When the temperature drops, it seems as though our desire to be healthy decreases, as well. Maybe it's because we spend more of our time indoors, which makes it easy to sit around, eat and pack on the pounds. Or perhaps it's because the holidays associated with cold weather -- Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's -- are also associated with big meals, desserts and high-calorie drinks like beer, wine and Champagne. Then again, we may just be wired to add a protective layer of fat when it's cold.
Whatever the reason for our unhealthy cold-weather habits, we can adapt and emerge fitter when the clouds part and the sun comes out.
If you want to feel full and satisfied, then it's important that you give your body the nutrition it needs. A plate of sugar cookies tastes wonderful, but you'll find yourself wanting more, not just because they're good, but because they haven't met your nutritional requirements. It will likely surprise you how full you'll feel when fruits and vegetables replace the so-called empty calories of processed and high-sugar foods. You'll also be happy to know that some healthy cold-weather options don't taste like replacements for your favorite snacks. Rather, they're simply modifications to unhealthy indulgences.
Click ahead to learn about a snack that'll make you feel guilty until you realize it's good for you -- plus, it's easy to make.
What could be better on a frigid day that hot apple pie? It sounds decadent, but the problem with apple pie is not the apples, but the crust and other sugary additives. Try slicing a few apples on a cookie sheet and heating them at approximately 300 degrees Fahrenheit (about 149 degrees Celsius) until they're slightly browned [source: List My Five]. Add them to a bowl of low-fat yogurt and some walnuts, and you've got a taste of nature's natural dessert. If you want to come home to the smell of hot apples, de-core a half-dozen apples and put them in a crock pot for a few hours [source: Skinny Chef]. It doesn't take an experienced cook to make this hot and simple snack.
It's natural to graze when it's cold. You grab a handful of salted peanuts here, a chocolate brownie there, some buttery popcorn over there -- pretty soon you've unknowingly added 1,500 calories to your diet. The act of grazing isn't the problem; it's what you're grazing on. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are great options.
Sunflower seeds are rich in potassium, Vitamin E and fiber. You can roast them yourself or buy them (ideally without salt) at your local health food store. Add some pumpkin seeds for snacking variety. Some research has even indicated that pumpkin seeds are helpful in relieving anxiety and lessening depression that can be associated with cold weather months [source: e-swastya].
Anything with the word "cold" in it is unappealing when you're chilled to the bone. That includes cold cereal. But if it's steaming and nutritious, it sounds good at any time of day. Oatmeal is best served warm; it's natural and it contains the vitamins and minerals that'll keep you going on a cold day. Oatmeal is a perfect, quick snack because it can be ready to go in just a couple of minutes. Mix it with low-fat milk or soy milk to avoid unnecessary fat. To add sweetness, top it with other healthy options like raisins, sliced almonds or strawberries. Low-fat yogurt is also a tasty ingredient you can mix in to help keep your fire stoked when it's chilly outside [source: List My Five].
There's no shortage of leftovers during the holidays and, if you're selective, you can make them into nutritious finger foods. That delicious Thanksgiving turkey is one such example. Rather than grazing on pumpkin pie or buttery mashed potatoes, bag-up slices of white and dark meat. When your energy is running low and your stomach is grumbling, you'll have a high-protein food available. By separating the portions into individual bags, you can monitor your intake and not get carried away with mindless eating -- nibbling away while watching a movie or football game and not realizing how many calories you've unwittingly consumed.
Never underestimate the power of suggestion. Biting into a succulent kiwi fruit can, momentarily at least, transport you to a warm beach on the coast of New Zealand. Never mind that the fruit's origins actually lie in China [source: Spar]. They tend to be associated with the good life and good weather. Add to that good health, and you've got a welcome treat on a cold day.
Kiwi fruit contains antioxidants, plenty of fiber and vitamin C in abundance -- around 100 milligrams [source: Men's Health]. It's hard to get bored with the taste, since there are hundreds of varieties [source: Spar]. It does lack one thing -- calories. There are less than 50 calories in each of these fruits.
Popcorn may not sound like what a healthy body needs, but there's good news to report on this front: Researchers have determined that coconut oil -- once considered a movie house villain -- actually plays a role in increasing immune function if you go the extra-virgin route. If you purchase the processed variety, you're doing your body harm [source: Watts]. Or you could skip the oil all together and air pop your corn.
In addition, popcorn is a whole grain and satisfies nearly three-fourths of the recommended daily amount of grains [source: Watts]. If you can avoid the temptation to slather it all in butter and coat it with salt, it's absolutely a guilt-free snacking option.
