Is it the cold, dark days of winter that drive most of us to snack as often as we scroll on our phones? There are many reasons why the average person gains a kilo or two in the cold season, but rather than looking ahead to losing these seasonal kilos, let’s talk about preventing them.
Many of us can feel down in winter – it’s no coincidence the acronym for seasonal affective disorder is SAD – but poor eating habits won’t change that. Hedonic hunger is the drive to eat to obtain pleasure in the absence of hunger. While it may just sound like great alliteration, this preoccupation with empty eating is real, especially when it’s cold. So how do we banish this craving for comfort from our food choices?
FORM HEALTHY DRINKING HABITS
Drinking less water in the cooler months can cause us to confuse thirst for hunger. To keep on top of winter hydration, firstly get into the daily habit of drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning; wake up and drink it before you even go to the bathroom. Secondly, become a tea fan. Herbal teas such as ginger, cinnamon, and licorice are not only warming, they also reduce sugar cravings. Meanwhile, green tea is full of antioxidants and has thermogenic properties that increase the body’s production of heat and make it more effective at burning calories.
In fact, a 12-week study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants who added catechin-rich green tea to their usual daily diet lost 1.3kg compared to those who didn’t.
FILL UP ON SOUPS AND STEWS
Nutrient-dense soups and stews are not only delicious and healthy, they’re also filling. The key is to pack them with fibre-rich vegetables that will send satiating signals to the brain and put the brakes on mindless snacking. Aim to have three satisfying meals to reduce the needless nibbling on extra calories. Consider having light veggie soups and broths as snacks or as an entrée for dinner.
POWER UP WITH PROTEIN
When it comes to appetite, protein is the star of the metabolism show thanks to it reducing the stomach’s production of the “hunger hormone”, aka ghrelin, which is what signals the brain to eat. While smart carbohydrates and quality fats have their place in a healthy diet, having a good-sized portion of protein at each meal will keep food cravings and bingeing at bay. A binge is different from hunger, so try to make “food-bingeing prevention” your focus this season. Keep it simple: add chicken, fish, beef, tofu, or a protein-packed can of legumes such as lentils or chickpeas to your warming soups and meals.
ADD A BIT OF SPICE
Spices are the key to moving to a whole-food, cleaner-eating lifestyle, especially warming spices in winter as feeling cold is one of the reasons we eat more – to fuel our body and produce energy. Stock up on black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, mustard seeds, garlic, horseradish, and chillies – like green tea, chillies are thermogenic, prompting your body to burn more calories and helping to speed up your metabolism along the way.
OMIT SOMETHING FROM YOUR PLATE
If a dish traditionally comes with unnecessary calories in the form of stodgy carbohydrates, remove them from the equation.
If you fancy having a cheeseburger, order it without the bun. If your fish pie comes with a deep crust, eat the delicious protein-packed contents of the pie first rather
than filling up on pastry. Adding this small habit to your daily life will make a big difference long term.
Michele Chevalley Hedge is the founder of A Healthy View and author of Eat,
Drink And Still Shrink.