Are you starting to feel the winter creep of weight gain? You are not alone, studies show that on average we gain a few kilos (or more) in winter. When it is cold and dark outside we look for comforting meals to make us feel warm and contented. As a result we find ourselves searching out high-calorie, high fat, high-carbohydrate foods, such as casseroles, mashed potatoes (hot chips), sweet foods and pasta.
If you are finding cravings are taking over and your clothes are starting to feel a bit tighter than you would like we have listed the top tips to keep those winter treats at bay.
How to Resist Cravings & Keep on track
1. Drink Up – hydrate yourself
When you start to feel the pangs of hunger but not sure if it is real or just cravings, drink a glass or two of water first and then see if it subsides. Thirst often disguises itself as hunger. If you genuinely have a growling tummy which feels like its about to set itself loose on the world, set a timer for 15 minutes, many cravings will pass once you are distracted. Go for a walk in this time, have a shower or chew gum. I like to have a warm herbal tea to break up my water consumption, green tea in particular is a favourite as it may help increase your metabolism. You may prefer a sweeter herbal tea if it is the sweet taste you are hankering for. In the evenings try a camomile to help relax you.
2. Get Organised.
As much as you can preplan your meals for the day and even the week. By already knowing what you are going to have to eat, and having it prepared eliminates the spur of the moment eating and uncertainty of what to go grab. Also by having healthier food on hand you are more likely to stick to your health goals.
So how do you get organised? Make a list of everything that you will need for the week’s healthy meals and snacks. When you get home from shopping, cut up fresh veggies, make snack bags with a handful of almonds and 2 brazil nuts, make a frittata or soups, and any other prep work that you can for the upcoming week. On the carbohydrate front choose lower GI options and wholegrain to stop any spikes in your insulin. Better options are pumpkin, kumara, wholegrain pasta, beans & legumes.
3. Keep Healthier Snacks On Hand.
When you are hungry you are more likely to reach for the nearest item on hand or start having those cravings. To avoid getting to this stage, eat regularly and keep healthy snacks on hand (I always keep a few almonds and a tin of tuna in my bag). This ties into the above point with being prepared. Also to ensure you keep the hunger pangs at bay eat enough protein and a few low GI carbohydrates that keep your blood sugar levels even. Include foods such as: Beans, lentils, yogurt, wholegrain pasta, porridge (oats are fantastic), dark chocolate (but watch your quantity), and whole fruits (not fruit juices). If you need a snack opt for a high-protein, high-fibre snack like nut butter on a whole grain cracker or a slice of cheese or some tuna on a corn thin. Always make sure each meal has protein and a small amount of healthy fat to keep you satiated.
4. Eat Foods That Keep You Fuller For Longer – think Protein.
If you are a person who succumbs to constant snacking – you need to make sure you do not go longer than 4-5 hours without eating, otherwise you will grab the quickest thing to you, and I guarantee that is not going to be the healthiest options. Include protein such as tuna, chicken drumsticks, boiled egg, cheese sticks, nut butter, cottage cheese, seeds or nuts. Also, stock up on healthy foods that you can eat on the run like nuts, seeds, citrus fruits, veggie sticks to ensure you are getting a wide variety of minerals and vitamins in your nutrition. Part of your winter diet should also include fatty fish like salmon to help elevate your mood.
5. Create healthier options with your comfort Foods.
If the cravings get to be too much and you simply must have the comfort foods, you should opt healthier variants. Some options are to make a pizza with veggies and a whole wheat crust or cauliflower base, a bowl of chicken & vegetable soup, chilli with added veggies and kidney beans instead of baked beans, have a hot cocoa with just a dash of milk or an avalanche low sugar hot choc option. If you are making a casserole serve it with Cauliflower mash rather than mashed potato, use more veggies in your lasagne and layer slices of kumara or eggplant instead of pasta sheets. Bake a small potato or kumara and just ensure you eat to your portion size.
6. Be mindful when you eat – turn off the screens.
Research shows that those who eat mindfully tend to eat less than their distracted counterparts. Instead, stop, take a break from your activity, chew each mouthful at least 20 times to slow down. If you need to eat and its earlier than your planned lunch or snack give yourself a smaller portion of your lunch/snack and save the rest till later. I will often split my lunch in half and have part at 11am and the second part at 1pm. Make sure when you slow down you focus on enjoying it! You will be much less likely to over eat.
7. Make a Winter Workout Plan.
Come to Simply Fit Gym and work up a sweat. Exercise burn calories, keeps your metabolism firing and also affects the brain chemicals linked to appetite, so it can help control how much you eat.
If you do seek high calorie and high fat foods this time of the year, it is important to learn what’s the driving force behind you craving them.
If you are stressed out at the end of the day, take 15 minutes to unwind before you automatically open the fridge, and have a glass of water first.
If you are dieting to lose weight, include a small portion of your favorite food once a week to prevent feeling deprived.
If your craving is persistent, give in sometimes to prevent your desire from becoming even more intense. But don’t feel guilty, this will start a perpetual cycle of guilt eating. It also helps if you make comfort food part of your meal, rather than eating it as a snack on impulse.
Some natural alternatives that help some with their cravings are Cinnamon – it has been shown to help reduce sugar cravings by controlling blood glucose levels. For others having a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before meals helps with cravings and curbing appetite.
Chromium supplementation may help as well, as chromium is needed for blood sugar control and for metabolising carbohydrates, fats and proteins. I personally find taking a Chromium supplement in the afternoon helps reduce the sugar cravings.
Over half of us will experience cravings on a regular basis, and unfortunately they play a major part in unwanted weight gain, food addiction and binge eating. Being aware of your triggers and cravings makes it easer to work around them.
So, why not try out these great tips, stock up on some good foods, keep your exercise routines up and help control those winter cravings today!