When the weather gets cooler and the leaves start turning beautiful colors, you may look forward to eating warm, rich, and hearty comfort foods. Unfortunately, they can wreck your diet and cause you to pack extra pounds unless you modify your recipes or limit your portions. Research shows that the average weight gain between November and January is at least a pound, which is usually permanent. You can hide an expanding waistline under layers of winter clothing, but the ugly truth will be revealed when you put on those spring fashions.
What is a Comfort Food?
“Comfort food” is any food or beverage that gives a comforting, satisfying feeling after you eat them. It provides temporary relief (e.g. stress relief) or a sense of emotional well-being (e.g. happiness, security, or a reward). According to a Cornell University study, women find comfort in candy, chocolates, and prepared snack foods, such as ice cream or potato chips. Men prefer hearty, home-cooked meals, like pasta, steak, or casseroles.
There are no “bad” foods, although some foods are worse for you than others. Many rich, creamy comfort foods are filled with artery-clogging fat, sugar, sodium (salt), and extra ingredients. You can splurge on an occasional small portion of decadent food, but it’s better to completely avoid the temptation.
To prevent craving comfort food that is unhealthy, eat a balanced diet of foods that make you feel full and satisfied longer. This includes protein foods to stabilize blood sugars and high-fiber foods, which send the message “I’m full” to the brain.
The Most Popular Comfort Foods of the Season
Although most spring and summer dishes are light and full of healthy, colorful, leafy vegetables, the most popular fall and winter foods are warm, rich, and hearty dishes. The list includes macaroni and cheese; chili and stews; cream- and cheese-based casseroles; cream-based soups, bisques, and chowders; creamy pot pies with pastry on the top and bottom; fried side dishes (e.g. French fries, chili cheese fries, and onion rings); mashed potatoes, and a variety of sweet treats (e.g. Halloween candy, chocolate, cookies, and pies topped with whipped cream or ice cream).
Ways to Avoid Winter Weight Gain
In addition to limiting the most fattening foods, follow these tips to avoid winter weight gain:
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