Tips for Healthy Winter Meal Planning

Tips for Healthy Winter Meal Planning
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

For many people in the United States, the winter weather months can be bone-chillingly cold. Some places see daytime temperatures dip into negative degrees, and only see sunshine a few hours a day. And at least three major U.S. holidays occur during those months that are typically observed with social gatherings, delicious foods, desserts, and alcohol. It’s one of the reasons the average American gains 1 to 2 pounds a year during the winter holidays, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That may not seem like much, but add that up over a couple of decades, and you’ll be packing on a lot of extra pounds.

If you want to prevent weight gain in winter, or even lose* weight, you’ve got to have a healthy eating plan. Tossing back glasses of egg nog, sipping cup after cup of hot chocolate and coffee drinks, and indulging in comfort foods isn’t going to help your waistline. Fortunately, there are plenty of foods that are good to eat during the winter months to help you manage your weight.

Are Healthy Meal Plans The Best Way to Lose* Weight During Winter?

Any time you’re trying to lose* weight, getting a handle on your diet is a critical step in the process. And that may be more important in winter simply because you’re more likely to be indoors more, and closer to the kitchen or the vending machines where healthy and not-so-healthy food is readily available. Paying attention to your eating habits during the winter months is important.

But in addition to nutrition, the most effective weight loss* programs include regular exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, along with two days of strength training exercises, to aid in weight loss*. Fitting exercise into your schedule during the winter months for weight management means bundling up to go for a walk or run outdoors. Or you can make plans to workout indoors and use a stationary bike, treadmill, or do indoor sports like basketball, racquetball, swimming, or aerobics. Even in winter, your weight loss* plan should include healthy eating in addition to regular exercise.

Aerobics Plan

Why Most of The People Prefer Dieting for Weight Loss?

If you’re significantly overweight or obese, you probably have your fair share of aches and pains. Being overweight increases* your risk for mobility problems, knee and joint pain, and back pain. And if you’re overweight or obese, you’re more likely to be out of breath just walking up a flight of stairs than a healthy weight person. Being out of shape forces a lot of people to revert to self-defeating behaviors that keep them out of shape. And that’s probably one of the primary reasons people prefer dieting over exercise for weight loss*. It’s easier to lift a fork to your mouth than hustle through a workout at the gym. But the truth is, whether it’s winter or some other season, you need to eat healthy and exercise regularly to lose* weight.

What is a Healthy Meal Plan for This Winter?

Carbs probably top the list for popular comfort foods during the winter. Herb-seasoned lasagna, piping-hot pasta, and French bread right out of the oven are a few examples. But loading up on these types of foods made from refined carbohydrates all winter long can lead to weight gain and raise your risk for diabetes, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. If you’re going to eat healthy in a way that will help you lose* weight, or at least maintain your weight, you’ve got to have a plan. Your winter weather diet should include fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes, fish, and lean meats. Build your cold weather diet using these foods as your guide, and you’ll enjoy plenty of tasty meals without packing on pounds.

Healthy Meal Plan

Healthy Meals Start with Planning: Get started by keeping a food diary for a couple of weeks. Write down everything you eat in a notebook, or record the food you eat with an online food log or mobile app. This will give you a better picture of what foods you’re currently including in your diet, what foods you should cut back on, and what foods you need to eat more of. Once you’ve got a handle on your eating habits, sit down and plan out healthy meals and snacks for at least a week at a time. Great winter weather foods include steel-cut oats, homemade beef and vegetable soup, whole-grain, pasta and breads, fruits and vegetables, legumes, leafy greens, and even hot coffee passes the test for being a hot drink low in calories good for warming up on a cold day. Make a list of what you have on hand, and what things you’ll need to get from the store. Then bundle up and go shopping for your winter weather foods.

Count Your Calories to Consume: The average adult should consume about 2,000 to 2,600 calories per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. And that’s easy to do eating healthy foods. Mix in candy bars and sugar sweetened drinks, and you can easily consume more than that in a day, and that’s a recipe for weight gain. To make the most of your healthy winter weather eating plan pay attention to the amount of calories you’re eating. Hot coffee drinks made with cream, sugar, and whole milk on a cold, winter day, may help warm you up, but they can be particularly calorie-dense, so go with traditional coffee instead. Read food labels to find out how many calories are in a serving, or look up nutritional information online for the foods you like, and keep track of your daily caloric intake. In a recent study published in the journal, Agricultural Economics, researchers found that people who kept a food diary were more likely to weigh less than people who didn’t. Pay attention to how many calories are in the food you eat, and you’ll quickly learn which foods are calorie-dense and which are not. During the winter months, look for ways to cut 500 calories a day from your diet. Keeping your daily calories under control can help you lose* about a pound a week through diet alone.

Healthy Meals Start with proper Portion Sizes: One more important thing to pay attention to as part of your healthy winter meal plan is proper portion sizes. Most restaurants overload your plate when you order and entrée, and many packaged foods list the calories for a single serving, while you might actually eat two or three servings. A good way to control portion sizes is to eat your meals on a salad plate. Dish up a little of everything, and eat your food slowly. If you are still hungry for seconds, you can dish up a little more without derailing your diet for the day.

How Do Your Healthy Meal Plans Work?

If you’re going to be making big changes to your diet as part of your winter meal plan, you’ve got to expect some growing pains. If you’re used to eating fast food, soda, and treats*, all the time, switching to salad isn’t going to be easy. The best way to be successful at a new meal plan is to gradually introduce new and healthy foods and habits into your diet, while slowly eliminating bad foods and habits. Do this over time, and your transition to healthy eating will be easier than trying to go cold-turkey. Many people also do well on a diet when they still allow a little bit of their favorite treats* or desserts.

What Should I Think Before Creating a Healthy Meal Plan?

Changing your eating habits is more of a psychological decision than a physical decision. So when you decide to adopt a healthy winter meal plan, you’ve got to be prepared to work at it. Think about the changes you need to make in your diet, and ask yourself if you’re honestly ready to give up a few things to help you lose* weight and be healthier, while also eating new and healthier foods. If you’re willing to work on changing your eating habits, winter can be a great time to adjust your diet and lose* weight before spring.

How Can My Meal Plan Make Winter Healthy?

If you live in colder regions of the United States, winter will most likely deliver a range of days where cold weather, rain, snow, and ice, keep you indoors. For most people those kind of weather conditions make it more likely that you’ll be stuck inside and spend a lot more time sitting around. Adjusting you’re eating habits during the winter can help compensate for a decline in physical activity and help you maintain your weight, or lose* weight if you need to.

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Author

Expert Author : Evan Jensen (Consumer Health Digest)

Evan Jensen is a renowned American Nutritionist, Diet Expert and health writer. He specializes in writing about diet, nutrition, exercise and preventive care. He personally has participated in Marathons, Mountain Endurance Races and many other sporting activities.