Healthy Winter Comfort Foods
Winter is that time of the year when you’re constantly craving rich, hearty meals, or what is known as comfort food. Whether it’s a generous serving of the good old mac and cheese or chicken pot pie, the cold brings with it the desire to eat, and eat some more. The fact that a lot of festivals, including Christmas and Thanksgiving, fall in winter (in several parts of the world), makes it even difficult to avoid all the calorie-dense food.
It comes as no surprise that most people find it difficult to lose weight and follow any sort of diet during the cold season. There is a natural increase in appetite, and it is often a bag of chips, some hot instant noodles, or a box of brownies that one reaches out to in order to satiate their hunger – not exactly healthy options. If you’re struggling to shed a few pounds during the winter too, and not really exceeding, then what follows next might be extremely helpful. Below is a list of healthy alternatives to all the comfort food you might crave every time the temperatures fall and those powerful cravings strike. These foods aren’t just low in calories, but will also keep you adequately full and curb your appetite so that you can lose that desired weight more easily. In addition to this, you will also experience a boost in your immunity and overall health, owing to the high nutritional value of these meals.
Cut out those pancakes and waffles and instead choose oatmeal as your winter breakfast. It’s an excellent choice simply because you can cook it anyway you want, it tastes delicious, and is pretty low on calories. A bowl of warm oatmeal is the ideal morning meal because it contains high amounts of fiber. You can top it off with nuts and some winter fruits to further enhance its nutritional benefits and get more protein and antioxidants into your system. A bowl of oatmeal will keep you full for at least a couple of hours, so you can easily forgo that mid-morning muffin.
While you might want to pile on the mashed potatoes as a side to your chicken every night, there’s a healthier and equally appetizing alternative to it. Brussel sprouts may sound dull, but the cruciferous vegetable is a great winter side dish to have, especially when you’re trying to lose weight. Cook them to your taste, and you’ll find them absolutely delicious and almost addictive. Brussel sprouts have a high fiber content and are also rich in folate and vitamin C. There are just about 38 calories in a cup, so it’s safe to have a good portion, as it won’t interfere with your weight loss, and in fact, will contribute to it. A good way to eat Brussel sprouts is to shred the vegetable and add it to your salad. You could also consider roasting them in olive oil and topping them with some parmesan cheese.
Can’t do without your daily hot chocolate in winters? Well, unfortunately, a cup of hot chocolate isn’t exactly low on calories, thanks to the full-fat milk, chocolate, and cream that go into making it super delicious. So if you’re trying to watch your weight, you might have to skip this beverage and switch to something a little lighter. But don’t worry, because coconut milk is an excellent replacement for regular milk, and it aids weight loss. Coconut milk is known for boosting one’s metabolism and thus helps burn calories at a faster rate. But make sure you read the label before buying a pack, as certain varieties are quite calorie dense. Also, the high dietary fiber present in coconut milk will help keep you fuller for longer.
Now it’s true that meatballs and spaghetti is the perfect winter comfort food, but it is also one of the most high-calorie meals to eat. Spaghetti, as we know, has large amounts of carbohydrates and is a starchy ingredient that can add quite a few inches to your waistline, if consumed on a regular basis. A smart alternative to this Italian treat is zucchini noodles. It imitates the texture and appearance of spaghetti and can be cooked to taste delicious. The best part is it has a lot less calories and will thus help in your weight loss. You can make a yummy pesto pasta with these spiral veggie noodles and add some seasoned shrimp or chicken to make a wholesome lunch or dinner meal.
Low-Carb Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
Who thought cauliflower could be used to cook anything even remotely comforting? Well, this recipe might shake up your assumption just a little bit. All mac and cheese fans who simply cannot imagine winter without this sumptuous dish, check out its healthier (and equally mouthwatering) alternative called low-carb mac and cheese. Now you can savor the richness of your favorite dish without piling on the calories and beat those winter blues away. Simply replace the pasta with cauliflower florets and cook with low-fat cheese, as well as for all other condiments that you like to add to the regular dish. You can also make a meaty version of it and put in some chicken breast strips. Protein will make the dish even more wholesome, and you won’t feel hungry for hours after eating it.
When trying to lose weight, you might need to cut out on some of your favourite fruits, even though they’re generally good for health and have less calories as compared to other foods. But one fruit that you absolutely don’t have to give up on is guava. In fact, weight loss experts recommend adding it to your diet and making it an alternative to regular comfort foods like marshmallows, candy, cookies, and other sugary treats. The tropical fruit is known to cure SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and is not only delicious, but also rich in potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and A. In addition to this, guavas are also known to fasten your metabolism and aid weight loss. You can replace the tomatoes in your salsa with guava and serve at parties too!
