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People with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) tend to put on weight because they tend to sleep more, are less active, and eat more than during the longer spring and summer months. They may crave carbohydrates and sweets to the point where they eat little else. Understanding these food dos and don’ts to beat winter blues may help you keep the extra pounds at bay while enabling you to feel better.

SAD is a type of depression which affects millions of people in the United States and around the world. While most of the people affected are women, men also suffer from this sometimes debilitating disorder. As stated above, people with SAD often crave carbohydrates and sugary treats because their body needs serotonin which helps regulate hunger and affects mood-enhancing chemicals. Unfortunately, when anyone eats too many sweets, extra pounds also creep onto the body.

Things to do:

* Eat complex carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables. Choosing the most colorful vegetables and fruits will not only help you avoid simple carbs, but they may actually help brighten your day with their colors. Some dieticians suggest their patients with SAD eat as many as four cups of brightly colored fruits and vegetables a day.

* Eat three servings of protein a day. The protein helps fill you up, gives you energy, and helps build muscle.

* You may want to keep the following foods on hand for when you feel you need a mid-afternoon snack: oatmeal, nuts, peanut butter, prewashed vegetables, air-popped popcorn, whole grain crackers or bread, turkey, fruit, or cottage cheese.

* Bananas are a good choice if you want something sweet. Not only do they curb the appetite for sugar, they also can help enhance your mood because they contain both dopamine and serotonin.

Things not to do:

* Avoid consuming too much caffeine. Caffeine has been shown to suppress serotonin levels, so you’re actually compounding the problem when drinking coffee. If you must drink it, wait until after the mid-day meal so there is still plenty of daylight left to keep you from getting too tired.

* Avoid sweet treats and simple carbohydrates. This would include white bread and rice. Eating too many simple carbs raises your blood sugar level and then drops it just as quickly, which leads to the afternoon slump many people feel.

* Don’t skip meals as a general rule, not only during the winter months. The longer you wait between meals, the hungrier you will be. You will also notice a dip in concentration and more of a tendency to make poor food choices.

Following these food dos and don’ts to beat winter blues will help improve the way you feel as well, as help you avoid putting on extra pounds. When the winter months are over, you can feel better about the way you dealt with SAD this year and feel good about not having extra weight to lose before summer months arrive.

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