Selected Podcast

Breaking Through: 4 Signs You’re in a Winter Food Rut

Breaking Through: 4 Signs You’re in a Winter Food Rut
Even though the worst days of winter are far behind you, it still can seem like there's no end in sight.

Seeing the end of the tunnel can seem a little blurry when the weather is still gloomy, cold, and dark.

Unfortunately, winter months may also bring weight gain. In fact, a poll posted in the Daily Mail reported that 59 percent of women gained an average of 4.5 pounds in the winter months, and blamed the winter days for increasing their cravings of high-calorie comfort foods.

As we move in to spring, there are tons of produce options that become newly available, and other varieties that peak in every month of the year. For example, during the month of March, asparagus, rhubarb, avocado, sprouts, and artichokes are newly in season.

What are some signs you're in a winter food rut?
  • You're not enjoying cooking as much as you used to.
  • You prepare the same simple meals weekly.
  • You're eating frozen, unhealthy but convenient meals.
  • You're eating out more frequently.
What are some foods that can get you out of a food rut?

Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, shares four signs you're in a winter food rut and some foods that can help you get out of it.
Featured Speaker:
Abbie Gellman, MS, RD
Abbie GellmanAbbie Gellman, MS, RD, is a professionally trained chef and Registered Dietitian. Abbie has over 10 years of hospitality and food and beverage consulting experience and nearly 10 years of nutrition-related experience.

She received a Master of Science degree in Nutrition from Teachers College, Columbia University and completed a dietetic internship at New York – Presbyterian Hospital in NYC. Abbie holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration and earned her Culinary Degree from Peter Kump's New York Cooking School (now known as ICE).

In addition to working with a wide variety of food service operators, Abbie also counsels and educates patients and groups in a private practice setting and cooks privately for individual clients.

RadioMD Presents:HER Radio | Original Air Date: March 5, 2015
Host: Michelle King Robson and Pam Peeke, MD

Dr. Pam Peeke. New York Times' best-selling author and founder of the Peeke Performance Center and Michelle King Robson, leading women's advocate, entrepreneur and founder of, host the show everyone's talking about. It's time for HER Radio.

PAM: I'm Dr. Pam Peeke with Michelle Robson, who's on travel.

Alright. It's a winter food rut. You know the feeling. Oh, where is some new food? I'm getting tired of seeing the white stuff outside. It's cold. How do you get out of this mess?

Well, of course, we're going to hear from our "go to" chef, Chef Abby Gellman, who is a culinary nutritionist. That means she's both a registered dietician at the Master's level as well as a certified chef. She knows about it and she cooks. Oh, my gosh. It's a two-fer in one person.

Alright. Chef Abby, here we are in the middle of the winter and just praying for spring, but we're in a rut. What are the four signs you're in that winter food rut?

CHEF ABBY: Four signs? I'd say the big ones are you're feeling really low energy, just kind of "blah". You can't get yourself off the couch. You don't really want to motivate to do much which leads to feeling depressed. That's probably maybe a second big one. You're feeling moody, depressed. Maybe you just are feeling kind of "blah" all the time.

PAM: Well, as you're going into this food rut, you know, when I'm thinking of a food rut, I'm thinking definitely this low energy and all the rest of it.

CHEF ABBY: Oh, yes.

PAM: However, oh, my gosh. We're still eating the same frozen, unhealthy convenient meals. We're eating out more frequently because we're just getting so tired of having the cabin fever and it's the same simple meals every week. We're just not enjoying the cooking thing. Help, Chef Abby!

What are we going to do about this? Let's go for it.

CHEF ABBY: Alright. First things first. You're going to go to the grocery store. You're going to get off the couch and go take a walk outside. You're going to go to the grocery store and you're going to wander around and look at fruits and vegetables. If you've been cooking the same thing all the time, you really just want to go maybe out of your comfort zone or start looking and see what strikes you. Maybe you've been eating a lot of white stuff: a lot of mashed potatoes, a lot of chicken, a lot of frozen things that have so much sodium and are pre-made meals. Who knows? But go and take a walk around and take a look at some whole foods. Get some apples, pears.

PAM: So, basically, you're talking about a field trip.

CHEF ABBY: Yes! It's a field trip to the grocery store.

PAM: Let's take a field trip.


PAM: This time instead of racing in at 9:00 at night three minutes before they close or something, why don't you just spend some time in the produce section and just kind of move. Don't you think that's a great idea?

CHEF ABBY: Yes. Exactly. I do. It's a great idea. Just go and maybe take some food magazines with you or do a little quick internet search before you go and say, "You know what? I really feel like having some fennel. What can I make with fennel?" And then go and look around and see what's out there. Try to get a rainbow of colors. That's another good idea. Give yourself a task where you need to have a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and go and pick out a bunch of things—all different colors. And, we'll see what we can do with it.

