As promised in last week’s article, this week let’s talk about winter eating habits.

With the onset of colder weather, people show an increase is both carbohydrate and overall food consumption in the winter months. Interestingly, it’s the inverse with alcohol consumption: we tend to drink more in the summer months.

According to John de Castro, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, El Paso, “We have a tendency to eat about 200 calories more per day during the fall.”

That may seem like a small amount, but over our six months of fall and winter, without an increase in activity level, you could gain over 10 pounds in the six colder months of the year. That does not include the excess calories over Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, etc. That is general, daily, comfort eating.

Now, it doesn’t have to be this way. With a little extra prep and planning, you can eat those comfort foods and not gain all that weight. Here are some suggestions:

1. Enjoy homemade soups and stews that are packed full of sweet potatoes, butternut squash, apples, pumpkins and all types of greens can be healthier at this time of year as they are packed with great nutrients such as fibre, protein, beta carotene and Vitamin C.

Stay clear of creamy soups and use a low-sodium stock.

2. Go light on meat and white potatoes in stews; use a variety of different vegetables, squashes and tubers.

3. Use your crock-pot. It’s a great time saver, and dinner is ready when you get home, helping resist the urge to snack while you’re trying to figure out what’s for dinner.

4. Use your bread maker. It’s not a lot of work. Just throw the ingredients for your whole-grain bread in the bread maker, and press start. It does all the mixing, rising and baking for you.

5. Watch portion sizes with soups, stews and breads.

6. Do not add butter or margarine to homemade breads. They are chock full of great taste, and you don’t need it.

7. If you’re a football or hockey fan, don’t bring the bag of chips to the living room for game time. Measure out a portion of air-popped popcorn or baked chips; or, even better, homemade nacho chips and salsa. Then bring your portion in for game time.

8. Get a great cookbook such as one from the Eat Clean series, and try some new recipes.

9. Prepare, portion, freeze and thaw your meals for simple, quick meal solutions as opposed to being tempted to eat out on those long days or sick days. Nothing is worse than the feeling of having to cook when you’re sick.

Here’s a recipe to get you started:

Crock-Pot Beef Stew

INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds lean boneless beef or bison, cut into one-inch chunks

? cup flour

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon basil

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 carrots, chopped

4 ribs celery, chopped

2 sweet potatoes, cut into one-inch chunks

1 cup steamed chestnuts, chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 cups water or beef or vegetable stock

PREPARATION:

In a large ziplock bag, place flour, sea salt, pepper, oregano and basil. Shake bag to mix.

Add cubed meat to the bag and shake until all meat is coated. Set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet, place one and one-half tablespoons olive oil and set over medium-high heat. Remove the meat cubes from the flour mixture and shake off the excess flour.

Place half the meat in the skillet and cook until lightly browned.

Remove the first batch from the skillet and brown the other half of the meat.

Place all of the meat in the slow cooker.

Add all remaining ingredients to the slow cooker, mix gently and set to high.

Cook covered for six hours. Serve hot.

Yield = 8 servings.

Nutritional information: Calories: 454, protein: 42 g., carbs: 16 g., fat: 22 g.

As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or just need a kick in the butt. Remember, I’m always listening.

This column is provided by Peak Fitness. Mrs. Lee Randell is an ACE-certified personal trainer. Contact information and past articles are available at www.pkfitness.yk.ca/Clients. Anyone who wants to begin an exercise program should consult their physician first.

This column is provided by Mrs. Lee Randell, independent fitness consultant, who is an ACE certified advanced health and fitness specialist and personal trainer. You can reach her at www.mrsleerandell.com.