The 9 Most Fattening Foods of Winter
Cold-weather favorites that can lead to winter weight gain.
Controlling weight during the cold, dark days of winter is an issue for most
of us. Studies show that many people gain at least a pound between November and
January. And the worst part: That gain is usually permanent. Blame it on the
cold weather that makes outdoor exercise less appealing, cravings for fattening
comfort foods, and the seemingly endless weeks of holiday celebrating. And of
course, you can hide your expanding waistline under layers of warm clothing.
It's a wonder more of us don't gain more than a pound each winter!
Once you no longer have that youthful metabolism that lets you eat donuts,
French fries, and fried chicken without gaining an ounce, it is time to cut
down -- or even eliminate -- some of the most fattening foods, experts say.
It's certainly OK to splurge on the occasional small portion of a decadent
food, but most adults do better if they stay clear of the temptations.
"Keep in mind that it is easier to keep your weight stable than it is to
take off the pounds" says Jayne Hurley, RD, senior nutritionist for the
nonprofit watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The foods that "talk" to us in winter tend to be hearty comforting
and holiday favorites that are also often packed with artery-clogging fat,
calories, and sodium.
"In summer there is an abundance of light foods, but when winter rolls
around it is natural to want to beef up and yearn for richer foods," says
Katherine Tallmadge, MS, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman.
And, of course, the American way is to have more than just one calorie-rich
dish (witness the popularity of the holiday buffet). Studies show, the greater
the variety, the more we eat.
"If there are 10 types of holiday cookies or several creamed side
dishes, it only makes sense that you want to try them all," says Tallmadge,
"and in the end, a wide variety encourages overeating."
Most Fattening Foods of Winter
So what are the worst winter foods, the calorie-packed culprits that we
should stay away from? The truth, experts say, is that there really are
no "bad" foods. A few bites of even the most fattening food can fit
into your diet. But there certainly are foods that are worse for us than
others. When you check out the nutritional numbers on these foods, keep in mind
that most adults need fewer than 2,000 calories, 65 grams of total fat, and 20
grams of saturated fat each day.
Here are picks from the experts for the nine winter foods most likely to
pack on the pounds:
- Macaroni and cheese. It's an all-time favorite comfort food for both
kids and adults, but it can wreak havoc with your diet. A 12-ounce serving of
Stouffer's macaroni and cheese has 529 calories, 25.7 grams of fat, and 10.6
grams of saturated fat. Calories can climb higher when ingredients like
high-fat meats or sausage are tossed in. And some restaurants even sell
deep-fried mac and cheese as an appetizer! Your best bet when eating out is
simply to find another side dish. At home, "modify the recipe by using a
low-fat cheese, low-fat milk, and stretch it with additional vegetables to
improve the nutritional profile and still taste great," says Liz Weiss,
author of The Mom's Guide to Meal Makeovers.
- Cream-based soups, bisques and chowders. "Warm soups and
chowders feel so nutritious, but if they are loaded with cream, they are also
loaded with calories," says Tallmadge. Soups also tend to be high in
sodium, and if you crumble salty crackers into the bowl or top with cheese, the
sodium level soars even higher. A one-cup serving of Harry's Lobster Bisque
(Costco) has 380 calories, 27 grams of fat, 16 grams saturated fat, and 1,240
milligrams of sodium. The New England clam chowder at Chili's, meanwhile, has
940 calories, 65 grams fat, and 34 grams of saturated fat. "Choose soups
that are broth based, like vegetable or minestrone, and pair it with a salad or
a whole-wheat roll," suggests Tallmadge.
- Cream- and cheese-based casseroles, or those topped with cheese,
bacon, fried onions, or buttered crackers. Who doesn't love the traditional
hash brown casserole, gooey with cheese and potatoes? But brace yourself,
because one serving has 568 calories, 40 grams of fat and 21 grams of saturated
fat -- and this is for a side dish! Creamed, scalloped, and au gratin dishes
may start out with healthy ingredients like broccoli, green beans, or potatoes.
But when you add cream, butter, and canned soups and top them with cheese,
bacon, and/or fried breadcrumbs, you can easily quadruple the calories.
"Shave calories by substituting low-calorie mix-ins such as fat-free sour
cream, low-fat cheese, or reduced-fat soups," says American Dietetic
Association spokeswoman Suzanne Farrell. For a tasty, healthy side dish, try
oven-roasted vegetables -- 6 ounces of oven-roasted new potatoes has just 100
calories and 4.5 grams of fat.
