Why Are We More Hungry In the Colder Months?

Posted On Nov 8, 2017 By Rachel Weingarten

Why Are We More Hungry In the Colder Months?

I'm not sure about you, but as soon as it starts to get cold outside I feel the urge to eat more, and apparently, I'm not the only one.

A few years back, cardiologist Ira Ockene, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, researched the seasonal effects on health and appetite. He told NPR that we really do tend to consume about 200 more calories daily starting in the fall when the days start getting shorter. In the NPR article, Ockene referenced a 1991 University of Georgia study saying we seem to be sensitive to light, and the less light there is, the more food we seek and the faster we eat it. Chalk it up to our primitive selves or lizard brains trying to store up on food when we have it. Or maybe it's the fact that swimsuit weather is so far off, or that puffer jackets are so good at concealing extra pudge, that we feel safer snacking.

So how can we combat the urge to eat and snack more during winter months if it's a biological fact that we'll eat more?

Knowing in advance that you'll be prone to snacking is half the battle; so, don't blame yourself, prepare yourself. For instance, if you're heading out for a huge Thanksgiving dinner, try to have a light snack first with a healthy balance of protein and fat to keep you satisfied so you won't overdo it.

Also, while spending long nights on the couch binge-watching Stranger Things:

  1. Choose smarter snacks: If you're going to snack, make sure you have healthy options available. Keep snack size packs of edamame handy since they can be nuked in a matter of seconds and provide a warm and nutritious snack. Or roast chickpeas or bake kale chips since they'll provide a satisfying crunch without added fat or extra calories.
  2. Opt for soup: Baby, it's cold outside, but that doesn't mean you have to indulge in something bad for you. If you're Jonesing for a cuppa something warm and calorie laden like hot chocolate or a fancy coffee drink, try substituting something equally delicious but better for you. Butternut squash soup with a dollop of Greek yogurt and some toasted pumpkin seeds on top is incredibly easy to prepare, feels decadent and adds a just a hint of sweetness. Instead of zucchini noodles, go for a sweet potato version (but be mindful of the carbs).
  3. Make your cheats count: If you really must have some chocolatey goodness, try to keep it to 72% cacao since it's said that eating an ounce daily can provide heart healthy benefits. If you find yourself unsatisfied with just a few small chocolate squares, try melting the chocolate and drizzling over apple or banana slices and balance with a spoon or two of nut butter.