Eat This, Not That: Winter Comfort Food
By Elizabeth Leppart, MS, LN
February 11, 2020
In the midst of winter we tend to crave hearty, comforting meals to make it through this cold, dark season. However, are our favorite comfort dishes helping or hurting our health? At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we’re continuously coming up with new recipes that satisfy our winter cravings while supporting our bodies’ ability to stay healthy (and avoid the all too common winter weight gain.)
Keep reading for our favorite cold-weather eat this, not that recipe swaps to avoid coming out of winter feeling sluggish and holding on to extra pounds. Each recipe includes nutrient-packed ingredients like good-quality animal protein, healthy fats and vegetable carbohydrates.
Eat this: Minnesota Turkey and Wild Rice Casserole
Not that: Traditional Casserole
Homemade casseroles are a winter staple, especially here in the Midwest. Though these feel-good recipes were standard for many of us growing up, some traditional recipes call for heavily-processed ingredients with unwanted additives. For instance, canned soups contain artificial flavoring that commonly cause headaches and flushing of the skin, as well as other symptoms. Another popular casserole ingredient, processed cheese, contains food coloring that has been associated with hyperactivity in children. On top of that, many of the additives in processed foods are foreign to our bodies, making them difficult to digest and contributing to inflammation (which in turn can cause pain and disease) over time.
Swap out those processed foods for real, simple ingredients, such as whole grain wild rice, real turkey, and a variety of vegetables. Trust us, this casserole is so delicious that you’ll want to invite friends over for dinner.
Eat this: Garlic Veggie Noodles with Chicken
Not that: Spaghetti
In this recipe, we’re swapping out high-carbohydrate traditional pasta with zucchini noodles. You can buy zucchini noodles (zoodles) premade in most grocery stores, or make them yourself using a spiralizer. Just one cup of classic spaghetti noodles has 43 grams of carbs, which turns into a whopping 11 teaspoons of sugar in our bloodstream. (And I would bet that most of us would eat more than one cup in a sitting.) In addition to the noodles, canned tomato sauce is one of our biggest culprits for hidden sugar. A standard one-cup serving has 10 grams of added sugar, not including natural sugars from the tomatoes!
Compare that with using zucchini noodles at four grams of carbs per cup, or one teaspoon of sugar once broken down. Cook your zoodles in olive oil and garlic and top with chicken. Add in fresh tomatoes, and you’ve got a balanced dinner that’s full of flavor, but won’t cause your blood sugar to spike. In a nutshell, when you eat a meal high in carbohydrates, those carbohydrates break down into glucose, or sugar, in the blood. High blood sugar can lead to many unwanted health consequences over time, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and weight gain, just to name a few.
Eat this: Cauliflower Fried Rice
Not that: Take-Out Fried Rice
It may be no surprise to you that classic Chinese take-out dishes are loaded with ingredients harmful to our health, such as MSG, high sodium, and damaging vegetable oils. All of these are best avoided for many reasons. MSG can create profound negative effects on mood and behavior, and vegetable oils and excess sodium have a negative impact on heart health.
The good news is we don’t have to sacrifice flavor while substituting healthier, make-at-home meal alternatives. Two of our own fried rice recipes (Pork & Pineapple Cauliflower Fried Rice and Shrimp Fried Rice) swap traditional white rice either partially or fully with cauliflower rice, a great alternative to rice that sneaks in more veggies to your meal, which is always a good thing. Both recipes call for a healthy animal protein, a variety of mixed vegetables, and add flavor from clean, simple ingredients like Bragg Liquid Aminos (a gluten-free substitute for soy sauce), sesame oil and rice vinegar.
Eat this: Pot Pie Soup
Not that: Frozen Store-Bought Pot Pie
Who doesn’t love a warm pot pie … but what’s hiding in those tempting prepackaged dinners in the freezer aisle? Processed, frozen pot pies are full of unwanted additives such as hydrogenated oils, gums, MSG, artificial coloring, and plenty of other unrecognizable ingredients. We’ve touched on these ingredients above, but it’s worth saying again that we highly suggest cutting these processed ingredients out of your diet.
Our Pot Pie Soup recipe satisfies cravings while using simple, whole-food ingredients. With protein from real chicken or turkey, plenty of vegetables, and healthy fats from heavy cream and real butter, this recipe is both satisfying and nourishing. It works well to double and freeze half for another meal on a busy winter evening.
If this list has left you inspired to make more healthy food swaps, check out more of our satisfying winter (and other seasons!) recipes here. If you’re interested in learning more about the impact certain ingredients can have on your health, and the positive impact these balanced recipes can have, I highly recommend meeting with me (or scheduling a phone appointment) or one of my fellow nutritionists to conquer your unique health goals and health history. Until then, enjoy all that this cozy season has to offer!