The cold snap has indelibly changed the landscape of Washington. Gardens once green and lush have turned brown. As humans, we feel the cold on our skin, and deep in our lungs. In a primal sense, the cold sends a strong signal that our food sources are changing, like squirrels gathering nuts and seeds; we too need to have stock piles available. This change is also reflected in grocery stores with new foods carrying higher fat and sugar content suddenly appearing, like egg nog, varietal chocolates, baking supplies for pumpkin pies, and Starbuck’s chestnut praline lattes. Science reveals our changing food preferences as colder temperatures are linked with our survival, triggering humans to eat more calories, for increased fat storage insulation, and as immediate sources of heat as we digest our food. These tendencies are also supported by a small gland in our brain called the hypothalamus, responsible for regulating our body’s temperature and food intake.
So what can we do when Mother Nature calibrates us to consume energy dense foods, commonly leading to unwanted weight gain over the winter months? The answer can partly be found in using warm, nutritionally-dense foods for your defense. Including a daily broth-based soup like Italian minestrone, Indian lentil curry, Japanese miso, or a Russian potato and cabbage borscht can both fill up your stomach and provide warmth to your body.
The temptations of creamier, high-fat foods are also part of enjoying the holidays, and savoring friendships and family. Thanksgiving isn’t the same without Aunt Lucy’s pecan pie, or Uncle Jay’s Christmas mug of hot-buttered rum. Before entering a high-calorie food landscape, try having a small protein snack about 30 minutes prior to engaging, like a cheese stick, hard-boiled egg, or a dab of hummus on crackers. The protein helps promote satiety, and ratchets down your appetite, potentially saving you a few hundred extra calories. This may not seem like much, but over the course of a long winter can be a tremendous ally for keeping your insulation from gaining too much momentum.