Posted: Dec 28, 2010 7:00 PM
Controlling weight during the cold, dark days of winter is an issue for most of us. Studies show that many people gain at least a pound between November and January. And the worst part: That gain is usually permanent. Blame it on the cold weather that makes outdoor exercise less appealing, cravings for fattening comfort foods, and the seemingly endless weeks of holiday celebrating. And of course, you can hide your expanding waistline under layers of warm clothing. It's a wonder more of us don't gain more than a pound each winter!
Once you no longer have that youthful metabolism that lets you eat donuts, French fries, and fried chicken without gaining an ounce, it is time to cut down -- or even eliminate -- some of the most fattening foods, experts say. It's certainly OK to splurge on the occasional small portion of a decadent food, but most adults do better if they stay clear of the temptations.
"Keep in mind that it is easier to keep your weight stable than it is to take off the pounds" says Jayne Hurley, RD, senior nutritionist for the nonprofit watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The foods that "talk" to us in winter tend to be hearty comforting and holiday favorites that are also often packed with artery-clogging fat, calories, and sodium.
"In summer there is an abundance of light foods, but when winter rolls around it is natural to want to beef up and yearn for richer foods," says Katherine Tallmadge, MS, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman.
And, of course, the American way is to have more than just one calorie-rich dish (witness the popularity of the holiday buffet). Studies show, the greater the variety, the more we eat.
"If there are 10 types of holiday cookies or several creamed side dishes, it only makes sense that you want to try them all," says Tallmadge, "and in the end, a wide variety encourages overeating."
So what are the worst winter foods, the calorie-packed culprits that we should stay away from? The truth, experts say, is that there really are no "bad" foods. A few bites of even the most fattening food can fit into your diet. But there certainly are foods that are worse for us than others. When you check out the nutritional numbers on these foods, keep in mind that most adults need fewer than 2,000 calories, 65 grams of total fat, and 20 grams of saturated fat each day.
Here are picks from the experts for the nine winter foods most likely to pack on the pounds:
Beyond limiting the most fattening foods, here are some more general expert tips for avoiding winter weight gain: