Cold Weather Eating


As temperature gets colder, experts say our appetite increases – and so can our waistline.

Studies have indicated that we tend to eat more during the winter months, with the average person gaining at least one to two pounds – and those who are already overweight likely to gain a lot more. People who are affected with this tend to have lower blood levels of serotonin – not surprisingly, those carbohydrate-rich foods give us a serotonin rush, so for many people winter food cravings are a way of self-medicating – as the days get shorter the need for these ‘carbo-rich comfort foods’ increases. WHAT TO DO?

While cold winter weather may be encouraging us to eat more, experts say we don’t have to lose control of our appetite in the process. Here are 5 ways to get some winter comfort without packing on the extra pounds.

But what is about falling temperatures that urges us to eat more?

One reason is that food performs the simplest of winter functions: It helps keep us warm.

“Simply put, when outdoor temperatures drop, your body temperature drops and that is what actually sets up a longing for foods that will warm you quickly,” says Kristin Herlocker MS, RD, a nutrition expert with Diabetes Centers of America in Houston, Texas. In short she says shivering triggers a self preservation mode that sends our body a message to heat up fast! And while technically, any food – including fruits and vegetables – will boost our metabolism and help create the extra heat we crave, for most folks it’s the traditional “comfort” foods that come to mind when it’s cold.

While for some it’s the falling temperatures that set their appetite in motion, for others it’s the decrease in sunlight that increases the need to feed. The reason is a brain chemical dysfunction known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD– a type of depression that occurs in a response to a lack of sunlight. So what’s the link to an increased appetite? Experts say that the early winter sunsets combined with the cold weather means many folks simply stay indoors more this time of year – and that often means we feel isolated and, usually hungrier.

Winter often provides lots of excuses for moving less. Not only does it contain shorter days, it cuts our outdoor time by several hours –- in many locations the temperatures, as well as other weather related factors like snow and ice, make our chosen fitness activities, like walking or running, more difficult. Since exercise helps increase serotonin levels, the lack of activity can have a direct influence on how much we eat.

If we’re eating more and working out less, there’s no place for our weight to go but up!

1. The colder the temperatures the more you need to snack. But if you make it a high protein, high fiber snack you’ll rev up your body’s heat mechanism quickly and remain warmer longer.  And that means you’ll not only burn more calories, you’ll also have a less of a drive to eat more often.

2. Create Low Cal Comfort Foods – If you know that nothing take the chill off your bones like comfort food, look for ways to cut the calories and still get that warm and cozy feeling. Try a bowl of vegetable soup instead of a high fat chicken noodle, make your cocoa with non fat milk, try Mac & Cheese with no-fat cheese – be creative in finding ways to make feel-good food less fattening.

3. See The Light – Get in the SUN! Even an hour of direct sunlight a day can help elevate your disposition. Or if you definitely find yourself more hungry on dark, gloomy days talk to your doctor about light therapy. It’s a way of using artificial light to increase serotonin levels – and reduce your appetite.

4. Exercise Your Daily Life – If you can’t go outside to do your regular workouts, find a studio that has an indoor area – or even if the weather keeps you from getting to the gym – put more activity into your daily living. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, march in place while you’re sorting the laundry or doing the dishes, or clean out the closet/basement/garage instead of curling up with your favorite DVD movies every night. The more you move the warmer you will feel and the less hungry you will be.

Dinner Entree: Turkey Tacos


  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 6 ounces extra-lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 whole-wheat, low-fat flour tortillas, about 6 inches in diameter, warmed on a skillet
  • 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup salsa

In a small bowl, stir together the chili powder, cumin and oregano.

In a nonstick frying pan, add the ground turkey and onion. Cook over medium heat until the turkey is browned and onion is translucent. Drain well. Add the spices to the turkey mixture. Stir to mix evenly.

To serve, place a 1/4 cup of the turkey mixture in each tortilla. Top each with 1 tablespoon cheese, 1/4 of the diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup shredded lettuce and 2 tablespoons salsa. Fold in both sides of each tortilla up over the filling, and then roll to close. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Analysis (per serving)

Serving size: 2 tacos
Calories 340 Cholesterol 49 mg
Protein 28 g Sodium 423 mg
Carbohydrate 31 g Fiber 7 g
Total fat 13 g Potassium 681 mg
Saturated fat 4 g Calcium 209 mg
 ** Tip: Taco seasoning mixes from the grocery store usually have large amounts of sodium. Here, the taco seasonings — chili powder, cumin and oregano — have all  of the taste but none of the sodium. *Also you can substitute the whole wheat tortillas with  lettuce leaves for less calories.

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