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Q: Why is it that I always seem to eat more in the winter?

A:  You are not alone. There are both biological explanations and psychological reasons why we seem to crave more food during the winter months. The obvious rationale for increased food consumption is the holiday season which starts at Halloween and runs through to the spring celebrations. Whether we reach for the calorically dense comfort foods from our childhood, or we are feasting on seasonal treats, food is deeply rooted in our culture, and it is readily available. People tend to stay home when the weather is cold and nasty, and the pandemic has only magnified the situation. The weather not only disrupts outside activities, but being stuck inside contributes to mindless eating, whether out of habit or just sheer boredom. Our biological makeup is geared to prepare us for survival during long, cold winters. Cold weather leads to a drop in body temperature which can, in turn, induce the urge to eat more. This may account for food cravings, specifically carbohydrates, fats, and sugars, during the wintry weather. Perhaps this factor influences our tendency to stock up on food when there is a pending snowstorm! Research shows that decreased sunshine can play a role as to why people eat more in the winter. Less daylight leads to a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. SAD is associated with decreased vitamin D and low serotonin levels. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that impacts our mood, is influenced by dietary intake. People suffering from SAD tend to crave carbohydrates, which in turn can boost levels of serotonin to enhance mood. In addition to the psychological and biological reasons we may crave foods, it is no secret that winter dishes are traditionally heavier and heartier than a light summer meal. Be proactive this winter and check out Tips for Winter Meal Planning at Nutrition 101.

Have another Nutrition question? Ask our Dietitian.

Jill Kwasny

Registered Dietitian