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How to Beat Winter Weight Gain

When we think of snow days, we often imagine curling up with hot cocoa, marshmallows, and whipped cream, buttered popcorn and chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven all while watching a DVD in the living room. As cozy as this scene sounds, regularly consuming calorically dense foods in the winter can be a dieter’s downfall. In fact, Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, founder and director of John Hopkins Weight Management Center says that surveys have shown an average of five to seven pounds gained in the winter months. Consuming comfort foods, reduced exercise, and being able to hide weight gain behind bulkier sweater may all be factors of the weight gain. But now that we have identified the problem, how can we solve it?

EXERCISE: When the snow is falling and its twenty degrees outside, a person may longingly remember the hiking, biking, jogging, and swimming of the summer and wish that it were as easy to exercise in the winter. While getting out in the cold always seems more challenging, there are ways to work out in the winter. A 160-pound person can burn around 500 calories ice skating for one hour, 450 calories skiing downhill for one hour, and 600 calories cross-country skiing for one hour. Having a regular exercise regimen or going to a steady class at the gym also helps a person maintain his exercise routine in the winter months. And if you don’t want to leave the warmth of your home, you can try a cardio-aerobic exercise video on YouTube or try a Wii fitness game.

LIGHTER COMFORT FOODS: Macaroni and cheese, meatloaf with gravy, and French onion soup in a bread bowl all sound like delicious and satisfying dinners in the winter, but there are other warm comfort foods that are not quite as hard on your waistline. Soups are excellent starters as they can be loaded with vegetables and really fill you up. Adding legumes such as split peas, black beans, and lentils adds fiber, iron, and protein and can turn your appetizer into a whole meal. And if tempted to make a creamier soup, use soy milk or 2% milk instead of cream. Including butternut squash or cauliflower puree into your macaroni and cheese adds vitamins and fiber and may help you stay satisfied with a smaller portion. And while vanilla chai tea may not be hot chocolate, it can also warm you up on a cold winter night and give you lots of antioxidants as well.

STOCK UP ON WINTER FRUITS: Another common complaint is that it is so much easier to snack on fruits in the summer when peaches, plums, apricots, berries, and watermelon are available in abundance and are juicy and delicious. While bananas and apples may not sound as tempting, there are other ways to enjoy your fruit this winter. Starting a meal with a grapefruit or ending it with homemade applesauce studded with pomegranate seeds is one way to get your daily dose of fruits. Cutting up apples, pears, and grapes and threading them on a stick is a fun activity for children to do in the winter. And you can always take advantage of frozen berries and blend them with bananas and plain yogurt for a smoothie.

No matter what you do, remember to stay warm and have fun.

By Shoshana Genack MS, RD

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