If you are finding yourself nibbling before dinner, and craving sweets after dinner, you are not alone! The short days and long nights can lead to what we call ‘Seasonal Eating Disorder’ - you can feel like a bear packing on the weight to get ready for hibernation! Researchers believe the cravings are tied to a drop in serotonin levels, due to the decreased daylight. You can feel tired, cranky, and out-of-control, and all that extra snacking can add up to hundreds of extra calories, and “weight creep.”
In addition to appetite changes, holiday meals and treats make the challenge even tougher. If you are in charge of preparing a holiday meal, or even tonight’s dinner, you probably know how easy it is to taste and snack while you are cooking. You can end up eating hundreds of extra calories before you even start the official meal. Even worse, if you are hungry while preparing the meal, and try to hold off on snacking, you may find you are starving and ‘out of control’ by the time you serve dinner, and end up eating FAR more than you meant to! Fortunately, there is an easy fix for both of these problems.
A high-protein, tasty, low calorie snack can really ‘save the day’ while you are cooking or waiting for the big meal. Studies show that protein can calm your appetite, quell your cravings, and put you back in control. Protein can actually raise your metabolism slightly, and help you eat fewer calories at dinner and afterward (and studies show that eating snacks with liquid volume such as soup before dinner can result in the consumption of 20 % fewer calories.) Try pairing 'finger fruits' and vegetables such as red grapes, cherry tomatoes, sliced peppers, with a good high protein/low fat complement, such as low fat cheese (try Cabot 75 % fat free, or low fat cheese sticks) or 0% fat Greek yogurt turned into a 'dip'. We also have a variety of easy, delicious treats that meet the requirement - with only 80 calories and 15 grams of protein. Our special high-protein (low sodium) soups, hot chocolate, and high-protein decaf cappuccinos, are simple ways to meet the need. Sip while you cook, before dinner. If you're interested you can see some options on seacoastnutrition.com .
The same tactics are also useful to stop after-dinner cravings. With the short days, and long nights, many people notice that they find themselves wandering around the kitchen looking for something sweet or ‘carby’ after they’ve finished supper. They try to fight the urge, but end up eating hundreds of calories of sweet treats. What to do? When it comes to cravings: “Don’t join them, beat them!” You can still treat yourself to a snack and not sabotage all of your hard work. Satisfy your ‘need for sweet’, while giving yourself the boost of protein (studies show it has a mental stimulant effect, as well as a metabolic stimulant effect), and save yourself calories. Instead of binging on Double Stuff Oreos, choose one of our delicious, sweet, high-protein lower calorie bars or snacks. We have had many creative suggestions and recipes from our patients - read on for ideas.
1. Cut a protein bar into bite-sized pieces (cookie-sized, instead of cookies!)
2. Try one of our new fun snacks - Protein Party Mix (like Chex mix - only low calorie, and high protein), crispy Pizza snacks, and our new Cinnamon Swirls and Chocolate Bites! So delicious, fun, and healthful.
3. Cut one of your protein bars into bite size pieces, then crumble it, and mix with air popped popcorn.
4. Pair our delicious high-protein hot chocolate with air-popped popcorn - satisfying, fun, and it takes a while to eat and drink!
Other evening tips: try to keep yourself busy, instead of eating! Try a short exercise session before or after dinner. Find a new hobby to occupy yourself (it’s hard to eat while knitting.) Remove any tempting junk food from the house, or at least hide it on a top shelf, out of reach. Try reading a book with a nice cup of herbal tea. Find something creative to do with your partner. And if all else fails, post a note on your refrigerator which says: “Go to Bed, Instead!” (Beth’s quote!)
You can also try these easy, satisfying, tasty treats on Snow Days. After playing outdoors with kids or friends, treat yourself to Protein Hot Chocolate, or Protein Cappuccino, or our delicious low-sodium high-protein soups. A warm and tasty way to meet your nutritional and taste needs.
1. N Engl J Med. 2010 Nov 25;363(22):2102-13. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1007137. Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance. “ In this large European study, a modest increase in protein content and a modest reduction in the glycemic index led to an improvement in study completion and maintenance of weight loss.” (Funded by the European Commission; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00390637.). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21105792
2.. 1990;39 Suppl 3:49-52. Carbohydrate craving. Relationship between carbohydrate intake and disorders of mood. “ The brain neurotransmitter, serotonin, seems to be involved in the abnormal regulation of mood and food intake that underlies diet failures or weight gain in individuals who suffer from carbohydrate craving obesity (CCO), premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). All 3 syndromes are characterized by episodic bouts of increased carbohydrate consumption and depressed mood.”
3.. American Society for Nutrition, Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men1,2,3,4Belinda S Lennerz, et al “Compared with an isocaloric low-GI meal, a high-GI meal...increased hunger, and selectively stimulated brain regions associated with reward and craving in the late postprandial (after-meal) period, which is a time with special significance to eating behavior at the next meal.” This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01064778.
4.Int J Obes (Lond). 2009 Mar;33(3):296-304. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.278. Epub 2009 Jan 20. Claessens M, van Baak MA, Monsheimer S, Saris WH.
The effect of a low-fat, high-protein or high-carbohydrate ad libitum diet on weight loss maintenance and metabolic risk factors. “These results show that low-fat, high-casein or whey protein weight maintenance diets are more effective for weight control than low-fat, HC (high carb) diets and do not adversely affect metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors in weight-reduced moderately obese subjects without metabolic or cardiovascular complications.”
5. Eating Soup Will Help Cut Calories At Meals Science Daily, May 2, 2007"Consuming a first-course of low-calorie soup, in a variety of forms, can help with managing weight, as is shown in this research and earlier studies.”
6. Cara B. Ebbeling et al. Effects of Dietary Composition on Energy Expenditure During Weight-Loss Maintenance.JAMA, June 27, 2012 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2012.6607