What really happens to our appetite in winter?
While it's hard to argue that shivering counts as exercise, our body does expend extra energy in trying to preserve heat loss. This may explain the correlation between colder temps and increased calorie consumption, although the difference is minor and hardly warrants another helping of hot chips lathered with gravy.
As sunlight hours are limited during the cooler months, our glands respond by producing more melatonin, a hormone that influences sleep by sending a signal to our brain that it’s time for rest, making you feel more sluggish during the day. The problem is higher melatonin levels can exert its effect on appetite by stimulating key metabolic hormones such as insulin, ghrelin and leptin.
Paired with cold temps and tiredness, it’s easy to see why you crave for more “comfort foods”. While a generous serve of creamy carbonara with warm butterscotch pudding may make you feel warm and cosy, our cravings for high-fat, carb-rich dishes may be driven by the impact these types of foods have on our mood.
Feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine are temporarily boosted when we eat carbohydrates. And since carbs give us an energy boost and can help combat the sluggish winter blahs, the results can be short-lived. Choosing refined versions will only wreak havoc on blood sugar levels and cravings for more of these foods will continue.
Winter foods to keep on the menu
You can still feed a carb craving and get the same comforting feelings from winter foods containing ingredients that are good for you. Simply make the switch to high fibre, whole grain carbs at breakfast, lunch and dinner and you’ll easily achieve your daily 48g whole grain target!
Try swapping white varieties for wholegrain versions. For example, for breakfast opt for a porridge made with UNCLE TOBYS Traditional Rolled Oats topped with citrus fruit (kiwi, orange) and Greek yoghurt for added gut-loving probiotics and vitamins for immune-support properties. Warm up with bowls of soups filled with fibre-rich vegetables and buckwheat noodles. Add a lean source of protein like chicken or chickpeas and you’re set with a balanced meal. Add barley to your risottos, sweet potato to your Sheppard’s pie and rolled oats to meat patties for added fibre.
When the urge to munch takes hold, opt for whole grains which include a source of fibre, such as a hearty UNCLE TOBYS Honey & Oat Slices or crackers made with brown rice topped with added protein like nut butters or hummus. The key is to combine quality carbs and a lean source of protein, to help keep cravings at bay while still providing the right source of fuel to aid workout performance.
Speaking of workouts, where possible, get outside during daylight hours and expose your skin to direct sunlight to reap the benefits of vitamin D for added mood boost.