As the shorter days and darker nights draw in, we all want to eat that little bit more, writes Gemma Bloor, nutritional therapist and director of RAWR Kitchen and Bar, BURR Speciality Coffee and Food and The Farmacist

Over and over again I hear that people find it hard to maintain their ideal weight during autumn and winter and I truly believe that is because it is built within us as humans not only to fatten up for the cold but to gain more nutrients to assist in boosting our immunity during the season.

Fat, to many of us in society these days, is seen as such a bad thing. Whilst I agree that excess fat is a strain on the body, fat also means survival. It is our bodies’ way of putting on an internal jumper and so it is no wonder our bodies fight us to retain and gain a little extra layer of fat when the cold starts to bite.

“For me, autumn and winter are the best of all the seasons for food and drink enjoyment. So don’t deprive yourselves, just swap for the better as often as you can and your body and mind will thank you in abundance for it!”

There is also the question about ideal weight and the difference between YOUR ideal weight and the actual ideal weight for your body. We can often be underweight to fit into that perfect bikini for summer and it’s good to know what a healthy weight for your body is instead of what the mirror, scales or your jeans say!

Now I am not suggesting you give in and crack open the tin of Roses, but to know that the decision to put a little weight on goes slightly out of our control past September is mentally liberating, isn’t it?

I find a balanced approach during this season is key. Give in to your human urges to fatten up with food, but choose the right foods and team with good regular exercise. That way you feed your basic human desire to eat, whilst the focus is on fuelling for the season nutritionally and building muscle mass/toning rather than just concentrating on dropping fat.

So what the hell do you eat?

For me, it is about change over deprivation. I’m a big believer in food enjoyment, as part of achieving long-term change is enjoying what you are eating.

If it’s boring or tasteless to you it can become a chore and if that happens you aren’t going to stick to it. Not only that, but autumn for me is about comfort food.

Mental health and food relationships are very closely linked and so eating food that provides that comfort, whilst fuelling the body nutritionally, is a great way of keeping you feeling satisfied mentally and physically and enjoying the indulgence of the season.

Out: White potatoes
In: Sweet potatoes

Having a much lower glycaemic index (GI) than their white cousins, they release their energy slowly and have a higher fibre content, keeping you fuller for longer. Boiled, roasted or mashed these versatile bad boys are full of key immune boosting nutrients such as vitamins A & C that are crucial for the autumn and winter months.

Pimp up your potatoes: Add a touch of melted coconut oil, Himalayan salt and Cayenne pepper to a sweet potato mash to add some spicy flavour density.

Get creative: Make a batch of sweet potato mash and it will keep in the fridge for around three days. This can be added cold to salads, to add a lovely sweet and filling layer to a wrap for work or ready to reheat for a nice breakfast base or evening tea.

Out: Rice
In: Quinoa

Quinoa is an ancient grain that is easier to cook than it seems. Even novice home chefs find it a doddle to perfect cooking quinoa over rice and it is addictive once you find the flavour you love. Quinoa is a complete protein source and higher in fibre than most other grains, therefore filling you up quicker and keeping you fuller for longer. It is a rich source of iron, magnesium and vitamin B2, which is key in helping the body to metabolise food and keep those sluggish winter energy levels at bay.

Pimp up your quinoa: Stir in some lime zest, lime juice and chilli flakes to add a zingy kick. Use tricolour quinoa to add more texture and colour.

Get creative: Quinoa can be used to fill out soups and stews, as a rice alternative or even as a porridge for breakfast. Try stirring lemon zest and blueberries into cooked cooled quinoa and top with almond milk for a lovely sweet protein packed breakfast treat. Quinoa also lasts up to four days in a sealed container in the fridge so it’s a perfect ingredient for last minute meals.

Out: Chocolate
In: Raw cacao

The most addictive food of the season but the easiest to change. Swap your usual Dairy Milk for raw cacao and you’ll never go back. Raw cacao is high in magnesium, iron, calcium, most of the B vitamins and oleic acid which is a monounsaturated fat that tells your brain you are full. Cacao also increases the availability of serotonin, the body’s happy hormone which we all need more of.

Pimp up your cacao: Use raw cacao instead of hot chocolate powder with xylitol or rice syrup to sweeten. Add some chilli flakes for the ultimate under-a-blanket, snuggle-round-a-logfire treat.

Get creative: Make your own raw chocolate bars. Stir raw cacao into melted coconut oil with some coconut sugar to sweeten. Pour into moulds (can be as simple as an ice cube tray) and set in the fridge. Add orange zest for a choc orange treat, or nuts and seeds for a lovely crunch.

Out: Cereal/Toast
In: Oats

In the morning, when you drag yourself out of bed in the cold and dark, slaving over a hot stove can be the last thing on your mind. Organising breakfast should be top of your list so you don’t find yourself grabbing something sugary and empty to start your day. Oats are my go-to for a speedy breakfast. They are high in fibre and slowly release energy, making them perfect for keeping you fuller for longer. Oats contain a huge amount of manganese (which is key in metabolism, particularly that of fats and carbs) and phosphorus whose functions include how your body stores and uses energy.

Pimp up your oats: Warm porridge oats which can be made in advance, cooled and reheated with more milk for speed. The flavour can be made different and interesting each morning.

Get creative: Overnight oats are the perfect swap for speed and nutrition and with the endless amount of flavour options they’re never boring. It’s a one to one ratio, so one part oats to one part liquid (milk choice, milk and yoghurt, water etc) and then your choice of flavour. For example, vanilla and coconut, strawberry and vanilla extract, cacao and peanut butter: the list goes on. Simply mix in a jar, put in the fridge and it’s ready the next morning. It’ll keep well for around three days in the fridge and you can also heat it up if you wish, adding a little more milk in the pan if required.

Pop into RAWR Hanley or BURR Trentham to pick up your copy of Sauce.