Did you feel miserable the minute the clocks went back? If so, you’re not alone. According to a Danish study last year, in the month following the shift from daylight saving time to standard time (the equivalent of the UK’s transition from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time at the end of October), scientists found an eight per cent increase in the number of people diagnosed with depression.
But it’s not just our moods that are affected by cold days, dark nights and miserable weather. The autumn and winter months can affect our waistlines, too, thanks to a change in our eating and exercise habits that often happens with the shift in the seasons. Indeed, in a study of almost 600 adults, the highest calorie intake was seen in early November, and the lowest in early May, with a daily difference of 86 calories. There was even greater variation amongst 40-50 year-olds, who had an extra 134 calories in the autumn when compared with the spring. Unsurprisingly, studies suggest we probably don’t get these extra calories from healthier options like fruit and veg.
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Studies show that in the colder months we often eat more carbohydraterich foods and have higher intakes of fat and saturates. There is good news, though. According to a BUPA survey in 2015, it’s not chocolate, crisps and sweets that are our favourite comfort foods (although apple crumble, ice cream and sticky toffee pud were in the top 10)! Instead, our favourites are roast dinners, fish and chips, sausage and mash, shepherd’s pie and spaghetti Bolognese! That’s a potential bonus for our waistline because these dishes can be transformed into healthier, lower-calorie versions that can be included in a plan to help us lose weight! So we’ve done just that. Our eating plan is based on all your favourites and is packed with nutrient-rich foods to help boost your mood and energy levels. But best of all, in just one month you can expect to lose up to 8lb – and that really will give you something to smile about.
HOW THE PLAN WORKS
1 Choose one breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack every day. Vary your choices to make sure you get a variety of nutrients.
2 As well as your meals and treat, have an extra 300ml skimmed milk every day – use this to make skinny cappuccinos or lattes, or mix it with fruit from the menus and a little vanilla essence or cinnamon to make a creamy milkshake.
3 Eat plenty of veg – for a warming alternative to salad, spritz them with a spray oil, then roast or cook them with reduced-salt stock to make a soup.
4 Have 6-8 glasses of water a day. For a hot drink, mix boiling water with sugar-free blackcurrant squash and a slice of lemon.
Breakfasts (AROUND 300 CALORIES)
1 small wholegrain roll filled with 1 tsp lowfat spread, 2 grilled rashers lean bacon and 1 tsp reduced sugar and salt tomato ketchup.
Almond and banana porridge V:
Bowl of porridge made from 4 tbsp oats and 275ml unsweetened almond milk topped with 1 tsp no added sugar or salt almond butter and 1 banana.
Bagel and Marmite V:
1 toasted wholegrain bagel with 2 tsp lowfat spread and Marmite. Plus 1 satsuma.
Cereal and hot milk V:
6 tbsp Shreddies and 1 banana with hot skimmed milk. Plus 1 small glass of orange juice.
Toast and peanut butter V:
2 slices wholegrain toast with 2 tsp peanut butter. Scrambled egg, smoked salmon and baby spinach on toast 1 slice wholegrain toast with 1 tsp low-fat spread
and 2 eggs scrambled with 2 slices smoked salmon and 1 handful baby spinach.
Creamy raisin cereal V:
6 tbsp branflakes and 1 tbsp raisins topped with 1 small pot fat-free Greek yoghurt.
Full English breakfast
2 grilled rashers lean back bacon, 2 tomatoes and 1 handful poached mushrooms fried in a spray oil, 2 tbsp reduced sugar and salt baked beans and 1 poached egg.
Lunches (AROUND 400 CALORIES)
Bean soup and cheesy bread V:
½ carton fresh bean soup with 3 thin slices granary baguette topped with 3 tbsp grated reduced-fat Cheddar, popped under the grill until the cheese melts. Plus
1 pot fat-free Greek yoghurt mixed with 1 handful blueberries.
Tuna mayo and sweetcorn jacket potato:
1 large jacket potato with ½ tin tuna in water (drained) mixed with 2 tbsp sweetcorn and 2 tsp light mayo with salad and balsamic vinegar.
Toasted mozzarella and tomato panini V:
1 panini filled with ½ small ball reduced-fat mozzarella, 1 tomato and fresh basil, toasted until the cheese melts. Plus 1 apple.
Beans on toast V:
2 slices wholegrain toast with 2 tsp low-fat spread and 1 small pot reduced sugar and salt baked beans. Plus 1 orange.
