Five Step Plan to Prevent Winter Weight Gain


You don’t need to pile on kilos during the cold months with this five-step plan.

Enjoy the sunshine

Despite our sunny climes, a significant number of Australians are vitamin D-deficient. “A lack of vitamin D can affect your mood, which in turn can affect your motivation to eat healthily and exercise regularly,” dietitian Denise Griffiths says.

This deficiency may also explain that spare tyre around your stomach. Researchers at the University of Minnesota in the US found vitamin D deficiency is associated with obesity.

“Vitamin D levels can usually be maintained by sunlight exposure,” Griffiths says.

You can also ensure your levels are maintained through diet. “Fortified margarine appears to be the major source,” Griffiths says. “Eat fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel, and eggs. There are also products that are fortified with vitamin D, which will add to your intake.”

Heat up your meals

Craving winter comfort food? Griffiths says heating up the light meals you enjoy in summer will make you less likely to reach for stodgy winter food such as fish and chips.

Making meals hot will keep you warm and satisfied. Swap cereal for warm porridge with low-fat milk for breakfast, a healthy sandwich for a toasted version for lunch and barbecues for slow-cooked casseroles made with lean meat and vegetables.

“You still need to keep up your salad intake during winter. Serve yourself half a plate at lunch and dinner,” dietitian Margaret Hay says. “You’ll feel full and less likely to overeat.”

For extra nutrients, add green vegies such as broccoli, spinach and zucchini to salads and other dishes.

“Experiment,” Hay says. “Salads can be warm so don’t limit yourself to lettuce. Try rice, wholemeal pasta, spinach or couscous.”

You can also try including some superfoods in your salads, such as quinoa or black rice, both of which contain antioxidants and other important nutrients.

“Eat seasonally as well. Locally sourced, seasonal foods have been proven to contain more nutrients than those flown in from overseas.”

Enjoy some carbs

“In colder weather, we’re more likely to crave carbohydrates,” Hay says. “Carbs may help to boost serotonin levels, which tend to fall during winter.”

Rather than eating “bad” carbohydrates such as white bread or cakes, try wholegrains and vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes.

“Carbs are a necessary part of a healthy eating plan,” Hay says. “Think porridge, seeded breads and oatmeal.”

Stick on some soup

“Have a pot of soup ready to go, with chickpeas or legumes, to enjoy at that hungry time when you get home, rather than raiding the cupboard,” Hay says.

Eating low-calorie soup before a meal can help cut back on the amount of food and calories you eat at the meal, a study at Penn State University in the US found.

Results showed that when participants in the study ate a first course of soup before a lunch entree, they reduced their total calorie intake at lunch by 20 per cent.

Rethink your exercise

“Winter can be a difficult time to exercise,” says Nathan Johnson, an exercise and sport science lecturer at the University of Sydney.

While exercising in the cold air can be exhilarating, if you know it puts you off, rethink your approach. “Move your workout indoors,” Johnson says. “It’s a great opportunity to do a resistance-training program, which experts say should be done two to three times per week for optimum health and strength. If you do this workout in a gym, you’ll also gain access to bikes, treadmills, pools and circuit classes for aerobic exercise.”

If gyms aren’t your cup of hot chocolate, think outside the square: “Winter can be a great time to try new activities such as indoor rock climbing, stationary cycling classes, yoga or indoor team sports such as soccer, cricket or netball. You may discover a passion for something new to continue outdoors when summer arrives.”

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