There’s something about cold weather that makes many of us crave comfort foods—and gain weight.
If you’ve spent the last several springs frantically trying to shed the pounds you gained over the holidays and winter months, here are a few tips for eating well without packing on more weight.
Cut back on takeout and delivery.
When the temps are cold and the rain is pouring down, it’s tempting to call your favorite pizza joint or Thai takeout place for a delivery. Since these restaurants generally have a minimum for delivery, you order the biggest pizza they sell or two full dinners with egg roll, guaranteeing you’ll be eating this stuff for the next three days. You’ll be much less tempted to overeat if you don’t open the fridge to find huge amounts of food that you’ve already paid for.
Kick the soda habit.
Those enormous cups of cola drinks from convenience stores are full of sugar, caffeine and empty calories. Drinking them is bad for your waistline and worse for your teeth. Maybe you’ve been hooked on cola drinks since childhood, but it’s never too late to kick the habit. If you still crave that caffeine jolt, substitute ice tea, hot tea or coffee. Sweeten with small amounts of real sugar rather than artificial sweeteners. The best thirst quencher of all is plain water, so always keep some cold in the fridge. Add a squeeze of fruit juice for an extra twist of flavor.
Take a cooking class.
This may sound contradictory when you’re trying not to eat too much, but learning to be a better cook can deliver health benefits in the long run. If you know you can whip up a delicious dinner in just a few minutes, you won’t be so tempted to reach for the takeout menus or run into the drive-through on the way home. Look for a class specializing in healthy cooking rather than rich desserts or creamy sauces!
Treat yourself to delectable, decadent fruits.
While seasonal fruit is usually the least expensive, the choice of what’s “seasonal” in your area can be pretty small. Spend a little more and indulge yourself with exotic out-of-season fruits that have been imported from other countries.
Find new ways to enjoy your favorite veggie.
I’m one of the few who love broccoli and can eat it several times a week, but most of us have at least one vegetable that we enjoy frequently. If you can’t convince yourself to try a variety of veggies, then try your old favorites in new recipes. Red, green and orange peppers are crunchy and crisp when cut into strips and eaten with a dip. Plus they can add color and flavor to stir-frys or sauces. Get creative with the vegetables you love!
Cut back on portions.
Restaurants have learned that serving huge portions can distract diners from the fact that they food isn’t really great, which means that you’re likely to be looking at a plate the size of a coffee table when you dine out. When faced with an enormous plate of pasta or a pizza cut into 12 pieces, ask your server to box up at least half immediately so you won’t be tempted to eat it all at once. Doing this means that you also have another whole meal (or two) waiting in the fridge at home. Train yourself to see a smaller portion as filling, and don’t finish everything on your plate just because it’s there. Despite what mom may have told you, “cleaning your plate” will not help starving children or anyone else!
Switch to healthier snacks.
If you’re getting a big part of your daily calorie intake from chips, cookies and other snacks that you scarf down while watching TV, it’s time to stop taking in all those empty calories. Lower calorie snack options can include tortilla chips with salsa, yogurt dip with veggies and air-popped popcorn. If you crave sweets, substitute an apple or a banana. Nuts are a nutritious snack if eaten in moderation.
Make a weekly visit to a farmers market.
If the produce in your local supermarket is looking rather uninspiring this time of year, check out your neighborhood farmers markets. Here’s where you’ll find the freshest, healthiest fruits and veggies straight from the folks who grew them. Many markets also have fresh whole grain bakery goods, cheeses and spices. If you’re tempted by something you’ve never tried, go for it. These markets are a wonderful source for new taste treats.
Start each meal with a salad.
Not all salads are healthy, since some of them are full of fatty ingredients like cheese or meats and drenched in creamy dressing. For a salad that’s loaded with vitamins and can take the edge off your appetite, start with a bed of dark, leafy greens like romaine lettuce or spinach and add your favorite chopped veggies. Top it off with a tangy dressing made from olive oil and a tasty vinegar like red wine or rice vinegar. Oil and lemon juice are great over a fruit salad, and sesame seeds add a bit of crunch.
Eat more soup.
Soup is another meal starter that can curb your urge to overeat. Just be sure to buy or make soups that are rich in whole grains, legumes and veggies rather than the fatty, creamy types. A cup of soup and a small sandwich can be a tasty, filling lunch or easy-to-fix dinner.
Pack your own lunch.
Too many of us try to stick to a healthy diet at home but sabotage our efforts when we get to the office. When it’s lunchtime, you’re famished and your co-workers are sending out for pizza or Mexican takeout, it’s easy to give in and join them. You’ll be less likely to succumb to temptation if you have a delicious lunch already packed and waiting for you. Why send out for overpriced greasy grub when you have a sandwich of deli sliced turkey with imported Dijon mustard and crisp arugula on a fresh French roll tucked in an insulated lunch bag? Of course, you do have to plan ahead and do a little kitchen prep, but a trip or two per week to the deli or market should allow you to get enough fixings to make three or four days of sandwiches, salads and snacks.
Move your body!
Get some exercise every day, even if it’s just walking across the parking lot and climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator. Staying active and watching what you eat instead of hibernating with a sack of cookies and an extra-large mocha latte will help you be in better shape when warmer weather finally arrives!
Photo Credit: Kevin