The cold winter weather and shorter days can make life a little more stressful and the desire for warm comfort foods a lot greater. There are many good food choices that can satisfy, nourish, comfort and not create havoc with your health and waistline.
Here are a few suggestions:
Try Soup: Winter vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots and parsnips can be the start-up for a variety of warming soups that are easy to make, economical and taste great on a cold day. They work as a meal starter or even a snack and making them fills the house with warm delicious smells. Make a big batch and freeze what’s leftover. A bonus is that soup is a valuable tool in weight management. If you buy ready-made or canned soups, buy broth based not cream based, look for those that are low in sodium and for more goodness, add extra vegetables and/or some brown rice or whole wheat pasta.
Lighten up your favorites: Increase the nutritional value of homemade comfort foods by adding vegetables or beans when possible. Make meatloaf, chili or shepherd’s pie, with extra-lean ground beef, ground chicken or turkey. Top shepherd’s pie with sweet potatoes or pureed cauliflower. Stews should be heavy on the vegetable side and made in quantity so they will warm you up more than one night. If your comforts include macaroni and cheese, use lower fat cheeses and low fat milk and add in vegetables like onions or tomatoes to boost the flavour and nutrition. If it’s pasta you crave, try different varieties of whole wheat pasta for their fibre and added nutrition. Use a tomato sauce (30 cals/1/4 cup) instead of a cream sauce (110 cals/1/4 cup). If you are watching your waistline, reduce the pasta portion but keep the meal portion the same by adding extra vegetables to the sauce.
Start the day with oatmeal: My favorite warm winter breakfast, this whole grain food has slower-releasing carbohydrates and heart healthy soluble fibre that will help keep you satisfied through the morning. Best choices are the steel cut or large flake rolled oats. You can make it even more nourishing by topping with berries, dried fruit or seeds like hemp or flax.
Frozen is good: Don’t bypass the frozen fruit and vegetables at the grocery store. These foods are picked at their peak of ripeness, frozen quickly and have a high nutritional value. In fact, they are often tastier and more nutritious than out of season fresh produce. They provide variety all year round, often cost less than fresh, there is no waste and they are effortless to prepare. Buy the vegetables plain, without added sauces and the fruit without added sugar. If you want a little taste of summer, try some frozen berries or mangoes
Healthy drinks: For a warm comforting drink, both green and black tea have been shown to be rich in health protecting antioxidants. If hot chocolate is your drink of choice, make it with low fat milk. Make a skim milk latte and sprinkle dark chocolate on top if you are craving a mini-chocolate hit.