Shorter, colder days can make it feel impossible to get out and exercise (oh, the excuses we all come up with!), and it’s tempting to indulge in sweet, stodgy foods to warm up and feel comforted. But with these indulgences comes the unfortunate weight gain. Make this winter the one where you’re able to put your health before your comfortable excuses.
Registered dietitian Dr. Suna Kassier, a senior lecturer in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, shares her rules for keeping that winter bulge at bay.
Rule #1: Don’t blame the weather for not getting out and about!
Do not get stuck indoors during winter. Moderate exercise outdoors like brisk walking not only burns kilojoules, it curbs your appetite. By venturing out into the brisk winter chill, you aren’t close to temptation such as the grocery cupboard or fridge. Plus, it gets you away from all the winter germs, while building your immune system through regular exercise.
Invest in a warm jacket and recruit a walking buddy or even better, buddies. If you’re tempted to stay in, they can motivate you to get going.
Rule #2: Control the winter snack fests!
When you snuggle up indoors to watch a movie or read a book, be careful that this extra winter leisure time isn’t accompanied by a snack fest. If you feel the urge to nibble, have fruit at hand, or vegetable sticks you can dip into low-kilojoule salad dressing.
Never take a bag of chips to the TV thinking you will only have a few and save the rest for later. Popcorn is a filling low-energy snack alternative, but it must be air-popped in your microwave. The commercially-available sachets contain fat and a lot of salt.
Rule #3: Weigh yourself when winter sets in
This can be followed by weekly weigh-ins to prevent the weight creeping up on you. If you weighed more last year when the temperature started to drop, be aware of this when wearing loose-fitting clothing – it’s not a licence to tuck into food just because your pants don’t fit snuggly.
Rule #4: Don’t skip breakfast because of a winter morning lie-in
On work days, don’t lie in bed for a few minutes longer because it’s cold. This could result in you having to skip breakfast because you run out of time. Those who eat breakfast regularly are less likely to have cravings or overindulge at subsequent meal times, because their blood sugar levels are kept on an even keel.
Rule #5: Regulate your comfort-food consumption
When preparing “comfort food”, keep an eye on what goes into the pot or pan. Extra cheese, rich gravies and sauces can increase the kilojoule content of a meal significantly. If you’re tempted to have a second helping, have a glass of water before you take the plunge. This will help you to determine if you’re still hungry, or are simply having an extra portion because the food tastes so good.
Rule #6: Think nutritious food options
Comfort foods like soups and stews can be tasty, nutritious and satisfying without expanding your waistline if you add lots of vegetables to them. Use legumes like beans as a meat substitute, and limit the use of oil in the cooking process.
If you enjoy meat, make sure that you keep your intake moderate and trim off visible fat (and chicken skin) before use.