The frigid months are already upon us and they will only get worse before they get better. Most of us tend to gain weight during the winter as we eat denser foods, are less active, and our appetites and metabolisms shift with the change in light and temperature. Our vitamin D levels decline, our moods suffer, we sit inside more watching TV, we reach for comfort foods, and our waists grow. You don’t have to let the cold weather affect you so much. There are ways to keep the winter blues and bulge away. It takes some dedication and paying attention to what you eat, but you can do it!
Sunlight – I know, this isn’t technically a food, but it is important. Scientists aren’t completely sure why or how yet, but vitamin D is linked to weight. People with higher levels tend to store less fat. On the better days, try to get about 20 minutes of sun exposure with your arms uncovered. You may also want to look into a supplement for a couple months. There are vegan and vegetarian options for D3 now.
Water – Hydration is vital to the body’s function. Water is often overlooked when we aren’t out in the sun hiking, biking, running, and sweating, but we need it during the colder months too. This is especially true as heaters and fireplaces can dehydrate us pretty fast. Water also helps us feel fuller longer when we drink it with meals. Try room temperature or warm water to keep your teeth from chattering.
Teas – Teas can help with the hydration and with feeling warm. Herbal and spiced teas can also lift your mood. Cinnamon tea is very good at warming the body, increasing circulation, and controlling blood sugar so you don’t store too much fat.
Vegetable Soups – Soup is a comforting dish any time of year, but especially during the winter. Most vegetable soups are also very low in calories while providing plenty of warmth, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Tomato is my favorite and I have a tomato soup recipe for you too, but there are many more to try. Don’t forget about vegetable stews and chilies too for a hearty way to stay warm and healthy. Try the pumpkin chili. It’s delicious.
Root Veggies – Your body craves carbohydrates during winter. Your metabolism is firing faster to keep your body temperature from dipping and your genetic history is telling you to prepare for famine. This makes it easy to give in to treats and sweets, but complex carbohydrates are such a better choice. Carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and turnips will fill you up, provide the carbs your body craves, and actually supply nutrition too. Roast them with garlic, onion, and olive oil to bring out fantastic flavors.
Whole Grains – Here’s another way to get the complex carbohydrates you need to stay warm without seeing your pant size go up. Brown rice and oats are warm, delicious, fulfilling ways to feel cozy and well fed. Try sprinkling them with cinnamon and nutmeg and a dollop of honey to satisfy your sweet tooth without going overboard.
Lentils or Beans – Beans and lentils are inexpensive, filling, and stuffed with complex carbs. Lentils cook much faster than beans, so they make a very easy way to keep you feeling content this winter without waiting hours for your meals. Add them to soups, tacos, burritos, chili, and even stir fry.
Fall and Winter Produce – Some fruits and vegetables are best when harvested in the cooler season. Take advantage of these being at their best. Pomegranate, beets, brussels sprouts, persimmon, kiwi, leeks, guava, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, cauliflower, lemons, oranges, parsnips, pears, turnips, and winter squash are all exceptional this time of year. They are all also much better than the rich desserts we might reach for instead.
Good Fats – We don’t need a ton of fat and protein during the winter months, but a little of the best kinds goes a long way to keeping our brains working right, our hormones balanced, and our metabolism humming. Avocado, coconut oil, nuts and nut butters, and olives in moderation are a good thing to add to your cold weather diet.
Warming Spices – Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne, turmeric, garlic, and black pepper should all be used more often this time of year. They add color, flavor, warmth, and powerful antioxidants to any meal. The health benefits of cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric are also very impressive. Don’t forget the herbs either. Chive, cilantro, rosemary, parsley, oregano, and mint tend to survive into the cold season and can liven up your dishes.