The coats have been dusted off; the plush blankets are sundried as winter is officially upon us with its cozy glory. With the cooler temperature and shorter days, fewer activities and more indoors, many might end up putting a little extra insulation in these chilly months. For most of us, the weight does the opposite when the temp drops.
The cool air leads to some behavioral changes which lead to fat storage. Eating is a way to raise the body’s temperature, so, when cold, we seek food which we otherwise won’t. It’s absolutely normal to have an increased appetite in frostier temperature and crave for some comfort foods which are generally high in calories; fats and carbohydrates.
Because of low serotonin levels, we succumb to these sugary cravings; blood sugar spikes and then falls, thus setting up a cycle of appetite in motion. We get hungrier quicker, we reach out for more high-carbohydrate fillers and the cycle is on. But if we indulge those cravings with reckless abandon coupled with lack of exercise, uncontrolled weight gain can be the result. Also, decreased sunlight can be a factor for increased appetite.
If you think you are getting as heavy as your favorite winter foods, your appetite has spun out of control and you can’t keep from comfort foods, read on these guidelines to get back on track.
- Increase your protein
During winters we tend to turn towards hot carb-rich comfort foods. Hence, balancing meals in terms of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats is important. Always aim for proteins at each meal and snack to keep appetite under control. Proteins help to curb the sugar cravings and balance the blood sugar levels, thus, maintaining weight. They have a good satiety and a thermogenic effect. Include more of pulses, paneer, eggs, fish, lean meat, lentils, Greek yogurt, chia seeds, milk etc to get a good amount of share. Use right fats and be mindful about your carb intake.
- Start your meals with a soup bowl
Have a bowl of fresh veggie soup daily before lunch and dinner. This is the easiest way to up your vegetable intake during the day. This practice will provide you with numerous benefits. It will not only keep you full but also control your total calorie consumption of the meal, thus, managing your weight. Soups will soothe your throat and keep you warm in harsh weather. You can have fresh soup using various seasonal vegetables flavored with black pepper powder, ginger, garlic, and mixed herbs. Sprouts, paneer or dal can be added to increase the nutrient density.
- Eat more veggies and fiber
Make fresh fruits and vegetables your best friends. They are not only rich in fiber but also the much-needed antioxidants and vital nutrients. Fruits and veggies can be consumed in varied ways giving a variety to the diet. Have a stock of Vitamin C rich fruits and veggies which can help fight cold and flu. Fiber is an essential part of our diet. Include whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies in adequate amounts to have a good satiety and avoid food cravings.
- Stay hydrated
There are strong chances of confusing thirst with hunger in winters. So every time you have a craving for something to eat, have a glass of water and give yourself some time to let the craving subside. Staying hydrated in cold weather has many health benefits. So have plenty of water, sip on different herbal teas like green tea, ginger tea or various homemade concoctions. This will aid in better digestion, give good sleep, will keep you warm and help stay fit.
- Snack wisely
Snacking is a good habit. But what matters is what you snack on. With a drop in temperature, carb-rich foods are craved for. Stay away from these as they increase your blood sugar immediately. Try to have whole grains, millets, porridges, pulses and legumes, makhana, baked crackers, fresh fruits etc to satisfy your cravings.
- Seek healthy comforts
We all love comfort foods like samosa, chocolate, butter chicken, pizza, pasta, pakoras, momos etc. But there is a way to make these healthier. Roast, grilled or steamed to fried; mix veg to fries, wedges, chips, veggie pasta instead of creamy etc.
- Don’t skip meals
Skipping meals can make you feel hungry and cause you to stuff yourself with unhealthy stuff. Have a hearty healthy breakfast and at least 3-4 other meals every day. Avoid eating just one full meal a day; instead, break large portions into 3-5 smaller portions and have these at regular intervals throughout the day.
- Keep a lid on goodies
Get rid of all the unhealthy stuff. Pack the goodies and keep them aside where they aren’t see-through. This will ease your urge to gobble them up.
- Plan meals in advance
Take some time out every day and plan meals ahead. With time set aside to think and plan healthy meals, you can shop groceries accordingly, avoid eating out or takeaways and not go off the track.
- Practice mindful eating
Eat mindfully and until satisfied. Eat slowly, savor and enjoy the flavors of your food. Chew each morsel thus making it easy to digest and avoid overeating. Concentrate on your food. Avoid screens or working while having food.
- Get some sunshine
With decreased sunlight in winters, the body is low on Vitamin D and the serotonin levels drop too. Hence, expose yourself to sunlight daily as it helps in increasing the serotonin levels in the body coupled with synthesizing Vitamin D as both improves mood, control excessive cravings and stabilize mood swings.
- Exercise regularly
With winters, comes the familiar reluctance to exercise. Rather than being indoors, it’s advisable to boost your mood and burn some calories with exercise. Studies suggest that exercise can help combat a type of “winter depression”, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) as exercise releases “endorphins”, a feel-good hormone.
- Be consistent
Consistency is the key. It’s unsustainable to never indulge in junk foods or treats throughout winters. So just be consistent with the above guidelines, have your favorites in moderation, be realistic and have a manageable goal.
Seek out comfort foods that will fill your belly, warm you up and make you feel good but importantly, which are also good for you – will satisfy both your mind and soul. Happy winters!!!