It’s usually during wintertime that we gain weight – and that we get the flu. Here are some answers to both problems.

Winter weight gain is mostly due to the fact that warm, “comfort” foods are so much more attractive in colder weather.

Compare what you typically eat on a summer’s day:

    • Muesli, fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, an avo-bagel for lunch, macaroni-and-cheese or chicken for dinner, and water, juice and fresh fruit in between

.… with what you eat on a winter’s day:

    • An English breakfast, creamy chicken soup and bread for lunch, and lamb casserole, vegetables and rice for dinner, pudding afterwards, and coffee or hot chocolate in between.

The difference could easily add up to 300 to 500 calories per day. Every extra 7 000 calories you consume and don’t burn through exercise will be stored in and on your body as pure fat – an accumulation that can translate into a 1kg weight gain every two to three weeks.

This winter, follow one of these sets of guidelines to either gain weight or to stay in shape. The choice is yours!

Eat like this to gain weight Eat like this not to gain weight
Eat red meat three to four times per week, with its delicious rinds of fat, and preferably a thick creamy sauce. 300g of beef fillet with half a cup of creamy sauce provides 950 calories. This is 45% of the daily calorie need for an inactive person who weighs 70kg. Eat fatty fish or calamari at least twice a week. These contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have a cholesterol-lowering effect. Seafood generally also provides fewer calories than red meat: 100g of steamed calamari provides 134 calories.
Eat refined carbohydrates, like white bread, rusks and junk food. They’ll provide instant energy, and a sudden drop in blood-glucose levels. This will make you feel low, and increase your craving for something sweet again. Eat “complex” carbohydrates, like fruit, vegetables and whole-wheat bread. The water and fibre content of fruit and vegetables gives you a sense of fullness, while providing a relatively small amount of calories. By substituting fatty foods with five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, you're guaranteed to maintain a healthy weight. Whole-wheat bread also has a high fibre content.
Use deep-frying or frying as cooking methods. Eating the deep-fried crisps of a large potato instead of a baked potato translates to 200 extra calories. Use baking, poaching, steaming or grilling as cooking methods – these require no added oil. If you have to use a drop of oil, rather use olive or canola than sunflower oil. These oils contain less saturated fat, making it a better option in terms of heart health. If you cut your junk food intake and eat one less deep-fried potato, beef patty or chicken thigh (and replace it with a baked or grilled one), even an inactive 70kg person will lose one kilogram per week.
Eat cream-based soup. 100g of cream, added to a pot of soup, adds an additional 345 calories to the dish. Eat vegetable or chicken soup, which contains no cream.
Eat high-fat sugar treats, like shortbread, chocolate cake and pastries. These may contain some unhealthy trans-fatty acids – plus, they’re loaded with empty calories. If an inactive 70kg person consumes five pies a day (440 calories each) or 14 shortbread biscuits (155 calories in total), he/she will gain weight. Eat a handful of dried fruit and/or nuts to satisfy your sweet tooth. Rather bake your own cookies and halve the amount of sugar. This will have little effect on taste and texture, but will reduce calories significantly.
Drink cappuccino or hot chocolate made with cream, full-cream milk and lots of sugar. These are all loaded with fat. Drink tea or coffee that contains fat-free milk and sweeteners (or neither of the two), or drink low-fat hot chocolate without added sugar. A daily intake of two cappuccinos with fat-free milk, instead of full-cream milk translates to 840 less calories per month – and weight loss of a half to one kilogram.

Take action to prevent flu
Not keen to get sick again this year? You can ward of flu and cold germs by boosting your immune system with the right foods. Luckily, the healthy foods are also mostly the low-calorie ones. Focus on including the following:

    • Vitamin C and beta-carotene
      These are two powerful antioxidants that stimulate immune function.
      Foods to include: citrus fruit, cabbage, broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach.

    • Omega-3 fatty acids
      These healthy fats stimulate the production of cytokines, which play an important role in immune response.
      Foods to include: fatty fish, calamari, omega-3 enriched foods (e.g. eggs).

    • Zinc
      This is an essential trace element that stimulates the body to fight infections.
      Foods to include: fish, oysters, poultry, eggs, milk, unprocessed grains and cereals.

    • Pre- and probiotics
      Probiotics: these are cultures of the beneficial bacteria that occur in your intestinal tract.
      Prebiotics: food components that help the beneficial bacteria flourish. Both improve immune function.
      Foods to include: yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, tofu, miso paste (fermented soy), fruit and vegetables.


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