It may surprise you to hear that the cooler months of the year are actually a great time of the year to focus on weight loss. There are a few reasons for this – not only do things tend to be quiet socially, which allows more time to concentrate on eating well but it is also a great time to get plenty of rest, schedule in extra workouts whilst also getting the physiological benefits of training in lower temperatures (burning more calories). So before you settle down in front of the television with a hot drink and a chocolate biscuit, let’s find some focus!
Winter Is Not an Excuse!
Just because the clothes are thicker and you do not have to show as much flesh, it does not mean you have an excuse to eat more. Often during the colder months clients let themselves go and eat things they would not usually, as they know that it will be some time before they need to bare their legs, arms or stomachs again. Monitor your weight regularly so if it starts to creep up, you can gain control of it quickly. For accurate results, weigh yourself first thing in the morning, once a week at most. Look for opportunities to do more – whether this means scheduling in more cycling sessions or adding an additional form of training such as weights, group fitness classes or swimming. Most importantly, keep your food regime structured so that if a couple of extra treats do slip in, you have a firm platform to fall back on.
Watch the Heavy Food
Cream and starch based soups eaten with bread, heavy desserts and extra glasses of wine or spirits contribute a significantly greater number of calories to the diet compared to the salads, BBQs and ice creams of summer. Base your main evening meal around roasted vegetables, soup and casseroles. Skip extra bread and heavy rice- and pasta-based dishes, and limit the number of alcoholic drinks you consume each day. Eating your largest meal late in the evening and/or enjoying sweet treats after dinner are both habits that can predispose you to weight gain. Try to eat your final meal by 7pm each night and limit sweet treats to just a couple of times each week at most.
Try not to use food for comfort. Hot chocolates with marshmallows, chocolate biscuits and heavy desserts that you do not usually eat may taste fantastic and make you feel good momentarily but they are also packed with the types of fats that are extremely difficult to burn off, especially at night. Look for small treats that are calorie controlled such as low fat hot chocolate drink mixes, an individual portion of dark chocolate or a baked apple for a treat without too many extra calories.
Soup It Up
Soup, particularly vegetable based soups are a great option nutritionally as they combine a high nutrient density with a low energy density – this means that we get lots of key nutrients including vitamins and minerals for relatively few calories. At a time in which foods with a high energy density and low nutrient density such as white bread, snack foods, sugar based drinks and high-fat fast foods dominate, a low calorie option that fills us up is gold standard when it comes to foods that need to be regularly included in the diet.
And this benefit is proven. Studies have repeatedly shown that when diners consume a low calorie, vegetable-based soup before their main meal that they consume up to 20 per cent fewer calories at a meal. Naturally, homemade soups are the best option. This way you can control the type and amounts of vegetables that you use to make your soup as well as choosing to use salt reduced stocks and few other additives. Pre-made soups and packet soup mixes tend to be exceptionally high in sodium (salt) with the average packet soup containing a massive 800-1200mg of sodium, or 1/3-1/2 of your total daily salt limit. Premade soups also tend to be relatively low in protein and high in carbohydrate thanks to their base being potato starch. If you must seek out a pre-made soup option, look for varieties that contain
Limit Your Snacks
The cold weather inevitability means that people spend more time indoors. The extra time spent at home with easy access to food means that people are more likely to snack. There is nothing wrong with snacking; it is the types of foods that people choose to snack on that is the problem. Chips, cakes, muesli bars and biscuits are the types of snack foods that are commonly chosen. These foods are high in fat and refined sugars and low in satiety. Foods which have a low satiety value are digested quickly and do not keep you full for long after eating them, which in turn makes you more likely to eat more in total. While hungry cyclists will need two to three snacks of 200-300 calories each day, make sure you always choose filling, low GI, protein rich choices such as wraps made with lean protein, cheese and crackers, protein bars, low fat yoghurt with fruit and nut based snack bars.
Embrace your Winter Superfoods.
A superfood is the name given to a food that has a number of strong nutritional qualities that you can only get if you eat the food in its entirety. In the case of winter superfoods, it is their vitamin C, antioxidant and unsaturated fat contents known to help boost immunity and fight infection that places them in the superfood category. Aim to include as many of the following superfoods in your diet each day as you can and give your body the immune boost it may need to get you through the chilly months ahead. And if all else fails, make a steaming vegetable soup with a little chilli and garlic to really boost your immunity and help clear any sniffles and coughs quick smart.
1) Broccoli – exceptionally high in antioxidants
2) Carrots – massive boost of the antioxidant beta carotene
3) Red capsicum – massive hit of vitamin C
4) Kiwi fruit – entire daily requirement of vitamin C
5) Oranges - ditto
6) Green tea – powerful antioxidant
7) Walnuts – high in long chain omega 3 fats
8) Atlantic salmon – ditto
9) Oysters – exceptionally high in zinc and iodine
10) Berries – packed with antioxidants but few kilojoules
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ Spanish onion, diced
1kg chicken breast, cubed
Packet of frozen spinach
1 can red kidney beans
1 can cannellini beans
1 can white beans
1 tetra pack salt reduced chicken stock
1) Heat olive oil and onion over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add chicken, heat through then add stock and bring to boil.
2) Add spinach and simmer until cook through. Add beans and cook through. Season and add water to taste.
Sample Fat Loss Eating Plan for Winter
Breakfast = two slices multigrain toast with two poached eggs with spinach and mushrooms
Snack = Tub of natural yoghurt + ½ punnet of berries or two kiwi fruit or one orange
Lunch = Bowl of vegetable soup with toasted tuna and tomato wrap.
Afternoon Tea = Nut based snack bar
Dinner = Chicken casserole or 200g grilled steak with roasted vegetables
Dessert = Baked apple with ½ cup low fat custard
Susie Burrell is one of Australia’s leading dieticians with degrees in both nutrition and psychology. She has written three books including Losing the last 5kg and Lose Weight Fast, and has a nutrition practice in Sydney. When she is not writing or blogging, Susie spends her time thinking about eyelashes, Hawaii or her beloved Burmese cat Charlie. For more information see – www.susieburrell.com.au.