How to Avoid Winter Weight Gain

Brrrrrr winter is well and truly here and with it can come winter weight gain! Given that during winter, most of us will tend to eat more (usually in the form of high fat/ high sugar comfort foods) and exercise less, weight gain is usually inevitable. But all is not lost and we don’t have to resign ourselves to packing on a few kgs over the winter months. With these simple tips we can all win the battle!

Watch your portions

Watching your portion size is a key factor in helping to prevent winter weight gain. When it comes to what you eat, size really does matter and yes and you can have too much of a good thing. But what is too much and how much should you be eating?

To avoid overeating, pay careful attention to your hands – a serve of red meat should be no bigger than the palm of your hand (chicken and fish can be the size of your full hand), the carbohydrate (e.g. potato, kumara, bread, pasta or rice) should be no larger than your clenched fist size and a serve of fruit or vegetables is what fits into the palm of your hand. At your evening meal, aim to have two cupped-hands of vegetables on your plate.

Or more simply; have ½ the plate filled with vegetables, ¼ with protein (meat/chicken/fish/ beans/ lentils) and the remaining ¼ with carbohydrate.

Remember – just because its cold outside doesn’t mean you need to pile up your plate!

Snack right

Studies show that people who avoid eating between meals may end up consuming more kilojoules (energy) overall. This is could be because when we are ravenous we usually want a quick fix and we don’t necessarily make the best choices. We also tend to overeat at the next meal.

Rather than grabbing high fat/sugar quick fix, such as a chocolate bar or a packet of chips (which have little nutrtional value), try reaching for snacks which not only fill you up but also provides you with some vitamins and minerals. Foods which provide protein will help to keep you feeling fuller for longer; while foods rich in fibre will reduce how much you eat at the next meal.

Some examples of nutritious snacks include:

  • Vegetable sticks dipped in hummus – vegetables provide a range of nutrients and important phyto-chemicals which help arm your body’s defences against disease and infection. Hummus is a good source of fibre and protein too. Try dipping baby carrots, celery, broccoli florets or radishes
  • Fresh fruit – it’s the season for apples (including our favourite, the granny smith!), pears, citrus, kiwifruit and nashis. Like vegetables, fruit provide a range of nutrients and phyto-chemicals which can help to arm your body’s defense system against the winter ills. They also contain fibre to help fill you up.
  • Unsweetened yoghurt – provide’s you with protein and nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and zinc, which are important for bone health.
  • Tinned salmon or tuna in spring water on wholemeal toast – Fish are a good source of protein and oily fish such as salmon or tuna provide omega 3 fats which are good for your heart and brain. Wholegrain toast is a good source of fibre.

Give your traditional comfort foods a healthy make-over

During winter we tend to fill up on heavy, warm comfort food rather than reaching for salads or other light meals. Generally these foods tend to be high in fat but there are ways in which you can cut the fat (and kilojoules!) of your much loved winter favourites.

For example:

Vege up your favourite meals by either adding more vegetables to your favourite dish or serving some delicious seasonal winter vegetables on the side.

Vege up your favourite meals by either adding more vegetables to your favourite dish or serving some delicious seasonal winter vegetables on the side.

  • Veg-up your traditional lasagne, by adding fresh vegetables to the meat sauce. Try adding grated carrot or courgette, chopped onions and broccoli and of course lots of tomatoes! Cut the fat by replacing the creamy cheese sauce with cottage cheese and only use a sprinkling or parmesan on top, for flavour rather than lots of cheddar. If you really must have some ‘melty’ cheese, then go for edam rather than tasty cheese as this is lower in fat – but only use a little.
  • Baked kumara (sweet potato) can make for a quick, tasty and nutritious meal. Try topping with chilli beans, salsa and cottage cheese or natural yoghurt – rather than using lots of cheddar cheese and sour cream.
  • You can also veg-up your traditional casserole by adding onion, kumara, carrots, courgette, celery, peas or tomatoes. Remember to trim the visible fat off your meat too. And you guessed it; make sure you watch your portion sizes!

Move it, to lose it

Weight gain is caused by not doing enough exercise to make up for the kilojoules (energy) we consume either as food or drink. Think of it as a balancing act; if you eat too much and then don’t do enough exercise to burn up the food/drink as fuel, you are going to put on weight. The more energy you consume, the more exercise you need to do. Aim to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. This can be broken up into intervals too.

Get creative with your exercise

Yoga and other indoor activities can be a good way to keep in shape over the dreary winter months.

Yoga and other indoor activities can be a good way to keep in shape over the dreary winter months.

Over winter it can be pretty hard to get motivated to do some exercise – especially when it is wet, cold and miserable outside. If braving the weather for a walk, cycle or run isn’t your thing, try going to your local gym or in-door pool. Choose activities that you find fun and enjoyable. If you like dancing then find a dance class. If you don’t like sweaty exercise try pilates or yoga. Some people like group activities the most so if that’s you; join a walking group or sports team. You can even work exercise into your regular day.


  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator. Even try walking a few flights of stairs on your lunch break, if you work in an office building.
  • Talk an email – instead of emailing a colleague, get up and go over to their desk instead. Its much more personal and will no doubt save countless emails going back and forward all afternoon.
  • Park your car a further away or get off the bus a few stops earlier than you need to.
  • Get up during the ad breaks on TV and walk around the house.
  • Cleaning the house or garden. Not only will you have a nice clean house and garden to relish on those winter days but you will have also burnt off some kilojoules in the process.
  • Window shopping at your local shopping mall. Walking briskly around a cosy mall is a great way to scope out the shops while raising your heart rate at the same time.