Nicki Anderson: Seasons change along with appetite
By Nicki Anderson For The Sun March 18, 2013 6:48PM
Updated: April 21, 2013 6:10AM
I don’t know about you, but once the first snow falls and the daylight is cut short, the foods I crave change dramatically. My morning smoothies are replaced with oatmeal, my lunchtime salads are replaced with soup, and by dinner time, I’m longing for something rich and hearty. There seems to be a consistent shift with my appetite every fall and spring, coincidence? Likely not.
I have learned that one of the culprits of cravings is brain chemistry. Apparently it is affected by the seasons, and it shifts with your body’s biological clock. Brain shift, craving shift.
Another culprit is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), thanks to shorter days. Research shows that SAD kicks up appetite and carbohydrate cravings. Typically those cravings seek out comfort foods. Unfortunately for us, those comfort foods include high sugar, high fat and high calorie choices. Though there is temporary improvement with mood and reduced stress when eating those foods, ultimately that good feeling wears off and the only thing left are feelings of regret.
Additionally, lack of sunlight during the winter months can make people anxious, lethargic and depressed — the perfect storm, which prompts less than healthy food choices. Living in Chicago, we are all too familiar with gloomy days. Some studies suggest that a lack of vitamin D (when sun exposure is limited) also can affect mood and food selections.
Beyond less than healthy fare, winter months also can slow down our exercise and social interactions. There’s no wonder come spring, we’re looking at our bodies and trying to figure out what happened between October and March!
With spring around the corner, hope is near. Days are getting longer, and we’re inspired to find healthier options and get our body in shape just in time for swimming season. In our home, we’ve already started to layout plans for our garden. The thought of fresh lettuce and herbs versus store bought makes my mouth water. Truly, there is nothing better than the first garden salad, nothing.
I’ve often touted the benefits of eating seasonally and why it is important not just from an environmental standpoint, but a physical one as well. Here are some suggestions on getting back on track to healthier eating and a healthier you!
In spring, focus on tender, leafy vegetables that represent the fresh new growth of the spring season. The delicious greens that occur in springtime include spinach, Swiss chard, Romaine lettuce, asparagus, parsley and basil. By summer time, we’re bursting with strawberries, peas, cilantro, tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions.
If you’re not a gardener, try to shop for foods that are in season. It is nature’s way of getting healthy foods that your body needs. To learn more about what produce is in season in the Midwest, visit madebysa.com/food.
If you’ve been out of the exercise groove, now is the time of year when 5K walks are abundant. Walking for a cause is a great motivator. One of the first major walk/runs of the season is 360 Youth Services 5K/10K Spring Ahead run on April 14.
Two Naperville triathlons are coming up, why not train for a tri?
If you really want to kick it up, you can start training for November’s first official half-marathon and full marathon.
It’s never too late to start making healthy changes. With chilly temperatures and less sunlight, winter season plays havoc with our body!
But it’s never too late to get back on track, just take it slow. Learn about seasonal foods and find something everyday that encourages your body to move! Spring is around the corner and there’s no better way to celebrate than with a healthy meal and a nice long walk!
To learn more about walking/running events in Naperville visit, www.naperville.il.us/walkrun.aspx.