When you think of winter, what's the first thing that springs to mind? It might be cosy nights in by the fire, evenings at the local pub sheltering from the rain, or hunkering down with a steaming hot bowl of stew and dumplings.
Whichever images your mind conjures up, chances are you won't be thinking about eating healthy food and going out for a jog.
However, according to a new study released by the team at GLORIOUS! Soups, a rather impressive two-thirds of us (66%) will be eating a balanced diet this winter full of plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Just under half of the 2,000 people quizzed also have a lifestyle goal in mind for the colder months (46%), with more than one-quarter of Southampton dwellers (27%) planning to practice mindfulness, one-fifth of Londoners pledging to go out running (20%) and one-quarter of Glaswegians getting into yoga (25%). One in ten people in Belfast are promising to do a Tough Mudder this season - more than in any other UK city (10%).
Credit: Simon Clark, Newleaf Design Studio
It certainly looks like an holistic approach to health is 'in' for winter 2016/17, which I believe is thanks to a new dynamic in healthy eating as the quest for a fit mind and body becomes even sexier. This is being driven by increasingly positive social media images posted by key influencers such as Joe Wicks who focus on a balanced approach to health and the role food plays in fuelling lifestyle and exercise goals. Indeed, the fact that this study shows only 2% of people are focusing on a 'fad' diet this winter is very revealing.
The study's findings make for rather interesting reading and have been published in a report I wrote called Comfort Eating and Our Quest for a Balanced Diet this Winter.
Another piece of evidence pointing to our shifting winter lifestyle habits is the fact that soup has been crowned this year's comfort food of choice for a cold and frosty lunchtime. An impressive 48% of us said the warming liquid is top of their list followed by cottage pie (33.6%), jacket potato (33.2%) and then, the old winter favourite, stew and dumplings (29.2%). Perhaps stew would have come top of a similar poll back in the 17th century?
What this shows is that people have woken up to the fact that comfort foods do exist that don't necessarily make you feel slothful. Vegetable-based natural soup counteracts this as it's a clean comfort food with added health benefits. Incidentally, the best ones to choose are those that are low in sugar and full of slow-releasing carbohydrates and proteins which help you feel full longer and aid endurance during exercise.
Despite all this, as humans we don't simply eat to sustain life or to stay healthy but for myriad other reasons; social, emotional and psychological. When we consume food, it isn't always a conscious or deliberate act as it can produce emotional associations in a sensory context.
This is precisely why soup is the king of comfort foods as it's reassuring, satisfying and reminds us of home. It's a food associated with warmth and feeling safe. We have been eating soup in both famine and feast throughout history; and all around the world it is still served in the richest and poorest households. Warming and soothing, the supreme comfort food, soup takes us back to our earliest memories. It comforts because on that subconscious level, it takes us back to childhood.
I know what I'll be eating this winter!
For more on this study, read the Comfort Eating and Our Quest for a Balanced Diet this Winter report.