Fighting culprits of winter weight gain

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Registered Dietitian Althea Zanecosky says there's several culprits when it comes to winter weight gain. (WPVI)

Registered Dietitian Althea Zanecosky sees it all the time, and says there's several culprits when it comes to winter weight gain.

First, we got a head start during the holidays. Foods like cookies, cakes and candy was seemingly everywhere.

Now that it's cold outside, it takes more motivation to move and exercise.

"We tend to come home from school or work and once we're in, we're in. When it's cold, it's very difficult to get outside," said Zanecosky.

Zanecosky also says some research points to a biological reason - the hibernation theory.

"When the daylight becomes shorter or less intense, our bodies are programmed to say I don't know where the food is going to be, I better start to eat more to build up my fat reserves," said Zanecosky.

This may have worked for the cavemen, but most Americans today don't have to hunt for food.

Plus, less daylight can also lead to feeling down, which can lead to craving comfort foods.

Certain foods stimulate parts of our brain that make us feel better. But those foods typically don't include broccoli and Brussels sprout.

"Generally they are foods that are high in sugar and carbs," said Zanecosky.

Things like chocolate, mac and cheese and pizza. Zanecosky says you can still indulge, but suggests making substitutions.

For mac and cheese, she says go for low-fat cheese and add vegetables.

"This way you're lowering the calories, lowering the fat and pumping up the volume in terms of nutrition," said Zanecosky.

Same goes for other pasta dishes. Adding veggies will help you eat less of the bad stuff. Adding protein, like lean chicken or fish, will also keep you feeling fuller longer.

As for those chocolate cravings, Zanecosky says heat up chocolate milk, add cinnamon and, instead of marshmallows, top with whipped cream.

"You're getting that chocolate fix, but I'm also adding some calcium and protein and lowering the amount of sugar and fat," said Zanecosky.

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