Whenever the weather outside is frightful, your palate reminds you to eat comfort food (something warm and comforting). The cold winds somehow compel you to break out thick soups, rich stews, decadent pasta dishes, and savoury casseroles.
Studies say humans feel compelled to consume rich foods that contain lots of calories in the wintertime because this is one way to warm up the body. Food is fuel, and eating comfort food adds energy to your system while comforting your soul. T
The cold winter weather makes your body temperature drop. For this reason, you feel an urge to eat more. On top of that, binge eating savoury dishes in winter may be linked with the natural instinct to survive. Ancient humans did not have insulated dwellings in the olden days, making winter a truly hazardous time. As a result, humans felt compelled to store up on calories to endure times of scarcity when there’s not much produce or harvest coming from the great outdoors. This explains why people prefer food rich in carbs and fat when it’s cold because it aligns with the body’s biology to strive for self-preservation.
Don’t be surprised if you have a tendency to crave your favourite decadent comfort foods every winter. Remember, the most festive holidays (and their feasts) such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve happen during the colder months. The winter season somehow entices you to go back down memory lane, making you miss your family and friends along with the meals you once shared.
Thankfully, comfort food doesn’t have to be overly heavy or super-rich in calories to be comforting. Today, you can convert practically every comfort food favourite into a healthier alternative if you know how to shop for and prepare cleaner ingredients. Check out these healthier homemade comfort food options that will satisfy your cravings and make you feel content on chilly winter nights.
1. Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Chicken noodle soup is a classic winter comfort food that everyone enjoys. Just imagining digging into a bowl of piping hot soup that’s been stewing for hours. That image alone is enough to melt your chilled fingers and nose. But make this soup a lot healthier by using lean chicken, adding loads of veggies, and switching up the noodles to organic wild rice that’s richer in roughage.
Unlike refined white rice that’s loaded in carbs, making your blood sugar spike up, wild rice has more benefits, is grain-free, and is richer in antioxidants. For this reasons, studies show that wild rice can do the following:
- Reduce inflammation
- Improves digestion
- Promotes a healthy heart
- Aid in weight loss
- Strengthen the immune system
- Provides sufficient energy
- Helps manage weight
Check out the full recipe here so you can make your own warm bowl to deflect the cold this winter.
2. Spaghetti Squash Lasagna
Winter and piping hot lasagna just go together well, like Oreos and milk. However, a typical lasagna is loaded with carbs, protein, and fats. Just imagine thick layers of refined pasta with fatty layers of meat and bechamel sauce. It’s definitely not for the diet-conscious. If you want to enjoy your lasagna without the extra calories, give this veggie version a try.
Instead of using ordinary noodles, cut thin layers of squash. You can follow your usual meat sauce recipe but replace it with healthier lean ground turkey or tempeh (a vegetarian substitute). Use low-fat cheese or non-dairy cheese in lieu of the white sauce and cheese. Finally, layer your veggie lasagna in the squash shell to kick up the presentation.
Remember, the taste of the food is always enhanced by how it looks, which is why garnishing and plating are so important. So aim for a visual feast along with a gastronomic extravaganza. To complete your meal, serve this with a side salad and whole-grain bread rolls. It’s perfectly warm, ooey, and gooey to combat the cold while being high in fiber and vitamins, too.
3. Chili With Turkey and Quinoa
There’s something magical about a spicy bowl of chilli during the dead of winter. Chilli dinners are the best for frigid weather because you can dump the ingredients in one pot and serve a lot of hungry mouths in one go. Besides, chilli can be cooked in a crockpot for slow-cooking, so you can just leave it there and do your thing. The longer your dish simmers, the more the flavour harmonizes and intensifies.
Besides, chilli can be very healthy depending on the ingredients you use. If you swap out the red meat with lean chicken or turkey, you can cut back on the calories and fat. Instead of using tons of beans, you can switch to healthier quinoa, too. Most of all, ditch the sour cream and cheese but grab protein-rich feta or low-fat cheese to make your chilli a cleaner version. Chilli is always a great idea because it is:
- Loaded with protein
- Contains tons of vitamins and fiber from the veggies
- Rich in iron care of the beans
- Helps you feel full for longer
4. Healthy Creamy Soup
Healthy and creamy seems like an oxymoron. However, you can enjoy delectable bowls of creamy soups this winter thanks to substitution. With this trick, you can go ahead and indulge in skinnier clam chowder, cream of mushroom soup, creamy carrot, cream chicken and broccoli, etc.
The key is switching up the full fat cream with a healthier version such as almond milk or cashew milk. The fat in these types of milk is healthier because it contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which studies say protect against heart disease. Nuts are also rich in protein, vitamin E, and vitamin D. Besides, this is a good non-dairy replacement for someone who is lactose intolerant.
And instead of using cornstarch to thicken the soup, you can use healthier arrow-root or tapioca starch (made from cassava root). Both contain more fibre and are also gluten-free. Another alternative is almond flour if you want a thickener that contains carbohydrates. This has a low glycemic index and won’t mess up your blood sugar levels.
Make your bowl of creamy soup more filling by pairing it with a balsamic vinegar-based salad and some toasted whole-grain bread. When you make smarter choices as you cook your usual soup, you can cut back on the fat and calories. Making small, conscious substitutions will compound, and your body will thank you.
5. Zucchini Noodles With Avocado Pesto and Shrimp Casserole
If you’re craving tuna casserole but don’t want the carbs, you can opt for this super delicious treat instead. Cut down the carbohydrates by using spiralized zucchini instead of regular white noodles. Make it loaded with healthy fats, too, by replacing half of your usual cream sauce with pesto sauce and mashed-up avocado. This fruit has the power to increase your good cholesterol count. It’s also rich in the following:
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin E
Many studies link avocado in helping reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. It also helps improve your gut biome and boosts your mood. If you want to amplify the taste of your pasta, top it with zesty shrimp instead of sodium-rich tuna. Just saute deveined shrimps in Cajun seasoning to make your winter meal come together. And of course, don’t forget to top your finished product with fresh pepper and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Don’t use the cold weather as a reason to stack on those dreaded winter pounds. By using healthier alternatives, you can still enjoy classic comfort foods without packing on excess calories. Sticking to veggies, whole grains, beans, and nuts can help you stay on track with your diet. You can also try doing a meatless alternative one or twice per week.
If you want to learn the type of diet that suits you best, based on your genetics, check out the diet and nutrition reports from CircleDNA.