Winter can be a challenging time for healthy eating – cooler temperatures mean our enthusiasm for eating nutritionally dense food can diminish. Instead, most of us prefer to opt for comfort foods, such as rich pasta dishes and hot chocolate! Whilst these foods might give us temporary gratification, in reality they are only further promoting our desire for rich, and sometimes fattening foods.
So, why do we crave heavy comfort food during the cooler months? Some have suggested that it dates back to the ‘caveman days’, where people were required to gain extra weight to survive the cold winter months. Another theory lends itself towards the basic physiology of human life – that when you feel cold, survival mode triggers the instinct to warm up quickly and carbohydrate-rich foods provide fast energy, and thus heat.
In modern times though, with warm accommodation and food in abundance, the need for food ‘stock-piling’ during winter may be unwarranted, as extra caloric intake without appropriate exercise, can easily turn into fat storage. The following tips may help you to stay on track this winter, and encourage healthy eating all year round:
- Batch cook on the weekends. It can be difficult to find the enthusiasm to prepare a fresh, nutritious meal when you get home from work in the evening, so why not cook a batch of soup or hearty stew, that you can freeze and reheat for quick and easy mid-week meals. This recipe for a vegetarian winter chilli may give you some inspiration.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand. Snacking on high protein and high fibre snacks between meals will help you feel fuller for longer, and prevent you from reaching for fast-energy comfort foods. Options include organic peanut butter and banana on good quality toasted wholemeal bread, or cottage cheese on whole-wheat crackers.
- Turn unhealthy treats into healthier options. If you must have a treat, and let’s face it we all deserve it at some point, be creative with your choices. If you feel like a hot chocolate, use raw cacao sweetened with stevia or honey in place of traditional drinking chocolate, which is often high in sugar. Make your own pizza using wholemeal Lebanese bread as a base, or make your own base using cauliflower finely processed in a blender, and top with as many veggies as you can fit on it!
With a little forward-planning, you can ensure that your healthy eating habits see you the whole year through!