If you're heading out for a chilly hike or some downhill or cross-country skiing, you'll need some fuel along the way. There are few snacks you can pack into a plastic bag and stuff in a zipped pocket as easily as sliced, diced and dried fruit. Pre-made varieties can be bought with lots of different options, including cranberries, bananas, apples, raisins and even nuts for texture. An added benefit of dried fruit is its ability to make you feel satisfied. Since it's dried, it'll get bigger inside your stomach [source: Sharpe]. Those pangs of hunger will disappear and you'll find yourself re-energized.
If you took all the fruit and nuts from the bag of goodness you carried with you on that earlier hike and combined it with the fiber available in granola, you'd have this convenient snack. There's an added benefit to granola bars that may not cross your mind until your hands are cold and numb: It's easier to handle a bar than a bunch of individual, tiny treats.
The pitfall of granola bars is that ingredients like chocolate, sugar and high-fructose resins can turn them into nothing more than a high-calorie candy bar. Read the label and make sure that healthy snack is just that.
Guava is another one of those power-of-suggestion snacks and while it, naturally, can't take you physically to a tropic location; it'll make you think of a warmer locale. The taste has been described as a mix of strawberry and pear. You don't have to peal guava or spit out the seed -- the rind and seed are both made to be eaten [source: The Fruit Pages].
Lots of health benefits can be derived from guava. It's filled with antioxidants, iron and vitamin C [sources: Men's Health; The Fruit Pages]. If you find yourself thirsty after a jaunt in the cold, they're also a great source of sweet hydration.
Think of winter snacks the same way you think of a cozy fireplace. You need kindling to get the fire started, smaller logs to provide intermediate fuel and larger pieces of wood to keep the heat coming for hours on end. A little sugar is kindling, carbohydrates are the intermediate fuel and protein is the long burning log. Graham cracker PBJs provide all three. Keep in mind, however, that -- as with granola bars -- you need to watch the ingredients. Some peanut butters are packed with unhealthy and unnatural additives. The same is true of jelly. Look for a short list of ingredients with little or no added oils, sugars and preservatives. Otherwise, eat up, warm-up and revel in the knowledge that you are filling your stomach without enlarging your belly.
HowStuffWorks explores whether posting calories on the menu helps consumers make better food choices.
- Braaten, Brenda. "Nutritional Considerations for Cold Weather Hiking." Backpacking Light. June 25, 2001. (July 29, 2012) http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00040.html?id=zd969cJB:188.8.131.52
- e-swastya. "Winter Healthy Snacks: Seeds Part 1." (July 29, 2012) http://www.e-swastya.com/2010/01/need-for-nutritious-snack-has-always.html
- The Fruit Pages. "Guava and Feijoa." (July 30, 2012) http://www.thefruitpages.com/guavas.shtml
- List My 5. "The Top Five Healthy Cold Weather Snacks." Nov. 2, 2010. (July 29, 2012) http://www.listmyfive.com/623d8f43/The-Top-Five-Healthy-Cold-Weather-Snacks
- Making Life Better. "Graham Cracker PB and J Nachos." (July 29, 2012) http://www.makinglifebetter.com/Recipe/Fruit/Slamming-Graham-Cracker-Pbj-Nachos-1-5962.Aspx
- Manitsas, Andrea. "Hot Cocoa, Be Careful." Organic Authority. (July 29, 2012) http://www.organicauthority.com/health/best-hot-cocoa-hot-chocolate-recipe.html
- Men's Health. "The 9 Best Winter Foods." (July 29, 2012) http://eatthis.menshealth.com/slide/best-winter-fruit-3?slideshow=105838#sharetagsfocus
- Men's Health. "The 9 Best Winter Foods." (July 29, 2012) http://eatthis.menshealth.com/slide/best-winter-fruit-4?slideshow=105838#sharetagsfocus
- Ryan, Maureen P. "Warming Up With Smart Snacks." Scholastic Parents. (July 29, 2012) http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=1430
- Sharpe, Kimberly. "The Best Winter Snacks and Packs for Skiers, Snowboarders and Snowshoers." Oct. 15, 2009. (July 29, 2012) http://voices.yahoo.com/the-best-winter-snacks-packs-skiers-snowboarders-4656549.html?cat=22
- Skinny Chef. "Crock-Pot Baked Apples." 2008. (July 29, 2012) http://skinnychef.com/recipes/baked-apples
- Spar. "Kiwi Fruit." (July 30, 2012) http://www.spar.co.uk/FoodAndDrink/Superfoods/Kiwifruit.aspx
- Watts, Anita. "Popcorn Packs a Surprise!" Film Journal International. July 11, 2012. (July 30, 2012) http://www.filmjournal.com/filmjournal/content_display/columns-and-blogs/snack-corner/e3i1b9db93de1b925266067f5d4cf5bb109