4 Ways to Control Your Most Tempting Winter Cravings

When the weather outside is frightful, many find delight in sweets and treats. Between holiday festivities and cozy comfort foods, winter weight gain can feel all but inevitable. Thankfully, with just a pinch of diligence and a few smart substitutions, you can enjoy all the season has to offer without losing sight of your health and weight-loss goals!

1. Rein in Nostalgic Noshing

There's just something about the winter months that have us craving all our childhood favorites. While it's certainly okay to treat yourself now and then, it's important to balance indulgences with sound nutrition that will keep your immunity in tip-top condition during cold and flu season. 

Instead of reaching for butter and icing, look for other and perhaps more meaningful ways to indulge your nostalgia. Spend an afternoon with a close friend. Make a collage of old family photos. Call your mother. Though food may always play a role in family and festive gatherings, flour and sugar can't compete with the relationships that matter to us most!

Tip: The key to enjoying your favorite treats without going overboard is small-batch baking! Instead of whipping up a mountain of cookies that will tempt you the entire week, just bake what you need for the day. Whether you choose to scale down your recipe or simply freeze the extras for later, you'll save yourself both willpower and unwanted pounds on the scale.

2. Get Clever with Comfort Foods

Whether it's chilly rain or buckets of snow outside, it's no wonder we find ourselves craving comfort foods to feel warm and satisfied during the colder months. Unfortunately, unless you find yourself hitting the slopes or chopping piles of fire wood, there's a good chance all those extra calories will only serve to line your winter coat.

Instead of diving headlong into creamy casseroles and decadent desserts, look for clever ways to lighten up these cozy classics. Whole-milk Greek yogurt is an excellent substitution for cream in most recipes, and can also be used to replace a portion of the fat or oil in many baked goods. If cheese is on your ingredient list, try swapping in a smaller portion of sharp cheese instead of a larger amount of the mild stuff. Every little tweak makes a difference, so consult some blogs and see what you discover!

Tip: Nothing says cozy like a steaming bowl of soup. Not only will you get an extra helping of immunity-boosting veggies, but studies have also shown that enjoying a bowl of veggie soup prior to meals is a great way to reduce your overall calorie intake!

3. Limit Liquid Calories

Though a giant mug of cocoa with a mound of whipped cream might sound amazing on a cold winter's night, keep in mind that many of our most treasured cold weather beverages—creamy eggnog, syrupy lattes and boozy nightcaps—are often loaded with hundreds of calories! 

Choose wisely when ordering or whipping up your hot beverage of choice. From added syrups and mixers to heavy cream and hard liquor, these liquid calories can quickly wreak havoc on your waistline. 

Tip: Many coffee shops offer "skinny" or "light" menu options that can save you loads of calories. Or, if you'd rather treat yourself to the real thing, simply order the smallest size available. Regardless of what you sip, an eight-ounce short will always have half the calories of a 16-ounce grande!

4. Boost Energy Without Food

Come mid-January, you might be thinking bears have got this winter thing all figured out. When the days are short and sunshine is scarce, it's normal to feel sluggish and sapped of energy. As a result, many turn to food to get a much-needed pick-me-up. While a smart snack can certainly help keep hunger at bay and fuel a hectic day, it might be that you need something else entirely. 

Before rooting around for a bite to eat, give yourself a little wellness check: Are you getting adequate sleep each night? Are you staying on top of your hydration needs? Are you exercising regularly? If you answered no to any of these questions, there's a good chance that more food won't solve your slump. Instead of heading straight for the pantry when your eyelids start to feel heavy, try taking a 10-minute walk outside with the dog or doing a quick yoga flow by the fire. A little movement might be just what you need to reenergize.

Tip: Struggling with a bad case of the mid-afternoon munchies? While a sugary donut or bag of candy might sound tasty, you deserve better than a sugar rush! For lasting energy that will carry you through your busy day, make sure you're including quality proteins and/or healthy fats alongside your carbs at every meal and snack. If it's the mighty little cocoa bean that's calling your name, ditch the junky stuff and have a small portion of high-quality dark chocolate. You'll satisfy that craving and get a dose of antioxidants, too!