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Health Tips

Winter eating: avoiding the trap of comfort eating

By 11/06/2019 No Comments

During winter, it’s not uncommon to feel a desire to eat past the point of satisfaction, crave starchy foods over less satisfying options or even eat more than usual.

A possible reason for this is because eating helps to raise our body temperature so when we are cold, it only makes sense to seek out food. In addition, the hormone melatonin, which helps us to fall asleep at night, is believed to be increased during winter and is associated with an increased appetite.

Thankfully, if maintaining your weight over winter is a goal or something you usually struggle with, its not necessary to comfort eat or over indulge regularly in order to feel warmth and satisfaction from food.

Importantly, remember the primary role of food in life – to provide nutrition and sustenance for us to live. This means if you look to food for comfort and warmth over and over again, consider in what other ways you can achieve this – through relationships, exercise or allowing yourself to snuggle up with a cup of tea under a warm blanket as a form of ‘nourishment.’

To help you stay on track over winter and eat until satisfied rather than for comfort, follow the tips below:

Cook with spices
Have you ever finished a meal such as a curry and felt a familiar sense of warmth in your belly? This is due to the use of warming spices such as cinnamon, fenugreek, ginger, cumin, turmeric and chilli powder. Try replicating this over winter, as a way to feel warmed by your foods while also adding in the health benefits of cooking with herbs and spices. As an extra bonus, due to the warming properties of some spices, they may even offer the benefit of improving circulation – goodbye cold hands and feet!

Control hunger by eating regularly
Avoid skipping meals and snacks over winter, especially if you are prone to low blood sugar. Arriving at mealtime in a state of famine instantly puts you on the path to over eating as a means of compensating for the skipped meal. Its not uncommon for this to be the case come dinner time for many, after having last eaten at lunch. Aim to get some protein in via a snack a few hours before dinnertime to keep your appetite level – it can be as simple as a handful of raw nuts.

Be prepared come meal time
Although being prepared is a tip you have likely heard over and over again, it can make a world of difference over winter. The shorter days and cool nights can make cooking less appealing. Thankfully, traditional winter dishes are the best ones to prep head and freeze such as soup, casseroles, sheppard’s pie and pasta sauces. Spend a few hours over 1-2 weekends and do a batch cooking session. Freeze the meals in individual portions and keep a list of the meals somewhere handy so each week when selecting what to have, you will know what is available.

Make simple swaps
Swapping out a few ingredients for others can help to keep you feeling fuller for longer while adding more nutrient density to your diet such as:

  • When making sheppard’s pie swap ½ mince for ½ lentils
  • Instead of potato mash try sweet potato mashed with cannellini beans
  • Swap margarine on toast for hummus, avocado or nut butter
  • Swap cream in soups for high protein natural yoghurt
  • Swap a ham/cheese toasted sandwich for a vegetable omelette with smoked salmon
  • Swap ½ rolled oats for oat bran when making porridge

Pay attention to your water intake
It’s very easy to forget to drink adequate fluids over winter, but this can have an impact on not only cognitive function and digestion but also appetite! Some tips on how to stay on top of your water intake include:

  • Keep a tally of how much you are drinking and aim higher if you aren’t hitting the mark
  • Try adding a fruit flavoured tea bag to hot water and sip over the course of the day
  • Add fresh lemon/lime and mint leaves to water to increase its appeal
  • Invest in some good herbal teas such as ginger and lemongrass or rooibos
  • Add a serve of high-water veg to meals such as cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, capsicum, bok choy and cabbage
  • Eat 2 serves fruit per day including strawberries, pineapple, berries, orange and rockmelon