Dietitians are warning the side-effects of a winter 'vege out' could last well beyond the turn of the season.
According to research published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, just one month of overeating and being less active can have weight gain effects that last for years .
The Swedish researchers asked volunteers to over-eat fast foods and limit their exercise for four weeks, expecting them to put on weight but then return to their normal weight at the end of the study.
But after two-and-half years the study participants were still more than three kilos heavier than when the study began.
Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) spokesperson Pip Golley said: 'It may be tempting to curl up on the couch and reach for comfort foods over the cooler months. But this study found even a short period of overeating and lack of exercise may affect body fat levels and make it harder to lose weight and stay trim long-term.'
She said taking steps to avoid weight gain, regardless of the time of year, is easier than trying to shed unwanted kilos down the track.
'Winter is a time of year when some people pull out the baggy clothes and give themselves permission to relax their healthy routine. But this is how the kilos creep on, and sadly this extra weight can hang around for months or years to come,' said Ms Golley, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
She said some basic diet survival strategies could help Australians avoid winter weight gain.
10 ways to . . . avoid extra winter kilos
• Eat a healthy breakfast. Research shows that people who eat breakfast are a healthier weight than those who skip breakfast.
• Keep an eye on portion sizes. Doing this at every meal is a sure-fire way to lower your energy (kilojoule) intake. Try usingplates and bowls.
• Snack smart. Swap a blueberry muffin for two slices of lightly buttered thin raisin toast - and save 800kJ.
• Choose comfort foods wisely. Try porridge with reduced-fat milk and fruit, and slow-cooked casseroles (made with lean meat and vegetables).
• Choose healthy drinks. Piping hot drinks are a great way to stay warm, but use reduced-fat milk and limit added sugar.
• Lighten up desserts. Try a baked apple with reduced-fat custard.
• Keep up a regular exercise routine. Have some 'winter' weather options to fall back on, such as an exercise DVD.
• Keep a food diary. Become more mindful of your eating and exercise routine.
• Recruit a support team. Find at least one person (friend, family member, work colleague, Accredited Practising Dietitian) who will support and cheer you on over winter.
• Celebrate your success. If you succeed at keeping your weight steady over winter, reward yourself with non-food rewards, such as a massage, a new CD or a long soak in the bath.
Source: The Dietitians Association of Australia www.daa.asn.au