We might be more likely to crave chocolate cake, croissants, and cheese in the winter months, doesn’t necessarily mean we should indulge those cravings with reckless abandon. Those cravings are “hedonic hunger,” says Cipullo. And while you can indulge in moderation every once in a while, she adds, “we can certainly choose to satisfy our appetites in healthier ways, too.”
It’s important to note that a lot of wintertime overeating may be a result of opportunity and mindset more than pure physiology, too. Cool weather ushers in food-centric occasions, from Halloween to Thanksgiving to the Super Bowl, each packed with opportunities to overindulge. And on the days and nights in between, many of us are more likely to spend more time at home when outdoor activities are limited and we tend to want to just come home and stay in once the sun goes down. “When it gets dark earlier, you tend to stay home more. And early evening is a vulnerable time for a lot of people,” says Ellie Krieger, RD, a cookbook author and host of Ellie’s Real Good Food, who is based in New York City. “People tend to mindlessly snack then. That window is bigger in the winter.”
You’re also less likely to hit the farmer’s market for fresh veggies to nosh on, simply because there are fewer open in colder months. And what is available tends to be heavier fare, like starchy root veggies.
We tend to be less active in winter, and to stay less hydrated. When the mercury dips, a tall cold beverage may be the last thing on your mind, but skimping on your daily quota of liquids can often be mistaken for hunger, leading to cravings, says Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD, author of The Portion Teller. She recommends hot beverages, like tea or even just water with lemon, which will warm you up and keep you feeling full. Plus, researchers at Yale University found that things that are physically warm, such as a hot shower or a warm drink, may help people feel happier and less lonely.
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