche.” Whatever fits your schedule, budget, and taste buds best.

“Not all dairy products are fortified with vitamin D, so look on the label of your yogurts and cheese for over 15 percent of your daily value of vitamin D per serving, as a general guideline.”
—Anna Lutz, MPH, RD, LDN, CEDRD-S

Incorporate more mushrooms

Whether you like them on your pizza, thrown in a salad, or even in chewable form, bring on the mushrooms!

Citing a study in Nutrients, Ruth shares a fun fact about how you can get even more vitamin D from them. “The more they are exposed to UV light, the more vitamin D they contain,” she says. “Some mushrooms are pre-treated with UV light, but you can also sit mushrooms out in the sun for 15 minutes to two hours to increase their vitamin D content.”

Grab some dairy products

Yogurt, milk, and cheese are typically solid options for when you need more vitamin D. In practice, this might look like a bowl of cereal and milk or a cup of yogurt.

Just be aware that some sources of dairy aren’t as beneficial in this way as others. “Not all dairy products are fortified with vitamin D, so look on the label of your yogurts and cheese for over 15 percent of your daily value of vitamin D per serving, as a general guideline,” Lutz says.

Don’t forget about vitamin D-rich breakfast foods and drinks

Cereal and orange juice, Ruth says, are often fortified with vitamin D. In fact, General Mills doubled the vitamin D count in several Big G cereals (and well-loved favorites) such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Honey Nut Cheerios, and Lucky Charms.

And while a glass of OJ is typically associated with breakfast, you can have it any time of day! To get the most vitamin D out of this beverage, though, Ruth recommends adding another fat source along with it.

Get enough fat sources, too

Indeed, we need more fat (and carbs) than many of us realize—and vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it’s best absorbed when eaten with fat.

“Fat-free vitamin D-fortified dairy products don’t make a lot of sense, unless they are paired with another fat source,” Lutz adds.

“When fat-free foods, like orange juice, are fortified with vitamin D, you’ll want to consider eating something that contains fat for optimal absorption,” Ruth says. Examples of fat sources include avocados, nuts, and cookies, but those are only a few. She adds this isn’t usually a problem as most foods that naturally contain vitamin D also contain fat. “Mushrooms are an exception, but are often consumed with fats from salad dressing or oil when sauteed,” she clarifies. (Again, not the fat-free salad dressing—it’s a scam!)

Getting enough fat is an important reminder when you’re in the dairy aisle, too. “Fat-free vitamin D-fortified dairy products don’t make a lot of sense, unless they are paired with another fat source,” Lutz adds.

Ultimately, the main point is not to get your vitamin D from a certain place, but to get it in a way that feels right for you, your culture, and your body.


Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.


  1. Cardwell, Glenn et al. “A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D.” Nutrients vol. 10,10 1498. 13 Oct. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10101498


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