ATLANTA — The changing temperatures can mean a rush of recipes and photos of comfort food in our social feeds. Even Google searches for comfort food recipes start to spike as the seasons' switch. 

So is colder weather to blame for such cravings?

11Alive's Liza Lucas verified the research with University of Georgia's Dr. Emma Laing, Clinical Associate Professor and Director of Dietetics.

"Colder weather can create biological changes that make us want to eat more," Dr. Laing said. "When the temperature drops it's natural that we would want to crave foods that provide us warmth. Oftentimes the foods we choose in the winter months are higher in sugar and fats than we would otherwise consume." 

According to Dr. Laing, cooler temperatures can affect hunger in more ways than one.

"Our cues for staying hydrated are also altered in colder temperatures and being dehydrated can also lead to hunger," she said, adding that fewer daylight hours can also lead to extra snacking.

As a result, our Verify team can confirm the colder weather plays a role in how we want to fill our plates. But there are other factors, too, such as seasonal celebrations, fluctuation of hormones and availability of certain foods.  

"In the winter months, we have an abundance of holidays, celebrations and sporting events that are centered on food," Dr. Laing said, "And these alone can impact our eating habits. The cravings are guided by our physiology and psychology and our environment around us."

"Some people experience hormonal fluctuations with seasons and changes in sunlight exposure, and these impact levels of stress, appetite, ability to sleep, and might lead to feeling lethargic.

Those who are sensitive to such changes could have cravings for sugary or energy-dense foods to combat fatigue, Laing said.

"There are also changes in seasonal availability and price of foods, and this can impact what we eat in the winter," she said.

Dr. Laing said succumbing to such cravings isn't necessarily a bad thing "if our diet is otherwise balanced, we stay hydrated and get exercise."

Here are her five tips for eating healthy and staying active this winter:

  1. Select meals and snacks that are high in fiber, such as seasonal fruits and vegetables, beans, peas, and whole grains
  2. Incorporate vegetables, legumes, and lean proteins into soups, chilies, or stews
  3. Make it a priority to stay hydrated in the winter 
  4. Enjoy holiday gatherings with family while being mindful of portion sizes
  5. Engage in a variety of indoor and/or outdoor physical activities that promote cardiovascular health and muscle strengthening


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