Cheese and mushroom omelette V:
Omelette made using a spray oil, 2 eggs, 1 handful sliced mushrooms and 3 tbsp grated reduced-fat Cheddar, served with an 8cm piece granary baguette. Plus 1
Chicken and avo wrap:
1 wholemeal wrap filled with ½ small avocado mashed with a little garlic, lemon juice and chilli sauce, 1 grilled skinless chicken breast and a handful of
Homemade veggie pizza V:
Halve a 10cm piece granary baguette lengthways. Top the cut sides with 4 tbsp low-fat tomato sauce, ½ sliced red pepper, ½ small red onion, 3 sliced mushrooms,
mixed herbs, black pepper and ½ ball torn reducedfat mozzarella. Bake until hot and the cheese has melted. Serve with mixed leaves and balsamic vinegar.
Steak, pepper and rocket baguette:
10cm piece of granary baguette filled with 1 grilled thin lean minute steak, 1 roasted red pepper from a jar and a handful of rocket. Plus 1 small pot fatfree
Fish finger sandwich:
2 slices wholegrain bread filled with 2 tsp tartare sauce, 3 grilled fish fingers, shredded lettuce and 1 tomato.
Warm potato, mackerel and omato salad:
Salad made from 4 warm boiled new potatoes in their skins, 1 cooked smoked mackerel fillet, 6 cherry tomatoes, 2 radishes, 2 spring onions, fresh chives, 1
handful baby spinach, black pepper and 1 tbsp reduced-fat crème fraiche.
Dinners (AROUND 500 CALORIES)
Veggie spaghetti Bolognese V:
Fry 100g Quorn mince with crushed garlic to taste and 1 small sliced onion in a spray oil until brown. Add 1 sliced carrot, 1 handful sliced mushrooms, ½ can
chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp tomato puree, mixed herbs, black pepper, 3 tbsp red wine and 200ml reducedsalt beef stock. Simmer until the veg are soft and the sauce
thickened. Serve with 150g cooked wholewheat spaghetti and 1 tbsp vegetarian-style Parmesan.
Homemade fish and chips:
Cut 1 unpeeled potato into thick chip-shaped pieces and brush with oil. Dip 1 chunky cod fillet in 2 tsp seasoned flour, followed by beaten egg and 3 tbsp
breadcrumbs. Bake both in a preheated oven until cooked through and serve with 2 tbsp peas and a lemon wedge. Sausage, mash and gravy: Serve 2 grilled low-fat
or vegetarian sausages with 1 potato, mashed with skimmed milk, steamed broccoli and 5 tbsp reduced-salt gravy.
Creamy mushroom tagliatelle V:
Fry 1 chopped small onion with garlic and 2 handfuls sliced chestnut mushrooms in 1 tsp olive oil until soft. Add 5 tbsp dry white wine and 100ml reduced-salt
vegetable stock. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add 200g cooked tagliatelle, 4 tbsp reducedfat crème fraiche and chopped fresh tarragon and heat
through, without letting the mixture boil. Serve with salad.
Put 100g cubed lean beef, 1 sliced carrot, 1 small onion, garlic to taste, black pepper, a bay leaf, 3 tbsp red wine and enough reduced-salt beef stock to
cover in a small casserole dish. Cover and place in a preheated oven for around 3 hours until cooked through. Serve with 1 potato, mashed with skimmed milk,
and steamed green beans.
Roast lamb dinner:
2 slices lean roast lamb with 2 medium-sized roast potatoes, steamed carrots, broccoli and cabbage, 1 tbsp mint sauce and fat-free gravy. Vegetable noodles
with cashew nuts V: Make a stir fry from 2 tsp sunflower oil, chopped garlic, ginger and chilli to taste, ½ bag stir fry veg, a splash of reduced-salt soy
sauce, 1 tbsp unsalted cashew nuts and 1 individual pack wok-ready noodles. Plus 1 handful blueberries.
Vegetable and rice chilli V:
Chop 1 small onion, ½ red and green pepper, 1 carrot and 1 courgette. Fry the veg in 2 tsp sunflower oil with garlic and fresh chilli or chilli powder to
taste, until browned and starting to soften. Add ½ tin kidney beans in water (drained), ½ tin chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp tomato puree and 200ml reduced-salt
vegetable. Simmer until the veg are soft and the sauce thickened. Stir in 3 tbsp cooked brown rice and serve with 1 tbsp reducedfat crème fraiche.
Curried chicken wrap:
Marinate 1 skinless chicken breast in ½ small pot fat-free Greek yoghurt mixed with curry powder, garlic, ginger and lemon juice to taste, for 30 minutes.
Grill, then slice and serve in 1 wholemeal wrap with ½ diced red onion, 1 chopped tomato, the remaining Greek yoghurt mixed with grated cucumber and fresh mint
and coriander. Plus 1 satsuma. Salmon and broccoli pasta with pesto: Mix 180g wholewheat penne with 2 handfuls steamed broccoli florets, ½ tin pink salmon and
1 tbsp green pesto. Serve with mixed leaves and balsamic vinegar.