Navigating Winter Hunger: Tips and Tricks for Staying Satisfied and Healthy
by FARUK IMAMOVIC | VIEW 184
It's a common belief that during the winter months, we tend to crave more high-calorie, hearty meals, particularly meat, in an attempt to warm up and combat the cold. But is this actually true, or is it just a psychological trick? According to Signa Svanfeldt, Chief Nutritionist at healthy eating app Lifesum, we actually burn more calories in the winter.
"We do burn slightly more energy when being cold, as our body uses more energy to heat itself up," explains Svanfeldt. "In contrast, in a warm climate with high temperatures, we may feel more inclined to choose lighter foods such as salads, sandwiches, and fruits." Svanfeldt also points out that we may feel the urge to eat more hot, comforting meals rather than lighter options during the colder months.
Previous research from 2021 supports this, showing that our metabolism speeds up when it's colder and our desire to eat increases in comparison to a warmer climate. "We don’t need to make any drastic changes to our diet in the winter, although it can be wise to listen to our body's hunger signals and ensure we're getting enough energy and a balanced split of macronutrients," advises Svanfeldt.
"If you have any weight-related goals, it would be wise to track your calorie intake to make sure you're getting enough, but also to ensure you're staying within your needs to avoid eating more than you need due to increased hunger."
Avoid snacking late at night
Complex carbohydrates, which require more energy to digest, can be a good choice during the winter.
Svanfeldt also recommends avoiding snacking late at night and instead going for a walk after dinner to help "optimize" blood sugar levels. But why do we feel so hungry during the winter if we don't actually need all that extra food? One theory, proposed in an article by The Guardian, suggests that it may be linked to serotonin and a decrease in sunlight.
When we're exposed to less sunlight, we may try to find other sources of happiness, which can lead to habits related to food intake. Sunlight stimulates the hormone melanocytes, which can suppress hunger. With fewer daylight hours in the winter, our hunger and appetite may increase.
Experts recommend trying to stick to a 12-hour eating window, although this may not be possible for everyone. In conclusion, while we may feel the desire to eat more high-calorie, comforting meals in the winter, it's important to listen to our body's hunger signals and ensure we're getting enough nutrients and energy.
Tracking our calorie intake and opting for complex carbohydrates can also be helpful, as can avoiding snacking late at night and going for a walk after dinner. It's worth considering that our increased hunger during the winter may be related to a decrease in sunlight and an increase in serotonin.