The first leaves of fall have barely dropped, yet we've already started pinning crockpot recipes and dreaming about hearty Thanksgiving feasts. While the drop in temperature heralds the start of many festive events, it can also signal the beginning of dreaded seasonal weight gain.
A new study confirms that winter weight gain is real and that it stems for an evolutionary trait. "This programming occurs to aid survival by reducing the risk of starvation," says Andrew Higginson, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Exeter. "In natural environments, food is scarce in the winter, and fat is an insurance against bad luck when trying to find food. Fundamental drivers of our behavior are often unchanged since prehistoric times."
If you'd rather leave this evolutionary trait in the past, nutritionists reveal there are a few simple measures you can take to maintain good health throughout winter. Here, two nutrition experts share the best way to avoid seasonal weight gain, as told to StyleCaster.
"Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and apple pie spices to oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, and you can even add some into a cup of warm almond milk for a sweet evening beverage," says Amie Valpone, New York nutritionist and author of Clean Eating.
"Also, go for fresh rosemary. This herb will do wonders for your taste buds and you won't need the chemical-laden marinades. Just use fresh lemon juice, olive oil and rosemary when roasting veggies or organic animal products," she says.
Eat Warming Meals
"Cold is a source of stress for the body," says Monica Amsterdam, director of nutrition at the Medical and Wellness Center of New Jersey. "To keep your temperature stable and maintain homeostasis, you need more energy. Swap unhealthy dishes for healthy soups and stews made with tons of leafy green vegetables, garlic and onions. Also, incorporate legumes, hot peppers, ginger, and herbal tea—these foods will help heat up the body, and keep you satisfied."
Make Smart Ingredient Swaps
"Toss the butter and use coconut butter or oil in your recipes for delicious flavor without the inflammatory ingredients," says Valone. "Use almond flour to make breads and crackers that are filling and hearty without the fillers that can lead to weight gain."