Potatoes are one of the most satiating foods to eat, whether they’re baked, fried, or steamed and mashed. Being high on sugar and starch, they also make for a desirable comfort food when you’re feeling low or just need that extra boost of energy. Sadly, potatoes aren’t ideal for those trying to watch their weight and can add inches to the waistline if consumed in excess. That, however, is not the case with sweet potatoes, an excellent alternative to the regular vegetable variety. Packed with fiber and vitamins, sweet potatoes have the advantage of boosting your immunity and have a much lower glycemic index rating than potatoes. This essentially means that your blood sugar levels won’t get spiked drastically when you consume this healthy alternative. A lot of people notice a drop in their general appetite when they add sweet potatoes to their diet. You could make a delicious chickpea and sweet potato stew or curry during the winter, and it will be nothing less than a comfort food to enjoy.
Much like sweet potato, butternut squash is a low-calorie food that has plenty of fiber and will keep you full for hours. You’d be surprised to know that there are only 63 calories in a cup of cubed butternut squash. Besides being a good weight loss food, butternut is a rich source of vitamin C and beta-carotene, and both the antioxidants help boost immunity and keep you healthy throughout winters. It is also an ideal pre-workout snack to have, as it will give you the necessary energy to exercise. One of the best ways to eat a butternut squash is to roast it, as it helps bring out the vegetable’s natural sweetness. You could also make a wholesome apple and roasted squash soup for those cold winter nights.
Nothing says winter more than chicken soup. There is a reason why it is one of the first foods you’re offered when you’re down with a cold – it’s comforting. Soups are large in volume, which makes them highly satiating, despite the fact that they have minimal calories. Of course, this is referring to the clear variety with simple ingredients and condiments, not the ones containing cream, milk, or other dairy fat.
Some people might argue that solid foods offer more satisfaction than liquids, but research shows that soups are an exception and fill you up well enough, like rice and chicken. If you’re someone who really needs a little more than clear liquid, chicken chunks, and veggies, you could always add a small portion of noodles to your broth and make the meal a hearty one.
If you have a sweet tooth, it might be hard for you to stay away from that tub of ice cream in the refrigerator, even during winters. After all, ice cream is the ultimate comfort food. Well, it isn’t when you’re trying to reduce your waistline. But like always, there is a brilliant alternative that you can switch to if and when dessert cravings set in. Say hello to your new best friend aka Greek yogurt. The nonfat variety of this yogurt is the perfect replacement for ice cream and can help you stay on track as far as your diet is concerned. Because it is rich in protein, Greek yogurt keeps you satiated for longer and has much less sugar than regular yogurt. You could even add some fruit or a tiny bit of honey to make this treat a little more comforting. A study reports that, by increasing their protein intake by 15 percent, dieters ended up eating close to 450 calories less each day. A second study states that weight watchers who ate nonfat yogurt daily (24 ounces), lost about 81 percent more fat from their belly. The best part with Greek yogurt is that you can create as many combinations with fruits, nuts, and other healthy ingredients as you like and eat it any time of the day, just like ice cream!
Eggs have to be one of the most versatile foods eaten across the globe. Tagged as the “perfect breakfast,” eggs are rich in protein and known to curb hunger and combat cravings throughout the day. It is a must-have in the diet of those trying to lose weight. An egg accounts for only 70 calories (approximately), and offers six to seven grams of high-quality protein. Also, you can play around with eggs to balance out your calorie intake through the day. For instance, you could leave out the yolk and just have a couple of cooked egg whites on some days. It is the yolk that has the fat; egg whites are just protein.
Latest research shows that those who ate larger amounts of protein in the first half of the day were more successful in losing weight. This is because they felt less hungry for the remaining day and could bypass snacks and keep their meals smaller. Another study indicates that having egg for breakfast, rather than a bagel, could help you lose nearly 65 percent more belly fat and weight. So go ahead and have your eggs any way you want – sunny-side up, scrambled, poached, or boiled!
Not many people know, but liver can be one of the best sources of protein and is available at a pretty affordable cost. Rich in iron, folic acid, vitamins B12 and A, niacin, and other minerals, liver is a good weight loss food to have during the winters. It offers only 200 calories, which is less than several other meats. The only problem with liver is that it has slightly high levels of cholesterol, so it is recommended to be consumed occasionally by those who are able to maintain an overall low-fat diet.