Comfort food done right: Nutritionist approved winter warmers

15 Jul 2019

As we are spending more time indoors indulging in comfort foods, some winter weight gain is normal. Small amounts of weight gain aren’t anything to be worried about, especially if they come off again as the weather warms up. However, kilograms creeping on and not coming off year after year can be problematic. Fortunately, there isn’t a direct link between the season and fat storage, so you’re completely in control of preventing winter weight gain with a few healthy habits.

Simply being mindful of your changing habits can be enough to avoid the unwanted weight gain. As the season starts to change, notice if you’re moving less or not as motivated to exercise. Encourage yourself to find alternative activities, like indoor walking or sports, and look for more opportunities for incidental movement, like taking the stairs or doing odd jobs while you’re watching TV.

Just because you’re being mindful of your health, doesn’t mean you need to miss out on your favourite warming comfort foods. Here’s my tips for enjoying your winter favourites, while watching your waistline.

  • Enjoy home-cooked meals. Avoiding or reducing take-away food and restaurant meals is an easy way to avoid excess kilojoules, sodium and saturated fat.
  • Have smaller portions of your favourite comfort foods. Downsize your usual serve while adding an extra serve or two of vegetables (to cover half your plate).
  • Alcohol contributes to energy intake so stick to no more than two standard drinks a day with a few alcohol-free days a week. Not only does alcohol contain empty kilojoules, it can promote fat storage and encourages you to make unhealthy choices.
  • Hot drinks are a great way to stay warm, but use skim milk and limit added sugar. Keep creamy drinks like hot chocolate for an occasional treat as the kilojoules of these drinks can quickly add up. Herbal teas and clear vegetable soups are great ways to warm up without the extra energy.
  • Add more vegetables to your favourite soups and stews. This make them stretch further and reduce the kilojoules, while adding extra nutrients.
  • Roast vegetables are a wonderful way to boost your intake over winter. Don’t just stick to potatoes and pumpkin, try roast carrots, capsicum, zucchini, squash and even broccoli with some dried herbs, pepper and just a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
  • If it’s carbs that keep you feeling full and warm, make the switch to wholegrain. Wholemeal pasta, brown rice, quinoa, barley and a wholemeal grainy bread are much more nutritious than the white versions we often crave. The extra vitamins in wholegrains will give you an energy boost while keeping you satisfied with smaller portions.

 The key to eating heavier winter foods whilst keeping your weight in check is moving often and watching your portions. Maintaining a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and some physical activity is all that’s needed. And if that’s not where you’re at right now, there’s nothing to stop you from starting during winter even if it’s cold and grey outside.