Survive winter without gaining weight

May 11, 2014

Walking the fine line between wintery comfort foods and your waistline can be difficult but if you do it right, you can have both!

As soon as the days get shorter and the temperature drops, if you’re anything like me, you find yourself craving slow-cooked ragu, beef stroganoff, creamy curries and definitely not a fresh, crisp healthy salad!

Most of us tend to turn towards higher-carbohydrate and higher-fat meals during winter. The theory goes that we crave carbs because they contain tryptophan which triggers the release of serotonin, a ‘happy hormone’, which is also triggered by sunlight. When the days get shorter and there is less sunlight, our bodies start to look for other ways to raise serotonin levels, hence the carb-cravings that hit during the winter months.




However, giving in to cravings doesn’t have to mean adding lots of saturated fats, sugar and salt to your diet – or inches to your waistline. Healthy comfort food really is possible and by making some basic healthier choices, you won’t even notice the difference. Here are my top tips:

  1. Make a proper breakfast. This will set you up for the rest of the day and keep hunger and cravings at bay. The trick is to include protein and fibre to keep you full. Try porridge made on milk with stewed fruit and a few nuts or grainy toast with eggs, avocado and ricotta or cheese and tomato or mushrooms.
  2. Be ingredient savvy. Use leaner cuts of meat in stews and casseroles and cook them for longer so they tenderise beautifully. Bulk out dishes like bolognaise, curry or soup with lots of veggies and lentils. Use reduced-fat pastry for pies and only use pastry for lids; or swap out the pastry entirely for mash.
  3. Make smart, comforting choices. To keep the calories in check, go for tomato-based pastas, vegetable and lentil soups with crusty sourdough bread or home-made crumbles and skim hot chocolates to cure a sweet tooth.
  4. Be prepared. Winter meals tend to freeze really well so cook large batches of healthy meals and freeze them in single portions so you always have something on hand, reducing the takeaway temptation!
  5. Keep an eye on portions. As most of us do less exercise during winter, you need to watch how much you eat and the balance of food on your plate. Try to fill half your plate with vegies, and a quarter each of protein and carbs.
  6. Check in with your stomach. This sounds really simple but most of us don’t do it. It’s easy to ignore our bodies and eat more than we really need so before your next meal or snack take a moment and ask yourself if you’re hungry. Then, try to listen to and act on the answer. If your stomach says you’re not hungry, put down the knife and fork.
  7. Drink plenty. Often we drink less in winter, become more dehydrated and easily mistake thirst for hunger as we head for the fridge. Instead, before you eat, have a big glass of water or a cup of tea, then re-assess if you really need to eat.
  8. Eat what you really feel like. If you have a craving for a certain food – eat it! You need to feel satisfied otherwise you’ll just want to keep eating. Pick your absolute favourite, eat it slowly, savour it and, most importantly, enjoy it!
  9. Don’t beat yourself up. So you ate a block of chocolate or missed a couple of walks – move on! There’s no point in feeling guilty as it’s done now. Instead, make your next meal a healthy one and get straight back into your exercise routine and you’ll feel better in no time – with minimal impact on how your clothes fit.

Mix up your exercise. If you normally exercise outside but it’s raining, don’t give up entirely – try an indoor workout instead. Buy a few pilates or yoga DVDs and do one of these when you can’t get your usual walk in. Or go to the local shopping centre and do a few laps before you hit the supermarket. In fact, any movement is good movement when it comes to keeping kilos at bay. Start your spring clean a few months early – vacuuming, sorting, washing, ironing and scrubbing all burn energy and you’ll have the extra satisfaction of a productive day!


Do you struggle with weight gain over winter? What exercise do you do during winter? Tell us in the comments below… 

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