If you’ve ever noticed yourself being ravenous during the winter months, you’re not alone. It’s been shown that, as humans, when the temperature goes down, our hunger goes up. Considering that it across the nation it seems to get colder as the days go by, this unconscious increase in eating could cause some weight gain to sneak up on us. So why does this happen? And how can you prevent overeating? Let’s discuss.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure why we seem to eat more when the weather changes, but there is definitely a consistent correlation. In 2005, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study showing that subjects ate 86 calories daily in the fall when compared to the spring. Another European study discovered that people ate more in the winter, but still felt hungry even though they were eating bigger meals. One possible theory for this change is that, in the winter, it gets darker faster, so our trigger to eat in the nighttime is cued sooner which may result in overeating due to our circadian rhythm being disrupted. For example, a study in 2018 showed that people who work in the nighttime are more likely to be obese.
Also, psychologically, when it gets colder, our bodies are looking for a way to make itself comfortable. So, we as humans find this comfort in comfort foods which, for some, may have more calories than our summer meals. Given this phenomenon, we also may assume that eating more will give us more comfort, especially if the food is something warm and savory like soup or warm desserts like pie and hot chocolate.
So, what can you do when your winter munchies kick in? We definitely don’t want to take away the warm foods you fall back on when you’re snowed in the house or cuddled up on a day working from home. Therefore, when you do decide to eat, reach for foods high in protein and fiber to keep you full and satisfied. Here are some meal and snack examples to try:
- Try homemade soups like Chicken Albondigas or your very own Miso Ramen
- Turkey chili with kidney beans
- Air popped corn (3 cups = 1 serving)
- Stir fry with lean protein and colorful vegetables
If you start craving some carbs, stick with whole grain comfort foods that are also full of nutrients like:
- Whole wheat waffles topped with fruit
- A warm bowl of oatmeal
- A chicken and barley bowl
The bottom line? Even though we don’t know exactly why cold weather makes us hungrier, it doesn’t have to be a seasonal trap of weight gain every year. A big way to avoid this is choosing the comfort foods you eat wisely and making sure these foods are a satisfying meal, rather than just a mindless snack you’re reaching for because you don’t want to be outside. When the weather starts getting chilly, be mindful of your portions, make time for exercise and consider the above recommendations. Then you’ll have the best shot as surviving the winter.