The winter months can be awfully challenging if you’re trying to avoid piling on the pounds. The combination of lower temperatures, shorter days and unappealing weather can cause many of us to go into hibernation mode. We’ll stay indoors as much as possible and resort to warming comfort foods that more often or not are high in carbohydrates. The combination of a winter diet and reduced exercise can soon lead to weight gain – and that’s without even bringing Christmas into the equation!
We shouldn’t feel bad about our winter eating choices. There are solid evolutionary reasons why our bodies want to store fat in the winter months. It’s a barrier against the cold, and the actual act of eating can help make us feel warmer. However, our ancestors didn’t have central heating and generally enjoyed a far more active lifestyle than we do – even during the winter, when ‘enjoyed’ maybe isn’t the right word to use.
Although in the modern age, it’s natural to want warming comfort foods in winter, we are also able to take control of our diets and adapt them to our actual needs and requirements. We can also make sure that we continue to get enough exercise. Anything that we can do in the home, such as yoga, Pilates or low-impact cardio-vascular exercise, will not only help burn off carbs before they turn to fat, but will also help us feel warmer. You might even save on your fuel bills!
Eating healthily in winter doesn’t mean giving up on our treats, either. It just means adapting and moderating them a little. Hearty stews, soups, pies and jacket potatoes are just the ticket for the chilly season, especially if cooked at home using natural ingredients.
One important tip is to make sure that your diet is high in lean protein. This is the basis behind the 1:1 Diet, which also recognises that we all have different bodies and different lifestyles, and so have different dietary needs. That’s why the system involves working closely with a personal consultant who can advise and support you. It’s not as simple as saying that carbs are bad and protein is good, but a higher level of protein in your diet during winter can certainly help to stave off hunger pangs while lessening the risk of unwanted weight gain.
A word on carbohydrates
Many carbohydrate-high foods are good for us when eaten as part of a balanced diet. These include whole grains, fruit, beans, starchy vegetables (such as potatoes) and dairy products. What are less healthy are refined carbohydrates, which are low in fibre: processed food such as white bread, white rice, white pasta, pastries, fruit juice and sugary drinks. While in some cases these can be fine in moderation, filling up on processed, high-carb food is the quickest way to pile on the pounds, and if taken to excess can lead to serious health problems.
The path to eating well in winter can be as easy as just applying a few simple life hacks to change your behaviour in a positive way. Cook at home rather than eating out or ordering takeaways. This puts you in charge of what goes into your body in terms of ingredients, cooking methods and portion size. Cook with healthy oils and make your own spice pastes without adding sugar or other additives. Use thick yoghurt as the basis for a curry sauce.
If you fancy a hot, sweet dessert, then use fresh fruit as the basis. Poached pears or roast apples can be delicious at this time of year, and you should aim to be eating two pieces of fruit daily, in addition to your five portions of vegetables.
Start the day with a high-protein breakfast. Eggs are a traditional choice, and there’s the added advantage of starting the day with something warming. Getting a good amount of slow-release protein inside you first thing has been shown to reduce cravings for snacks throughout the day.
Ultimately, whatever the time of year, eating healthily is all about balance. In winter, this can require more discipline than during the summer months. Don’t give up on the salads, and aim for half a plate of vegetables in each meal. Look to lean meats such as fish, chicken or lamb, as well as other sources of protein such as eggs, beans, nuts and seeds, tempeh and tofu. Also, make sure that you’re getting enough fibre. Not only will this fill you up, but it will also keep your bowels healthy.
There’s really no need to miss out on your winter favourites, but just be mindful of what you’re putting into your body. Soon enough, you’ll find that healthy eating is not only good for you, but it’s also tastier and far more enjoyable.