Much like when bears put on weight to survive the winter, we humans seem to as well. Studies have shown that we tend to gain a little weight during the holiday period, which isn’t surprising given the amount of holiday food people consume. What’s more, packing on the cold-weather fat layers is just part of human nature. The cold weather triggers us to eat more. Plus, most people just aren’t as active once temperatures start to drop.
It’s easy to give up on exercise when the days get shorter and the weather turns colder. With that said, you’re closer to the temptations that await you in the kitchen and a reduction in physical activity can be a main contributor to winter weight gain. Beyond going to the gym or attending indoor fitness classes, there are many other ways to work up a sweat; try ice skating, climbing an indoor rock wall, joining an indoor sports league, or cleaning the house. And if these workout ideas don’t get you motivated, think of all the awesome workout gear you can add to your collection.
Out with the old and in with the new: hearty root vegetables and citrus fruits. This winter, use produce to your advantage to add bulk and fiber to your meals, and they’re macro-friendly. Liven up your classic chicken noodle soup with cubed sweet potato and chopped kale, and use pureed winter squash to substitute for some of the heavy cream and butter in your macaroni. Another idea is to turn roasted turnips into French fries.
It’s difficult to eat clean during the winter when most of your seasonal favorites are on the heavy side. Everything from your morning coffee to your evening vegetable sides seem to be transformed at the start of the season into their higher-calorie counterparts, like pumpkin spice lattes and green bean casseroles. Calories and fat are plentiful in these seasonal favorites, in the form of butter, cream, and sugar, but that doesn’t mean you have to deny yourself these dishes completely. Instead, try lightening them up—substitute Greek yogurt for creams and mayonnaise in cream-based sauces and dips; use almond or cashew milk in hot chocolates and flavored-lattes; cut crusts from pies by baking the fillings in ramekins; and replace part of the sugar and butter/oil in baked goods with applesauce. Lastly, use spices and herbs to enhance the flavor of these healthier alternatives without adding calories.
You may consider the holiday feasting period over at the start of the New Year, but several holidays still offer the overindulgence: Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and even Super Bowl Sunday. To avoid binging at every occasion, tackle your holiday events with an eating strategy. First, eat something small, yet filling, with both protein and fiber an hour or two before the event. You’ll be less likely to overindulge if you attend the meal slightly hungrier, but not starving. Next, prepare to allow yourself an indulgence or two—whether that’s a little portion of a creamy side dish or a small holiday treat for dessert. Research suggests that depriving yourself of such sweet treats can trigger overeating. And while feasting, serve yourself on a smaller plate—that way you’re more likely to keep portion sizes in-check. Lastly, focus on the company, not the food, and engage in good conversation.
A kitchen filled with temptations is sure to derail your healthy eating sooner or later, so try giving your kitchen a makeover before it’s too late. First and foremost, attack the grocery store with a plan. Make a healthy shopping list and go when you’re on a time crunch—that way you’re less likely to waste time on unhealthy items. Stock your pantry with healthy snacks that you can actually enjoy eating, so that you won’t crave unhealthy alternatives. Also, keep a bowl of fruit within eyesight—making it the first thing you see when you’re hungry. Lastly, let party guests take home leftover treats; if you keep them you’re sure to eat them. And also start to practice meal-prep Sunday; it will make your eating habits easier and healthier.
To maintain your weight during the winter, use an app on your smart phone to track your eating habits. MyFitnessPal and Withings teamed up to analyze tracking data during the holiday season and found that those who weighed in and tracked their intake regularly lost over a pound on average, whereas those who didn’t ended up 2lbs heavier. One of the keys to success in weight loss and management is to track how much you weigh and what you’re eating. This winter, try weighing yourself about once every few days, and record the numbers in a notebook or smartphone app.
BY CHARLOTTE MARTIN, RD