Hiking in cold weather tends to burn several hundred more calories per day than in the milder temperatures of the spring or fall. Our bodies work overtime to maintain the internal heat needed to survive [source: Braaten]. But for some odd reason, most people don't lose weight in the winter -- they gain it. It's no mystery why this happens.
The vast majority of the population doesn't go on cold-weather hikes each day. They work in heated buildings where donuts lie temptingly in the break room; they spend a greater part of their days in warm homes where leisure activities like watching television go hand in hand with snacking. And they gather at holiday parties and other social gatherings where dips, desserts and high-calorie drinks abound. That doesn't have to be you.
Winter and weight gain are not inextricably connected. With a few healthy changes in the kitchen and an awareness of what foods your body needs -- not just what it wants -- you can emerge from the cold with a body for the beach. It begins with breakfast.
Click ahead with a traditional and tasty food to begin your day.
A hot bowl of oatmeal is absolutely what you make it. Oats are natural and packed with fiber. Mixed with sweet frozen fruits, it becomes a powerful source of vitamins and antioxidants. Two-percent or skim milk offers calcium without unnecessary fat. And it doesn't have to end there. Two tablespoons of ground flax seed can help lower cholesterol. Sprinkle some almonds or walnuts on top for added nutrition and texture. All of it together creates a tremendous source of healthy fuel to move you through your day.
Soup is an instinctual choice on a cold day. It just feels and tastes right. But it's not inherently good for you. Canned soup is often overloaded with sodium, oils and high calories. Healthy versions of soup can be every bit as tasty. Take tomato soup, for example.
Rather than using tomatoes that come saturated in oil, try the sun-dried variety in their natural, tasty form -- and add dill, basil, onions and parsley. A little olive oil can be a healthy option for sautéing your tomatoes and onions before adding them to the mix in a pan [source: Weil].
When you're finished, you not only have a dish that tastes fabulous but one that offers lots of vitamins and -- thanks to the lycopene that tomatoes offer -- has the power to prevent diseases like prostate cancer [source: Weil].
Think of chili as soup's more substantial cousin. It has the warm, comforting feel of soup but chili's thickness makes it more satisfying when you are particularly hungry.
Whether or not you're a vegetarian, you may be pleasantly surprised by the heartiness of veggie chili. A variety of legumes -- garbanzo, kidney, black and canelli beans -- offers protein and flavor. Diced tomatoes, garlic and peppers give you an infusion of antioxidants and vitamins. Onions can be added for a little more zip. If chili doesn't seem like chili without meat, try adding turkey or extra-lean hamburger. It's hard to go wrong with chili on a cold day, unless of course, you overdo with sides of breads for dipping in that tasty concoction.
Spinach has gotten a bad rap over the years. What kid hasn't cringed when mom plops a limp and lifeless pile of the green stuff on his plate? No question, it's good for you -- but it feels like you're being punished rather than fed. Not so, if you take it undercover -- or, in this case, under pasta.
Replace nutrition-free white pastas with the whole-wheat variety. Use organic canned tomatoes and sauces to avoid unnecessary sugars and oily additives. Skim milk mozzarella helps you keep the cheese without all the fat. And finally, replace the sausage or hamburger with spinach and you've got a hearty-yet-healthy meal.
You've undoubtedly heard of a bad apple. Sure, a bad apple can spread its rottenness to the whole bushel, but a really bad apple isn't rotten -- it's packed with unhealthy calories, sugars and fats. Think of candied apples, apple pie and apple chunks in a sugary breakfast cereal. Thing is, apples are plenty tasty and healthy without making a bunch of man-made alterations. To make apples into a warm treat for cold days, you need do little more than warm them up.
De-core enough apples for you and your family or friends, put them in a crock pot and in a few hours you'll have a warm dessert with no added guilt [source: Skinny Chef]. Another faster option is to slice the apples, place them on a cookie sheet and heat them at about 300 degrees Fahrenheit (about 149 degrees Celsius) until slightly browned. If you desire, add them to a bowl, toss in some walnuts and top with low-fat yogurt [source: List My Five].
There's no need to emerge from the cold weeks and months without your health and fitness. With exercise and these delicious but healthy options you'll be ready to hit the beach when the sunshine returns.
HowStuffWorks finds out why so many calories are consumed at the office and what can be done about it.
- Braaten, Brenda. "Nutritional Considerations for Cold Weather Hiking." Backpacking Light. June 25, 2001. (Aug. 2, 2012) http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00040.html?id=zd969cJB:220.127.116.11
- List My 5. "The Top Five Healthy Cold Weather Snacks." Nov. 2, 2010. (Aug. 2, 2012) http://www.listmyfive.com/623d8f43/The-Top-Five-Healthy-Cold-Weather-Snacks
- Skinny Chef. "Crock-Pot Baked Apples." 2008. (Aug. 2, 2012) http://skinnychef.com/recipes/baked-apples
- Watts, Anita. "Popcorn Packs a Surprise!" Film Journal International. July 11, 2012. (Aug. 5, 2012) http://www.filmjournal.com/filmjournal/content_display/columns-and-blogs/snack-corner/e3i1b9db93de1b925266067f5d4cf5bb109
- Weil, Andrew. M.D. "Creamy Tomato Soup." (Aug. 2, 2012) http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/RCP00226/Creamy-Tomato-Soup.html
- The World's Healthiest Foods. "Spinach." (Aug. 5, 2012) http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=43