We’ve reached the time of year when darkness comes early and the last leaves are hanging on for dear life, soon to be blown off into a brisk winter wind. I don’t know about you, but for me this flips an internal switch and seemingly every other thought in my head is something like, “put on the sweatpants” or “yes, you want cheesy casserole for dinner… and All The Cookies.”
I am fascinated with our bodies’ natural tendencies to bulk up for winter (really, it’s science!), but it can be really hard to put these thoughts up against my goals as an athlete. Many athletes, myself included, ease back on training this time of year. There can arise some confusion on whether to cut back on calories because exercise is decreased or just go ahead and put on a few extra pounds to take off later.
I think it's ok to indulge a little bit over the winter months. It's natural to eat a bit more right now. Our bodies want to take in more calories to stay warm (again, science!), and fun and festive food can cheer us up on these dark, dreary days. If you can enjoy the holiday's yummy foods while also keeping your daily diet healthy and moderate you'll be fine. As with most things, balance is key. Cravings for hearty casseroles and creamy, cheesy dishes are our bodies telling us to eat fat so we can bulk up, but it’s unlikely many of us are actually looking to bulk up.
For most people, the craving doesn’t really go away until it’s dealt with it because it is a primal instinct. That said, we all know eating macaroni and cheese every day probably isn’t our best option, so what to do? Whether you’re just hoping to maintain your weight or even lose some, you can satisfy these cravings with earthy root veggies like potatoes, squash, carrots, and parsnips – all of these are in season and overflowing at the markets. Roast up a pan with a healthy glug of olive oil to satisfy the need for something warm with a hint of (good) fat, or maybe try something like this or this!
Here are a few other things to consider adjusting in your diet as the seasons change:
Switch up breakfast. Start the day with a bowl of energizing oats topped with seasonal fruits like apples, pears, cranberries and nuts. Add protein-rich Greek yogurt to the mix and you are good to go until lunch.
Boost your immune system. Fend off winter bugs by eating more foods with Vitamin C and Zinc. Citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, spinach, beans, eggs, and nuts are all good choices.
Make sure to keep fish and seafood in the rotation. If you are into it, salmon, tuna, sardines, and oysters are a lean, healthy course of protein and heart-helping fats. Here's a link to an article that will help you sort the healthiest options and those to avoid.
Skip the sugary things and go for roasted root veggies, sweet potatoes, squashes instead. These yummy foods are so nutritious and easy to cook. Chop them up and roast them in the oven with a bit of salt and pepper or toss them in the crock pot
Truth is, for all of us, this can be a time to restore in lots of ways. Give yourself more time to relax, exercise in ways that you enjoy, get more quality sleep, and fuel your body with healthy, nutritious foods. Thoughts or questions? I’m here to help! (...but possibly wearing sweatpants…)
Link to science article about seasonal cravings for fatty food: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160106091840.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+sciencedaily/health_medicine/fitness+(Fitness+News+--+ScienceDaily)
Link to My favorite winter salad: https://www.remymaguire.com/single-post/2018/11/09/Best-Fall-Salad-Roasted-Brussel-Sprout-and-Apple-Salad
Link to article on choosing the healthiest fish for you and the planet: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/smart-seafood-buying-guide