Why cold weather makes you hungry

It’s the same every year. As soon as the temperature drops, we find ourselves craving rich, filling foods – and a lot of them. No one can dispute this happens to just about everyone. In fact, a 1991 study at the University of Georgia found that subjects consumed about 200 extra calories per day as soon as the days started to get shorter in the fall. Well, that explains the 1-2 pounds the average person gains every winter.

So, why do we do it? Some say it’s a primal instinct to stockpile calories before the long winter ahead, or that with the drop in temperatures, we seek out foods that will warm us up more quickly – in other words, power-eating carb and sugar-heavy foods in a mad effort at self preservation against the winter chills.

Then again, it might just be a product of tradition. Fall and winter bring countless occasions for feasting, from Thanksgiving dinner to parties with family and friends. Think about it. Winter is all about big meals, lots of leftovers, holiday baking…and less time spent exercising outside. No wonder we get the feeling we’re fattening ourselves up for hibernation.

Everything in Moderation

So, now that you know those winter cravings are pretty much guaranteed to hit…what can you do about it? We would never tell you to ignore your cravings, or cut yourself off from comforting food. That’s just crazy. With moderation and a little smart planning, you can have your carbs…and eat them too.

Our first trick? Put a veggie in it. Just try to sneak some tasty fruit and vegetable content into your comfort recipes. If you’re making mac and cheese, add some broccoli, cauliflower or roasted butternut squash. Making a big pot of chili? Add extra bell peppers, onions and some sweet potato. Grilled cheese for lunch? Add some sautéed spinach, or caramelized onions.

Next, try to balance your plate. Yes, absolutely help yourself to the pasta and bread you’re craving. But make sure you also include something protein-rich, to keep you feeling fuller, longer. A little crispy tofu or some stewed beans will fit right in with your tasty comfort cooking. Better yet, up your fibre intake with a whole grain version of your favourite food. Like whole wheat pasta for that mac and cheese…and a whole grain bread for your grilled cheese. We promise it’ll still taste absolutely delicious.

Another no-brainer? Snack smarter. Try and fill your cupboards with healthier snacks you can feel good about…instead of empty calories you’ll regret. Between meals, try noshing on whole grain crackers with almond butter, mixed nuts, a piece of fruit or fresh veggies and your favourite dip. By seeking out snacks that are higher in protein and fibre – say it with us – you’ll feel full and satisfied for longer. Doesn’t that sound better than “accidentally” finishing a bag of chips or a box of cookies?

So, there you have it. Those cozy winter cravings? We all get ‘em. They’re totally natural, and there’s just no reason to try and fight it. But this winter, there’s no excuse not to satisfy those cravings in a healthier way.

Got a favourite healthy comfort food recipe? Send it to blog@madradish.com. We’ll be sharing a roundup of our favourites right here soon…so keep an eye out.