Hi Jess, I’ve noticed I feel much hungrier in the cold, winter months, craving larger meals. Is this feeling normal?
It’s not unusual for people to notice changes in their appetite and food cravings during the winter months. The temperature drops, the nights close in, and comfort is at the forefront of our minds. Here’s the reassuring part; these shifts in hunger patterns are completely normal.
If you’re curious about the reasons behind this seasonal change, let’s explore a few factors that may contribute.
Research on the direct impact of cold weather on overall calorie intake is inconclusive, however, natural seasonal diet changes such as a higher food intake in winter – compared to summer – have been observed.
A plausible explanation is that the exposure to colder temperatures prompts the body to work to try and create warmth through processes like shivering and increased metabolic activity. This may then potentially translate to an increased appetite.
Throughout the changes in seasons, our hormones, such as glucocorticoids, ghrelin (the hunger hormone), and leptin (decreases appetite), may fluctuate and affect how much we seek and consume food. As the days get shorter, these hormonal shifts may lead to a stronger desire for food, but, of course, this varies from person to person.
As winter sets in, time outdoors tends to reduce, leading to decreased exposure to sunlight and a subsequent drop in serotonin levels (the happy hormone). To counter the potential effects of seasonal depression, our bodies may crave carbohydrate-rich foods. These foods help the body use tryptophan, an amino acid that can be converted into serotonin, giving a much-needed boost.
The good news is that there are a few tips to help curb the winter hunger:
Prioritise a balanced diet. Ensure your meals incorporate a variety of essential nutrients, including high fibre and high protein foods to sustain energy levels.
Stay hydrated. In colder months, it's easy to forget to drink enough water, but staying well-hydrated can help to manage appetite.
Get outside. A daily dose of sunlight and physical activity can positively influence your mood and increase serotonin levels helping with appetite regulation during the winter.
While it’s completely normal for winter to increase hunger, your body doesn’t actually require a significant increase in food compared to the summer. Various factors from metabolic shifts to hormonal changes and winter blues may influence this, so prioritise nourishing your body with balanced foods, staying hydrated, and making an effort to get outside as much as possible. Even when it’s the last thing you want to do.
Jessica Stansfield, RNutr
Junior Nutrition Manager
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