9 Simple Swaps to Prevent Winter Weight Gain

With school starting again and you running around like a crazy person, packing lunches and helping with never-ending homework assignments, you'd think you'd lose weight each September. Alas, on average, we each gain a full two (yes, TWO!) pounds during this busy month.

It's not just from eating your kiddo's lunch box leftovers. Your body's got to begin adjusting to cooler weather and less daylight. You may have less time to be active, plus more opportunities to overeat (hello, holidays!) and indulge in calorie-heavy comfort foods, notes Marci Clow, MS, a registered dietitian and senior nutritionist at Rainbow Light.

"Some people also experience seasonal affective disorder," she adds, "which is a type of depression that may cause people to eat more when it's cooler and darker outside."

That said, "you can't pinpoint a particular food as a villain, especially if eaten in moderation," notes Clow. "I'm a firm believer that all -- or most -- foods can be part of a healthy diet, if eaten on occasion and in small portions."

The problem with weight gain isn't necessarily what you eat, she adds, "but the sheer volume of food that tastes so good you keep eating more."

With that in mind, here are some ways to stay out of this fall's weight gain trap.


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  • Halloween Candy

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    For some of us (not pointing any fingers!), "candy's one of those favorite guilty pleasures that when denied, you end up overindulging," says Clow.

    If you find it tough to stay out of your kiddo's Halloween bag (or the office candy jar), "plan your indulgences," Clow suggests. Love peanut butter cups? Allow yourself one mini per day. "This way you have less of it, but still get the taste you crave," Clow says.

  • Hearty Soups

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    Finding substitutes to lighten up heavy comfort foods like potato soup or clam chowder is easier than you think.

    Use lower-fat milk-based soups and replace sour cream with plain Greek yogurt, suggests Clow. You can also try thickening and adding creaminess with pureed carrots, cannellini beans, potatoes, or tofu.

  • Caramel Apples

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    "It's not so bad to indulge in a traditional caramel apple on occasion," Clow reassures, "but you shouldn't make it a habit because they're loaded with sugar."

    For a treat with far fewer calories, Clow recommends a healthy Caramel Yogurt Dip made with plain yogurt, maple syrup, and date or brown sugar.

    More from CafeMom: 11 No-Sugar Halloween Treats the Kids Will Be Screaming For (PHOTOS)

  • Gooey Grilled Sandwiches

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    Whether your pleasure is grilled brie and apple, a greasy Philly cheese steak, or Nutella and, well, anything, gooey, thick sandwiches can instantly negate all the barre classes you did over the summer.

    But sandwiches can actually be a great choice, so long as they're stuffed with the "right" things, says Clow. Instead of loading slabs of bread with meat and cheese, opt for grilled vegetables, leafy greens, and hummus in a whole wheat pita.

  • Chili

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    No need to forfeit your spot in the chili cook-off. Just lose the meat, Clow says, and try a vegetarian recipe or substitute ground chicken or turkey. "Add extra nutrients with sliced carrots, chunks of pumpkin and don't forget the beans."

    More from CafeMom: Dinner for $5: Thick & Chunky Lentil Chili Is Ready In 1 Hour

  • Soup in a Bread Bowl

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    Here's a surprise: It's not necessarily the bread that's the calorie culprit in this scenario, "but the creamy soup it contains," Clow points out.

    Try a variety that isn't cream-based like minestrone. Oh! And don't eat the whole bowl, advises Clow, "but perhaps just the part that's soaked in the broth."

  • Stuffing

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    Don't break Grandma's heart by refusing to eat her stuffing at Thanksgiving. Instead, Clow says, try a whole grain stuffing made with wild rice or quinoa as an alternative.

  • Pumpkin Pie

    Image via Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

    Pumpkin, aside from being delicious, is a nutrient-rich veggie, loaded with beta-carotene, fiber, and phytonutrients, says Clow. (Plus the eggs and milk in P-pie provide protein.)

    Still, to cut calories, you can use evaporated nonfat milk or fat-free half-and-half in your recipe. You can also half the sugar while adding extra vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger to intensify sweetness.

  • Mashed Potatoes

    Image via WilliamEdwards14/Shutterstock

    Instead of cream and butter, "try boiling your taters in chicken broth," suggests Clow. "When they're soft enough, don't drain them, just mash them up." Some people swear that mashed cauliflower tastes exactly the same.

    More from CafeMom: What Your Thanksgiving Dinner Say About You

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