THE BLOG

Watching the Waistline in Winter

01/18/2013 08:53 am ET | Updated Mar 20, 2013

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 dinnertime, and a lean chicken breast and steamed vegetables hold no allure -- you crave a hot, creamy chicken pot pie with a buttery crust. And the weekends spent outdoors in the park, engaging in vigorous pursuits, these are a faint green memory of summer past -- now you are trapped inside, planted in front of the TV set for hours on end.

And thus, how easy it becomes to pack on the pounds during the cruel months of winter. By imperceptible degrees, 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 are so much tighter than you realized.

Fear not... With a little discipline, a little 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

Maybe now is the time to finally get that gym membership you've been talking about, or join your local Y. The outdoors is out -- you'll have to burn your calories indoors for a while. You don't need to spend a fortune, the most basic equipment will do -- a couple of treadmills and stairmasters, 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, but standing up this time with plenty of room to move, and an exercise DVD blasting away.

No matter whether you are in a gym or at home, here's the trick -- schedule workout times, and stick to them. There will be endless distractions and seemingly good reasons to postpone, and you'll cleverly negotiate with yourself -- "I have too much to do right now, but I'll do an extra 20 minutes tomorrow." You won't. As the iconic ad campaign so succinctly advises: "Just do it."

Eat Right

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 some roast 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.

And now is the time to break out that crock-pot that your Aunt Bernice gave you as a wedding present, to make some easy, clean 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 dinnertime, 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 next January 1, you'll be able to strike "lose weight" from your list of New Year's resolutions!

Power-Packed Shake Tropicale

This delicious and 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 vanilla protein powder
1/3 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1/3 cup chopped papaya
1 small kiwifruit, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup vanilla non-fat Greek yoghurt

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Puree. Enjoy!

Roasted Beet and Chickpea Salad

Makes an excellent vegetarian main course, or a robust side salad for some roast chicken breasts...

2 medium beets, tops and tail removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup cooked organic chickpeas
2 cups baby spinach leaves
2 cups romaine lettuce, torn into pieces
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup crumbled low-fat Valbreso French feta (optional)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons olive oil

In advance:

Preheat oven to 375. Moisten outside of beets with 1 tablespoon of olive oil; place on a foil-covered baking pan, loosely tent with another piece of foil, and roast until tender, about 1 hour. Cool, then peel and cut into cubes. Can be refrigerated overnight.

Make dressing: In a small jar, combine lemon juice, vinegar mustard and cumin, shake to blend; add olive oil, shake thoroughly to mix. Can be refrigerated overnight.

To serve: In a large bowl, toss spinach, romaine and red onion with just enough dressing to lightly moisten, add salt and pepper to taste; distribute between two plates. In same bowl, toss beets and chickpeas with a little dressing, then add to plated salads. If splurging a little, top with crumbled feta.

Serves two as a main course, four as a side salad.

A version of this post appears in my "Eat Smart" column in the November issue of Better Nutrition Magazine.

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