Once the temperature drops and the days get shorter, salads and other light meals become less appetizing. Many fruits and vegetables are no longer in season as such, they’re not as affordable as they were in the summer season of plenty. With colder weather comes the cravings for comfort foods. Here are our tips for choosing healthier winter comfort foods to get you through these cold months.
The Role of Serotonin in Winter Food Cravings
The cold weather sparks cravings and it can be tempting to turn away from healthy, whole foods to indulge in rich, heavier foods. Did you know that our brain’s production of serotonin is lowest in the winter months? So cold weather food cravings may also be tied to serotonin levels. Serotonin is a brain chemical that improves mood, reduces appetite and promotes sleep. Carbohydrate rich foods, also known as feel good foods, increase the brain’s production of serotonin. This makes you feel better, temporarily at least.
Here are some practical tips for eating healthy when the weather gets cold so you can maintain a nutritious diet and thrive this season.
If you look around the produce department in the fall and winter months, you can tell what comes to us from a far – and the prices are reflective of its travel time. The good news is there are several nutritious seasonal options which provide the right nutrients you need for the colder months.
What to Shop for: Winter squashes, cabbage, potatoes, beets, pears and apples.
How to Prepare: In the cooler months, cooking or lightly steaming your vegetables helps with optimal digestion and provides warmth for your body.
Good Fats and Balanced Carbohydrates
As tempting as it is to sit down to a big bowl of pasta, unless you have some protein and fat with it, you could be in for a big blood sugar crash shortly after. In the moment, you have all the warm and fuzzy feelings but about an hour later you’ll be hungry again and looking for a pick me up (usually another carb filled food).
How to Avoid the Sugar Crash: If you’re hankering for a bowl of pasta, add a meat sauce to it, have an avocado salad on the side, or opt for a bean-based pasta, which is rich in good protein. You don’t have to compromise on comfort foods, just make sure they are complete with a fat and/or protein.
Warm and Hearty Salads
It’s hard to wrap your head around a cold salad as the weather gets cooler but they make complete meal prep a breeze. You can really add everything in the fridge to a salad, add a protein and you’re done.
Warm Up Your Salads: To accommodate the cooler weather but maintain the simplicity, top your greens with something warm. Try roasted vegetables and potatoes, crispy chickpeas, toasted nuts, heated grains like rice or quinoa, and warm chicken or beef. This will provide your body with the same feeling of comfort food but with the bonus of all the nutrients you need.
Nothing Beats a Big Bowl of Soup
One of the best ways to enjoy seasonal goodness is in a big bowl of soup. Whether it’s broth-based, creamy, stewed, or chunky, soup can provide you with an abundance of concentrated nutrients.
Spice It Up: Get creative with warming spices that are extra nourishing at this time of year. Try a sweet potato curry soup, or spicy Thai coconut.
Boost it with Veggies: I personally love creamy soups like squash, but I’m also a sucker for chunky bean-based soups loaded with tons of vegetables. They can be made in one pot, make great leftovers, and are truly heart warming.
What are some of your healthy eating tips to get through a cold Canadian winter?
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To our health & wellbeing,