Healthier Cold Weather Comfort Food

Eating healthy foods during the winter months doesn’t mean you have to cut back on the comfort of comfort foods.

When cold weather arrives, comfort foods such as beef stew and chili really appeal. Depending on how they’re prepared, however, they come with the potential to throw off your plan to maintain a healthy diet.

“When winter weather is icy and cold, our physiological response is to seek comfort in food,” says Alison Krieg, Food and Nutrition Services Director at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital and HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital. “Many of the most appealing foods tend to have the higher saturated fat and carbohydrate content that makes them less nutritious than other options.”

Simple Substitutes

Luckily, comfort foods can be made healthier with a few simple substitutions. For example, whole-wheat pasta, spaghetti squash, or zucchini noodles can be used in place of regular durum wheat pasta for more nutritious, satisfying meals.

“Pasta offers many ways to sneak more vegetables into your diet,” Krieg says. “You can incorporate puréed carrots and green vegetables into the sauce or replace the meat with zucchini or other vegetables to cut calorie content and add vitamins.” Vegetables also work well in soups and chili dishes. Winter squash and pumpkin make a good soup base, and sweet potatoes and black beans pair nicely in meat-free chili.

If you still want to use meat in your favorite winter dishes, you have plenty of options. Try chicken or turkey instead of beef or other red meats in your favorite winter recipes.

“Use leaner meats such as ground turkey or chicken in meatballs, soups, stews, or chili,” Krieg suggests. “Opting for chicken instead of beef can help you cut back on fat.”

This soup can help keep you warm on a cold winter’s night.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup tomato purée, canned
5 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
4 cups winter squash, cooked
1 ½ tablespoons oregano, dried
1 ½ tablespoons basil, dried

1. In a large saucepan, warm oil over medium heat.
2. Stir in onions, carrots, and garlic.
3. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
5. Bring soup to a simmer.
6. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Calories: 127
Fat: 4 g
Carbohydrates: 19 g
Protein: 6 g
Source: University of Connecticut, Cooperative Extension

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