Taking that first step onto the bathroom scale after a few months of creamy casseroles can be rough. No matter how dedicated you were to your New Year’s resolution, winter just has a way of adding a few extra inches to our waists. It’s disheartening, to say the least.
While you could go on some crazy diet to cut a few extra pounds, such extreme changes rarely provide lasting results. This year, skip the fad in favor of a more positive approach to healthy eating. We recently spoke to Jessica Scott, nutritionist for Graze who also develops some tasty recipes, about how you can shed your winter weight without losing your mind. She also shared one of her delicious snack recipes.
The Cheat Sheet: Many of us get into the habit of eating rich dish after rich dish when it’s chilly outside, so it becomes habit. How can we break the cycle without feeling deprived?
Jessica Scott: You can break the habit by retraining your taste buds, and you do this by incorporating more bitter foods into your life. If you’re making a soup or a breakfast smoothie, add in some bitter greens like broccoli, spinach, or kale. Your taste buds will learn to enjoy more bitter flavors rather than sweet foods.
If you find you’re reaching for foods out of boredom or to feel lit-up or to relieve feelings of loneliness, I encourage you to then do something else that’s pleasurable rather than seeking it in food. Go for a walk, run yourself a hot bath, listen to your favorite tunes, or watch your favorite TV show.
CS: Some people struggle with staying motivated to eat healthy when they’re not immediately tasked with donning a bathing suit. Do you have any suggestions for how to get excited about eating better?
JS: Rather than focusing on aesthetic goals like looking good in a bathing suit, switch your focus to your health. What’s one thing you can do today that will improve your health? When you’re taking each day is it comes, it’s far less overwhelming than thinking about your body shape in a few months’ time.
By adding positive, healthy habits and nutritious food into your day, the junk and negative chatter slip away. Celebrate the small wins and tiny victories, such as packing your lunch every day for a week or drinking eight big glasses of water per day. Reward yourself with a social outing or a relaxing night in. The more fun you can make the journey, the easier the journey is!
CS: Most people look to lose weight by cutting out carbs, slashing fat, or drastically restricting calories, which don’t always work. What healthy eating strategies are going to be most helpful for men?
JS: Instead of depriving your body and experimenting with diets, use my “zigzag” approach to staying balanced and having fun while keeping up with your health goals. When you’re in control of your food and surroundings, you “zig” and eat nourishing food. When you’re not in control, like when you’re at someone else’s house for dinner, you “zag” and eat what they serve you.
CS: Setting weight-loss or fitness goals is always huge when New Year’s Day rolls around, but few manage to stick with it. Why is spring a good opportunity to get back on the horse?
JS: Spring is the time of year when our bodies need the most attention as we’ve just gone through months of being indoors while the winter weather is doing its thing. When spring comes, it’s the perfect invitation to get outdoors on the weekends or during a lunch-break walk and enjoy the beautiful fresh air. Walking offers health benefits like reducing stress, improving attention, and improving mood.
And try other outdoor activities like biking or yoga. It’s so much easier now that the weather is warming up.
CS: It’s pretty typical for people to set a goal of losing 5 pounds, 10 pounds, or whatever the number is. Do you have any suggestions for setting spring weight-loss goals that are less daunting?
JS: Focus on a health-specific result rather than a weight-loss strategy, and weight loss will happen as a side effect of being healthy, not the other way around. Set goals around increasing energy or feeling happier. That way, losing weight will be an added bonus rather than the driving force.
CS: It’s easy to get bogged down in specific nutrients when trying to make better food choices. How can guys make smart decisions without feeling like they need a specialized degree in nutrition?
JS: Deep down, we know what foods make us feel not so great and what foods make us feel vibrant and full of energy. This is going to change with the seasons, your stress levels, and your hormones. Listen to your body and find out what works for you.
Add nutrient-dense foods to your diet before considering removing anything. This way there’s no sense of lack, and the focus is on abundance and filling up on “good” foods rather than removing the “bad” ones that don’t serve you.
CS: The calendar says it’s spring, but the growing season doesn’t always agree. What tips do you have for lightening up your cooking when you don’t have access to all the fantastic spring produce yet?
JS: Fresh veggies are abundant all year round, so work with what you have and slowly creep in more seasonal produce when it lands on your supermarket or local market shelves. If you’re eating on the go, ensure you have some plant-based foods as part of your meals — a side salad or a vegetable and fruit smoothie. There are so many options. You just have to keep your eyes peeled for them.
CS: Snacking is an absolute must for a lot of people to make it through the day, and it’s where many go wrong. What should guys be looking for when it comes to choosing or making a satisfying snack?
JS: You’re more likely to be full and satisfied when you include healthy fats and proteins in your snacks. Avoid refined sugar, think cookies, chips, white breads, and chocolate, or you’ll be left with a huge energy crash. Opt for fun ingredients like pairing edamame and kale or pretzels and cashews. And nuts are always a healthy dose of fats and protein to curb sugar cravings and remain satisfied.
CS: Portions matter a lot as well. What do you do if you finish your allotted portion for a snack or meal and find yourself still hungry?
JS: This is a popular question. Try setting the timer on your phone for 15 minutes. Aim to eat your main meals over a 15-minute window and see how you feel after taking your time to eat the food on your plate. When we live at such a quick pace, it’s easy to eat your food in seconds and, when we do that, our stretch receptors in our stomach haven’t signaled to our brain that we’re full.
My top tip is to slow down the pace. You’ll be so surprised at how full you are with even less food than you’re probably eating currently.
CS: Could you share one or two filling snacks options and maybe a recipe?
JS: Enjoy some toasted rye bread with some hummus or smoked mackerel. On the Graze front, the cocoa and vanilla protein flapjack is a great option and the punchy protein nuts snack is also a great staple. Graze has some new snacks like protein cashew kick, which contains chilli-lime cashews, garlic-sesame sticks, and spicy chickpeas, which is also a hit with men.
Or go with my cashew post-workout bar; all my male clients love it. It’s super easy to make: throw all the ingredients into a food processor and press the mix into a baking tray.
Post-Workout Protein Bar
These no-bake bars are easy to make and adapt. Try the recipe with any of your favorite nuts and dried fruits.
- 1½ cups cashews
- 6 pitted medjool dates
- ½ cup dessicated coconut
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons flaxseeds
- 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- Pinch of salt
- Goji berries, for decorating
Directions: Blend cashews in a food processor until crumbly. Add the dates and blend well to combine. Add the remaining ingredients, except for goji berries. Blend until the mixture becomes sticky and you can squeeze the mixture together with your fingers.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper, then empty the mixture into the pan. Press into an even layer using your fingers.
Top with the goji berries, pressing lightly to adhere. Transfer to the freezer for 30 minutes.
Cut into 10 bars for post-workout snacks.
Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec