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10 steps to a better relationship with food this winter

Fall in love with delicious, healthy food. Nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin shares her tips for staying balanced.

Healthy winter vegetables illustration by Stephanie Howden

Do you associate winter with comfort eating and hibernation? I know how tempting it can be to eat pasta on the couch every chilly night, but when spring arrives you’re always annoyed at yourself for not keeping up a healthy food and exercise routine.

To help break this cycle, here are 10 tips to reset your relationship with food this winter.

Avoid seeking comfort and warmth through food

When the temperature drops most of us look to food for comfort and warmth. This can lead to indigestion, weight gain and associated health problems. Instead of relying on food for warmth, try alternatives such as cardio exercise, or sipping your favourite herbal tea in the sun.

Don’t deprive yourself

A healthy relationship with food is all about balance. You should be able to enjoy an occasional treat without feeling guilty. Denying yourself joy because you think you don’t deserve a certain food is counterintuitive and will lead to unhealthy habits. Let go of guilt around food and allow your body and soul a break from routine every now and then.

Keep a food diary

A great way to get in tune with your body and learn what it needs is by keeping a food diary. This way you can look back to see what you were eating when you felt a dip in energy, craved certain foods or, on the flip side, felt satisfied and energised.

Focus on nutrients, not calories

Having a healthy relationship with food means food isn’t a source of stress. Counting calories is a fast track way to create food-related stress. Shift the focus from calories to nutrients and think about what nutritional benefits the food offers.

Illustration of a healthy bowl of food

“Try to keep your diet balanced by enjoying lean protein, complex carbs, healthy fats and plenty of low-starch vegetables.”

Be prepared and prioritise healthy meals

The winter chill can make us lose motivation – sometimes it’s hard to even get out of bed. To keep healthy this winter, it’s important to plan ahead and prepare healthy meals that will nourish your body. Soups and stews are great for winter because you can make big batches to freeze in meal-sized portions for when you can’t be bothered cooking.

Eat mindfully

With colder weather comes the temptation to cancel social events and stay rugged up in front of the TV. A drop in temperature doesn’t mean you should change where and how you eat. Aim to eat in a calm environment, away from screens and distraction, savour every bite, and pay attention to what you are eating and how it makes you feel.

Retain balance

In winter, we often crave stodgy and carbohydrate heavy foods. Overeating such foods can leave us feeling bloated and heavy, and can lead to considerable weight gain. Try to keep your diet balanced by enjoying lean protein, complex carbs, healthy fats and plenty of low-starch vegetables.

Stay active

Fitness plays an important role in our relationship with food. If you’re feeling down, or craving something that’s not so good for you, get outside and get active. Exercise releases endorphins, makes us feel refreshed, drives us to eat healthier, and puts us in a better frame of mind.

Get creative in the kitchen

When it’s too cold to venture out, make the most of your time indoors and get creative in the kitchen. Winter is the best time for sharing slow-cooked dishes with loved ones.

Let go of the all or nothing mentality

If you do overindulge, don’t overcompensate, and let go of the ‘all or nothing’ mentality. Enjoying yourself and having a treat is perfectly fine every so often, and won’t hinder your long-term health goals.

Get more tips from Zoe and check out her 8-week Falling in Love with Food program.

Illustrations by Stephanie Howden

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