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Healthy Eating

Sidestep Winter Weight Gain

A few tweaks to your diet and exercise plan can pay off big when it comes to staying slim over the holidays and throughout winter

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You open the front door to embark upon your regular morning run and are met with blowing snow and wailing wind-your run is now a slog, and a short one. Dark has fallen long before dinner time, and a lean chicken breast and steamed vegetables hold no allure. Instead, you crave a hot, creamy chicken pot pie with a buttery crust. And the weekends you spent outdoors engaged in vigorous pursuits are just a faint green memory of summer past.

And that’s how easy it is to pack on the pounds during the late fall and winter months. By imperceptible degrees, the burgeoning fat inserts itself around your middle and secretively distributes itself over your thighs. Suddenly you’re using the next belt hole and wondering why your jeans have gotten so tight.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little discipline, some planning, and a firm resolve, you can beat back the wolves of winter weight. All it takes is a few new strategies for exercising and eating right.

Exercise strategies

Now is definitely the time to finally get that gym membership you’ve been talking about, or to join your local Y. The outdoors is out, so you’ll have to burn your calories indoors for a while. You don’t need to spend a fortune, basic equipment will do-a treadmill and Stairmaster, a mat for sit-ups, and you’re in business. Perhaps you want to splurge and get your very own elliptical machine and stash it in the basement. Or plant yourself in front of your TV with an exercise DVD.

But whether you decide to exercise in a gym or at home, the real trick is to schedule workout times, and stick to them. There will be endless distractions and seemingly good reasons to postpone. You know inner negotiations. “I have too much to do right now, but I’ll do an extra 20 minutes tomorrow.” But chances are, you won’t. So like the iconic ad campaign: “Just Do It.” On a regular schedule. And make a real effort not to skip exercise sessions.

Chef Neil’s Take on Diet

Something about gray, cold, wet days and nights just seems to cry out for heavy, comforting, fat-filled meals, and snacks in between. Fight it.

As always, start with a good breakfast. Oatmeal and fruit is great-and make it comforting with locally sourced honey, not cream. Scrambled eggs are just as good with half the yolks sent down the garbage disposal, and toast is just as crunchy and satisfying without the butter.

There’s no rule that says that salads are only for warm weather; all you have to do is add a winter root vegetable and a legume and you’ve got a hearty lunch, or a perfect side dish for roasted chicken. You’re on the move? A protein shake is quick, delicious, and infinitely preferable to a fat-laden offering from that drive-through joint down the road.

Winter is also the time to break out the slow cooker for some easy comfort food that will satisfy the soul and spare the waistline. Toss in a protein, some vegetables, a few herbs, and a little broth, then fire that puppy up; come dinner time, you’ll be glad you did.

Yes, it takes a little more planning and a little more persistence, but you can defeat the doldrums of winter with just a few tweaks to your daily routines. And come January 1, you’ll be able to strike “Lose Weight” from your list of New Year’s resolutions.

Roasted Beet & Chickpea Salad
Serves 4

This robust side salad pairs perfectly with roast chicken breasts. Or, it’s hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian entrée (serves 2 as a main course).

2 medium beets, tops and tails removed

4 Tbs. olive oil, divided

2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbs. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. ground cumin

2 cups baby spinach leaves

2 cups romaine lettuce, torn into pieces

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

2/3 cup cooked organic chickpeas

1/4 cup crumbled low-fat Valbreso French feta cheese (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Moisten beets with 1 Tbs. olive oil, place on foil-covered baking pan, loosely tent with second piece of foil, and roast until tender, about 1 hour. Allow to cool, then peel beets, and cut into cubes. Can be refrigerated overnight.
  2. In small jar, combine lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and cumin, and shake to blend. Add remaining olive oil, and shake thoroughly to mix. Can be refrigerated overnight.
  3. Toss spinach, romaine, and red onion with just enough dressing to lightly moisten in large bowl. Add salt & pepper to taste. Distribute salad among four serving plates. In same bowl, toss beets and chickpeas with dressing, and add to plated salads. Top with crumbled feta, if desired.

PER SERVING: 171 cal; 4g pro; 12g total fat (2g sat fat); 14g carb; 0mg chol; 138mg sod; 4g fiber; 4g

Power-Packed Shake Tropicale
Serves 1

This delicious, lean shake makes a perfect meal replacement to stave off the pangs of hunger and keep that belt size down.

1/2 cup pineapple juice

1/2 cup water

1 scoop Bluebonnet Nutrition Whey Protein Isolate, French Vanilla

1/3 cup chopped fresh pineapple

1/3 cup chopped papaya

1 small kiwifruit, peeled & chopped

1/3 cup vanilla non-fat Greek yogurt

Combine ingredients in blender. Purée and enjoy!

PER SERVING: 324 cal; 35g pro; 1g total fat (<1g sat fat); 46g carb; 0mg chol; 96mg sod; 4g fiber; 33g sugars