- Cheesecake treats. Cheesecakes are typically loaded with artery
clogging fats. In just one slice of chocolate Oreo mudslide cheesecake from the
Cheesecake Factory, you get 1,050 calories, 71 grams of fat, and 34 grams of
saturated fat. And don't think ordering a muffin will save you when you're
craving a cream-cheese treat. Starbuck's pumpkin cream cheese muffin has 490
calories, 24 grams of fat, and 6 grams of saturated fat. Better to skip these
rich desserts and satisfy your sweet tooth with a 150-calorie Skinny Cow ice
cream cone -- or suck on a peppermint for a mere 20 calories.
- Chili and stews loaded with ground beef, sausage, and/or cheese.
When you make them yourself, with small portions of lean meat, lots of
vegetables and beans and a sprinkle of low-fat cheese, chili and stews can be
nutritious and filling. But when you order them out, beware. At Chili's, a bowl
of chili with cheese will cost you 500 calories, 35 grams of fat, and 15 grams
saturated fat. At Quizno's, the bread bowl chili has 760 calories, 23 grams of
fat, and 7 grams saturated fat. "Stews or chili have the potential to
be very hearty, high in protein, and a great meal as long as you control the
high-fat ingredients such as ground meat, sausage and cheese," says Hurley.
Stick to your own recipe or go to Wendy's for a cup of chili with 220 calories,
6 grams of fat, and 2.3 grams saturated fat (without cheese or crackers).
- Pies topped with whipped cream or ice cream. These winter favorites
often start with healthy ingredients, like heart-healthy nuts or
antioxidant-rich fruits, but they also include high-calorie ingredients.
"Rich, buttery pie crusts on the top and bottom, sweet fillings, and the
customary whipped cream or ice cream topping make these pies decadent and full
of calories," says Farrell. A slice of coconut cream pie at Denny's, for
example, will set you back 701 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 20 grams
saturated fat. Shoney's apple pie a la mode has 1,203 calories, 53 grams
of fat, and 23.7 grams of saturated fat in one serving -- equivalent to the
total daily calories in some weight loss plans. "Skip the crust(s), add a
dollop of light whipped topping, and serve yourself only a sliver" if you
want to enjoy these desserts, suggest Farrell.
- Cookies. Enjoying one small cookie is not a problem. "Most small
(about 1 -2 ounces) cookies are around 200-250 calories, which is not bad if
you eat only one -- but who can stop at one?" asks Tallmadge. The CD-sized
cookies you commonly find at bakeries and restaurants pack a real caloric
punch. At Dunkin' Donuts, the peanut butter cup cookie (4.5 ounces) has 590
calories, 29 grams of fat, and 13 grams saturated fat. At Panera, the
shortbread cookie (2.5 ounces) has 350 calories, 21 grams of fat, and 12 grams
saturated fat. So split it in half, or take along a 100-calorie pack of your
- Fried side dishes -- chili cheese fries, onion rings, and plain old
French fries. Sadly, the most popular vegetable in the U.S. is the
French fry, which is loaded with fat, calories, and salt. Most people
think nothing of adding a side of 6-ounce fries to their order at McDonald's,
even though it adds an additional 570 calories, 30 grams of fat, and 6 grams
saturated fat. Sharing a Chili's Awesome Blossom (1/2 portion) gives you 1,355
calories, 101 grams of fat, and 18 grams saturated fat – all before the entree.
A serving of Del Taco's chili cheese fries has 670 calories, 46 grams fat, and
15 grams saturated fat, while White Castle onion rings have 750 calories, 39
grams of fat, and 6 saturated fat. "Best bet: Have a side salad with
your entrée and skip the high-calorie, deep-fat fried appetizer, and look for
something that is not fried and has vegetables," says Hurley. Think
bruschetta or edamame.
- Creamy pot pies with pastry on the top and bottom. It looks
innocent enough but when you have pastry on the bottom and top, you get a
double dose of high-fat crust plus the filling. The individual Boston Market
chicken pot pie has 780 calories, 47 grams of fat, and 17 grams of saturated
fat. Forget the creamy pie and enjoy a roasted chicken breast and a whole-wheat
roll for a fraction of the calories.