At this time of year, finding the right balance between warming Winter meals and over consuming stodgy, high fat food can be challenging but it is by no means impossible. Even firm family Winter favourites such as the classic meat pie or apple crumble can be converted into tasty, nutritious options with the right ingredient balance. The secret is to be aware of the extras that can easily slip in during the cooler months so you can balance your food intake with plenty of low fat, low kilo joule options to keep your weight stable and your tummy full.
While it may seem harsh, the truth is that the temperatures in Australia rarely get low enough to justify heavy Winter feasting. Unlike the sub zero temperatures that are common in European countries, a temperature drop of a few degrees does not result in the body burning significantly more kilojoules that would justify the consumption of higher fat and kilo joule rich foods such as creamy pastas, fatty roasts and cream based desserts. Unfortunately, slightly lower temperatures and shorter days do tend to awaken our taste bids for warm, filling foods.
Bulking up your meals with plenty of vegetables is a good starting point to avoid an excessive energy intake during Winter. High fat foods such as pies, casseroles and roasts can still be good choices if large quantities of starchy carbohydrates including potatoes, pasta and rice and fatty cuts of meat are replaced in recipes with leaner meats and extra vegetables. Take a pie for example; if you swap chicken thigh for breast, fill the pie with plenty of vegetables and top it with just one sheet of puff pastry; you have a perfect mix of carbohydrates and lean proteins with far less fat than a traditional pie recipe. The same technique can readily be applied to your favourite pastas; halve the amount of meat and pasta you would usually use and instead replace with 2-3 cups of finely chopped vegetables. Not only do you halve the total amount if carbohydrates in the recipe but you also get the recommended 3-4 serves of vegetables with your evening meal.
Utilising soups can also make a large difference to kilo joule intakes at a meal. In fact, research has repeatedly shown that consuming a broth style soup before a meal can reduce your food and kilo joule intake at a meal by up to 20%. To further reduce your kilo joule intake, instead of enjoying soups with energy dense bread and butter, try adding croutons or a few crushed up rice crackers to the soup for a crunchy hit without the fat and extra carbohydrates. You can also trying adding some warming soup to your regular lunch choices and notice how much more satisfied you feel throughout the afternoon when you have enjoyed something filling and warming in the middle of the day.
With warm desserts such as puddings, crumbles and pies becoming more common at this time of year, the best advice I can give you is to limit high fat options that contain cream and pastry to just once each week. Lighter dessert options that can be included more frequently include baked fruit, hot chocolates or a thin slice of apple crumble that contains far more fruit than it does crumble.
One of the most effective nutrition strategies that can be implemented to both help to prevent weight gain but to also help you feel full and satisfied is eating a larger, warm, filling meal at lunchtime and leaving lighter soups and vegetables based dishes for the evening meal. Unfortunately frantic, modern life has resulted in many of us not eating our largest meal of the day until 8 or 9 at night, which really is too late to enjoy a heavy meal. If you then choose to add dessert or chocolate to this mix, you may have consumed more than half your total energy in the latter half of the day. To avoid this scenario, try cooking extra pasta, stir fires or casseroles over the weekend and heat them up to take for work lunches. If you have had a heavier meal during the day, you are likely to only need a light soup or omelette later in the evening.
A final Winter tip is to be exceptionally mindful of poor habits that we often permit into our lives as soon as day light saving ends. Long evenings spent on the sofa with heavy food and a block of chocolate are generally not justified given that we are often moving less during Winter. Simply being aware of the importance of not allowing such habits to develop is one of the key things you can do to avoid Winter weight gain.