Comfort eating without the kilojoules

Posted on 8 May 2017

Winter is on our doorstep and the colder, darker and in some cases wetter months bring a change in diet as well as a change in clothes and footwear. For most of us, this is the time when we gain more weight. But there are ways to eat for warmth without packing on the pounds. 

‘People tend to stay indoors more during winter,’ says Carike Fouché, a registered dietician working in private practice at Mediclinic Gariep in Kimberley.

‘The colder weather means our bodies are hidden under layers of clothes, so people become less self-aware. As a result they feel less concerned about how they look, concentrating more on how they feel and choosing to reward themselves with hot and often unhealthy food and drink options,’ Carike explains.

Comfort eating does more than just satisfy hunger pangs. People who comfort eat tend to turn to food for stress relief, as a way of rewarding themselves, or to soothe emotions such as feeling sad, depressed or anxious. Usually their food choices tend to be high in energy, fats, sugar and salt.

‘Comfort eaters will often choose a chocolate or crisps over a fruit, for example,’ says Carike. ‘This is because the combination of sugar and fat or salt and fat produce an enhanced natural reward compared to sugar or fat on its own.’

Carike advises steering clear of temptation. Remove all unhealthy foods from the house, never shop on an empty stomach and opt for a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables with lean protein.

‘Healthy snacks such as celery, nuts and cottage cheese are good options to replace unhealthy comfort foods,’ says Carike. Almonds, for example, make a great on-the-go snack – plus they’re high in calcium as well as mono-unsaturated fats, which can help keep cholesterol levels low. A great idea for winter is to make healthy soups and casseroles in bulk: an easy meal for busy days.

The trick is not to stop the craving altogether, emphasises Carike, but to learn how to manage the craving and choose a healthy alternative.

Published in Healthy Life

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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