What is it about winter that makes us reach for the food? Well, things are slowing down and eating is one of those activities you can do without much effort. But, what are we eating?
Comfort food makes us feel good. We eat much like bears, as if we are trying to insulate ourselves against the cold. Unlike bears, however, we have indoor heating. So, by not moving as much and eating more we are setting ourselves up for an unhealthy result come spring.
Comfort food satisfies cravings. When we eat foods that make us feel good, it releases endorphins in the brain. We feel even better then. But, most of those foods contain a high amount of unhealthy fat and calories.
Light deprivation leads to depression in some people, and depression can fuel food cravings. So if you tend to feel blue in winter (the severest form of wintertime blues is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD), try getting outside for a walk during the sunniest part of the day.
So, this winter we want to give you the satisfaction without all the calories. Here are some suggestions for winter comfort foods that are healthy.
Focus on eating whole foods. Eating less sugar, refined flours, and processed foods means you’ll be eating more nutrient-dense foods, nourishing your body rather than depleting it. Your body will be better equipped to handle reasonable holiday indulgences. Also, a whole foods diet is high in fiber, which helps to keep your blood sugars steady and therefore reduce cravings.
People love soup in the winter. For one, they are easy to make and can be frozen for a future time if you make more than you can eat right now. You can add a lot of ingredients to soup to fill you up but leave behind all the calories. If the kiddos really want something else too make them some garlic bread on whole wheat bread or flatbread!
Butternut Squash soup – There are several squash varieties that are available this winter. You can create a cream soup that is less fattening by using milk instead of heavy cream. Puree your squash first after it is cooked and then add the milk. Or even better you can make it with healthy coconut milk instead- Curried Butternut Squash Soup Recipe.
Some other dinner choices include roasted or baked potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts or cauliflower, whole-grain pasta, black bean soup, or vegetable stew with barley. All are warm and filling and also nutritious.
Here is a wonderful website with many winter soup recipes.
While most fresh fruit is in short supply, winter is the time for citrus to shine. Always have a stash of mandarin oranges to snack on, and you can make a great salad with some citrus and winter greens, like Swiss chard, chicory, or kale.
Also, celery and cucumber sticks are great to have on hand. Dip them in high protein dips such as hummus and almond butter!
In the winter we tend to drink less. Keep your fluid intake up, water is best. Drink hot herbal teas and even better hot water either plain or with cleansing lemon juice.
Spinach extract is a fairly new supplement on the market, made from spinach leaves. It helps delay fat digestion, which increases the levels of hormones that reduce appetite and hunger, such as GLP-1. Studies have shown that taking 3.7–5 grams of spinach extract with a meal may reduce appetite and cravings for several hours.
Don’t forget dessert. Chocolate has gotten a bad rap over the years. It is okay to eat chocolate as long as you eat it in moderation. Choose a darker chocolate that contains more cocoa solids, which is where the health benefit comes from.
Opt for low-fat or fat-free frozen yogurt. For a treat, top with melted dark chocolate and add a cherry, much like a sundae.
If you want something a bit more reminiscent of fall, make baked apples. Remove the core and fill with cinnamon, a bit of brown sugar and some chopped walnuts. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and enjoy.
If that does not quite meet the mark here some more healthy winter dessert recipes!
What are your comfort foods? You can always add a bit more health to them this winter and still feel satisfied.