This week, Frauke, one of our practitioners at Achieve, is here to unpack the science behind the winter cravings and provide us with tips to stay food smart and active in winter.
Isn't it typical.You get into a good routine of eating well, exercising regularly and feeling ok about yourself. With the lovely summer we've had that was relatively easy.But now the weather is changing, and I find myself grabbing a sausage roll or going for stew and dumplings. Salad just doesn't seem to cut it anymore. And with it being dark early, I also find it almost impossible to get out of the door to go to the gym once I've made it home. All I want to do is hibernate!Now, am I odd or is this normal?
The Science Behind our Winter Cravings
The good news is that there is some science behind our winter cravings. As our bodies feel the outside temperature drop, it indicates to us that we need to do something different. We notice that through either shivering, feeling more fatigued or through food cravings. It is our body's way of making us aware of a change. When the outside temperature drops, our own body temperate drops as well. This makes us desire things that warm us up quickly.When we're talking about food cravings, the things that warm us up quickly are simple carbohydrates, sugar and fat. These food types are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and give us the instant warmth that our bodies crave. The intake of food also kick-starts our metabolism every time we eat, further generating extra warmth. As a result, we may find ourselves more peckish too. Sadly, the types of food we crave also tend to be the ones that pose a higher risk of us piling on the pounds.
So how can I stay food smart in winter?
Hot soups and stews
Replacing our summer salads with piping hot food is crucial. Soups and stews are ideal for this. They are easy to make, and they can be really healthy if we bulk them up with lots of vegetables and pulses (lentils, beans, chickpeas etc). This way they can make a satisfying alternative to sandwiches at lunchtime.For a simple soup you will need:- 200-300g mixed vegetables (onions, carrots, broccoli, greens etc)- 200-300g potato (or 100g potato and 80g split lentils)- 700ml vegetable or chicken stock.Fry off the onion in a little oil and then add the finely chopped vegetables and stock. Leave to simmer for twenty minutes or until tender. Blitz to your preferred consistency et-voila!For a simple stew:Similarly, if our main ingredients are a good amount of vegetables we can add other things in moderation. For example, adding a small amount of meat is great for flavour. Alternatively, a small amount of starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, dumplings etc can really help sustain us and keep winter cravings at bay.
Ensuring I get a variety of vegetablesKeeping food varied and colourful is always a good thing. Not only is it a feast for the eyes but it also helps to give us the nutritional variety we need. So, one thing I try is making sure I eat as much “colour” and variety as I can. A fun way of doing that can be trialling one new vegetable or one new recipe involving more veg once every week.Keeping snacks healthyPicking healthy snacks may well be hard. Especially when facing the biscuits or cake at work. One of the most helpful things here is preparation – preparation - preparation. If I have an alternative snack with me – in the handbag, at my work desk - I am so much more likely to grab it. Not only because it is there but because I have already thought about the alternative. So how about having a piece of fruit at hand, a few nut and seed shots or a bag of unsweetened popcorn? As a rule of thumb: a good size in a snack is a calorific value of approximately 100kcals. Following this rule of thumb can help keep our winter cravings under control.Keeping high on proteinAnother tip to curb the winter cravings is to make sure we eat enough protein. Protein, whilst having the same number of calories as carbohydrates, takes the body approximately 30% more effort to burn off and hence leads to us feeling fuller longer. So, if you are worried that your lunch will not last you until you get home, why not add in an extra bit of protein to sustain you, or have a protein snack midafternoon?Vitamin C and vitamin D Keeping well covered with the essential vitamins that strengthen my immune system and help fight off winter colds can be a really good investment. Making sure that my vitamin C and D levels are well covered can be helpful to enjoy a more active and more healthy winter.
How can I trick myself into exercising despite longing for the sofa?
Lets be honest: exercise is harder in the winter and again my body probably craves doing less to keep the heat in. But again, preparation can be one of my biggest helpers here.
Building exercise into my calendar at the start of the week makes me more likely to stick with it.
Tagging it on to something else I am doing, i.e. before or after work, en-route to going shopping again can be really helpful.
If that is not quite enough to get me keep active, maybe buddying up with a friend will. The extra accountability may just be what I need to keep going out and being active.
So it really isn’t just me getting more lazy in winter. What I am feeling is completely normal and a sign that my body is functioning as it is designed to. But the good news is that I can still manage to keep what I eat and how active I am in check.I guess it may be time to get the slow-cooker or soup maker back out and maybe search for some new recipes…Looking for some extra support? Visit our Get Started Page to find out more about how we can support your weight loss with one of our free programmes.MORE: STAYING HYDRATED IN WINTER: TOP TIPS