PAM: Well, what kinds of foods do you think would get people out of a rut? If it's the same old, same old. You get up in the morning and you've got the oatmeal for breakfast. Then, maybe for a snack it's the same yogurt or maybe cottage cheese. Then, lunch is grilled something on a bed of greens. Dinner is a boatload of vegetables with another grilled something on a bed of greens. It's like, "Oh! Help!"

What else could people eat? You know?

CHEF ABBY: Add. Add stuff to that. So, if you're eating the same old oatmeal every day, maybe start adding grapefruit, you know? See how that goes. Try to add a piece of fruit. You could take a piece of grapefruit, cut it in half, put a little honey on it and stick it in the broiler. That would be fun and a little bit different. It would spice up your taste buds and your morning a little bit.

For your lunch, instead of doing a salad and a grilled something on top of it, maybe make some brown rice or some quinoa and put a bunch of roasted vegetables in that and maybe a piece of fish. Maybe make your own dressing and see if you can jazz it up a little bit that way.

If you're a nut butter girl, go and maybe instead of getting the same peanut butter, try an almond butter or something else. Try something new, something that's different.

PAM: You know, when you were talking about that oatmeal, I think you were the one who told me once about something like a maple syrup oatmeal?


PAM: Tell me more about that and what else can we do? I'm still back to the oatmeal. Isn't that terrible? But, I'm trying to dress it up. Help!

CHEF ABBY: Well, you know, good ways to change up your oatmeal are maybe you make steel cut oats and you cook it in apple cider and water instead of just water. Or, you cook it in coconut milk and water instead of just water and you already infuse these new and interesting flavors and it'll make it different automatically. You can use maple syrup as the sweetened topping and try something that way.

PAM: Not a lot of it, now. This doesn't mean you're swimming in either. This is all about portion and everything.

CHEF ABBY: No, this is a "little dab will do you".

PAM: One of the other food ruts that people get into is the fact that they gain weight during the winter time.

CHEF ABBY: Yes. Yes.

PAM: It all becomes kind of a bummer. What are they doing in the winter time that's making them gain so much weight?

CHEF ABBY: Well, a lot of that is stemming from the low energy and maybe you'd rather sit on a couch. So, you feel low energy and you're not motivated and the carbs and the hyper-palatables that we like to talk about: the sugar and the salt and the fat, make you feel so warm and fuzzy for a very short time. So maybe you're sitting on your couch eating a pint of ice cream and you feel great and then the feeling crashes. So, that's more likely to happen in the winter when you're less motivated to go and take a walk. You possibly have lower Vitamin D and other things—not enough Omega-3s—so you might have a little mood thing happening as well. People are more likely to hunker down and eat--and eat junk.

PAM: Eat and basically eat, and not move.

CHEF ABBY: Exactly.

PAM: I think most of the surveys have shown that there's a weight gain of about 5 pounds, on average, over the winter time. Boy, I'll tell you, it's like when the spring comes, it's like, "Would someone just get this off my body already?" And there you have it, but with the sun coming out and being more physically active, hopefully, that begins to correct itself a little bit.

But, why should we have to pack on those pounds? Poo! Let's not allow that to happen. You know, we could still stay physically active.


PAM: It may not be as much fun sometimes, but we can still do that. You just have to be more creative. But, when it comes to the food thing, I think a lot of us just go back to comfort foods again. The hyper-palatables, the sugary, fatty, salty food combos where we can just sort of nestle and then, of course, you're hiding in your winter clothes, women. I saw you doing that.

CHEF ABBY: Exactly.

PAM: You're hiding in those elasticized big Michelin, large--makes you look like a Michelin man—coats. So, there you are.

CHEF ABBY: Yes. Big sweaters and everything. Yes.

PAM: So, give us just two more foods, real quickly, that we can add in. How about smoothies?

CHEF ABBY: Oh, great. Yes, smoothies. The only problem is some people don't like to eat cold in the winter. I love smoothies any time of year, but if you're anti-cold, then you could have a lot of soup. Make a lentil soup. Put Swiss chard in it. You can make a really great braised chicken stew with a ton of vegetables like butternut squash and throw some spinach in there also. Just hardy things full of vegetables and warming broth is a great thing right now, too.

PAM: The nice thing about the soups is you can store them. So, you make a big pan of this and it's just like, "Oh, my gosh." Put it in the refrigerator and you've got yourself a meal for at least the next couple of days. I mean, this is the way to go.

So, Chef Abby, once again, you are wonderful because you're helping us understand what this winter food rut is all about and it's about that same stuff all over again. You stop moving, you eat comfort foods, you're kicking back, you're feeling hopeless, it's dark outside. I know it sounds kind of bleak. Hey. Stop that that right now and just get creative already.

Chef Abby Gellman is always our "go to" chef and culinary nutritionist to help us understand what to do. is Chef Abby's website. Please visit it and learn more.

I'm Dr. Pam Peeke with Michelle King Robson. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Stay well.