Cooler weather is right around the corner. We are in Minnesota after all. And even though we often associate those colder months with heavier food and less activity, it doesn’t have to be this way! Take the opportunity this coming fall and winter to maintain the healthy habits you naturally adopt in the summer with you into this next season. Your body and mind will thank you!
1. Eat seasonally. Even though some of your favorite fresh fruits and veggies, like zucchinis and berries, are no longer available, there are several nutritious seasonal options. Root and cruciferous veggies like squashes and Brussels sprouts are plentiful and also contain immune and mood-boosting vitamins to ward off common colds and that “blue” feeling we can sometimes experience during the colder months. Additionally, many of these fruits and vegetables can be cooked to enhance flavor and assist with digestion. Roasted or steamed vegetables and baked fruits not only have a more robust and hearty flavor, but it is through cooking that we actually break down the cell wall of the vegetable, making it easier for our body’s to digest and assimilate those nutrients.
2. Eat your salads warm. Instead of eating cold, raw veggies atop your favorite variety of greens, try topping them with roasted vegetables, toasted nuts, and/or warm chicken, beef or fish. A dollop of hummus or a drizzle of tahini adds a unique flavor twist in place of salad dressing. Not only that, the warmth of the food can increase satiety, in addition to providing a level of comfort we often seek during the colder months.
3. Pack soups and stews with veggies. Broth based soups and chilis can be an excellent base for adding a ton of nutrition through a variety of veggies. You can pack even more in by pureeing half of the cooked veggies so you end up with a thicker soup without the cream or flour needed.
4. Use spices and herbs. This is the easiest way to pack a huge punch of flavor without adding any calories at all! Warming spices like cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, chili powder, paprika, nutmeg, ginger, and harissa all add a complexity of flavor to healthy meals that will literally warm you up from the inside out.
5. Make healthy alternatives to comfort food favorites. As the colder months near closer, so do the holidays, which often means that opportunities to eat more baked goods, pastas and casseroles arise. With that said, many of our favorite dishes can easily be made with a healthier spin so we don’t have to continually deny those cravings. Craving mac and cheese? Make a sauce using chicken stock, butternut squash, raw cashews and nutritional yeast instead. Instead of butter and cream, try using coconut milk and ghee to add flavor to your mashed potatoes. With a bit of creativity and online recipe searching, you can easily enjoy your favorite comfort foods regularly throughout the winter without feeling guilty for doing so.
Colder weather often brings more temptation, but it does not have to be a season through which you deny yourself all your favorites. Experiment with the ideas above and you may just find that healthy swaps are both more do-able and delicious as than you originally thought