The art of balancing calories in winter

Weight loss

If a plate of steaming hot pakodas or a bowl of delicious carrot halwa is your idea of winters, you are not alone. For most of us, munching on high-calorie food spells comfort and warmth, the ideal way to tide over the chilly winter months.

Swapna Chaturvedi, dietician at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) says, “Our primitive impulses lead us to eat more during winter as the body starts preparing for the upcoming climate. While we no longer have to hunt for food like our ancestors, one does tend to partake high calorie food during winter. It is important for people to balance their food cravings with the right amount of physical activity and healthy substitutes.”

Moreover, it is often a Herculean task to jump out of the quilt, hit the gym or go for a walk to burn out those extra calories. This frequently leads to a surplus of calories, leading to weight gain and sluggishness.

According to experts, slight tweaking in an individual’s regular diet and lifestyle can help manage one’s calorie intake even during adverse, cold weather.

Consumption of fibre-rich food like whole grains and fruits like apples, bananas, guavas, pineapples, and strawberries, which contain vitamins and antioxidants, is helpful in satisfying hunger pangs. While outdoor activities can be an ordeal in the winter chill, one can indulge in indoor activities such as yoga or treadmill to burn calories. Sixty minutes a day of physical exercise can be split into three sessions throughout the day, each of 20 minutes.

“Calorie restriction should be the modus operandi for all people who want to stay fit, especially during winter, as putting on excess weight is a bad option for one’s health in the cold weather. Not just how much we eat, but also what we eat and when we eat makes a difference to a person’s weight,” says Chaturvedi.

Another way to restrict calories is to cut down on the sugar intake and desserts. But, considering that many of us may find it difficult to stay away from sugar, it is better to look for healthier alternatives.

Of late, food manufacturers have developed a range of foods and beverages which are substitutes to home-made or old style foods. There are a variety of “sugar-free” or “diet” products, which according to Dr Manjari Chandra, consultant nutritionist, Max Hospital, Saket, is nothing but ‘farcical’.

“What you see on television, or read in non-medical journals, or digitally are not all correct. Most information on food is to push different products,” says Dr Chandra.

She explains how Indian food regime is much better than boxed or tinned food we get in the market. Today people have switched to muesli and cornflakes, whereas an upma or boiled black grams with onion salt and pepper is still the best breakfast. The muesli and cornflakes are nothing but ‘sugar and carbohydrates’ and the rolled oats and others are extruded from a machine.

Similarly, whole wheat bread, tinned fruit juices are unhealthy for a person who wants to cut down calories and reduce weight. She also adds that milk powders like Bournvita and Horlicks are futile in milk; milk is best white.

“Yo-yoing with diet, skipping meals and having lots of coffee to keep yourself up and about are not useful in the long run. Good food is food closest to its natural form,” says Dr Chandra.

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