Comfort foods — including soups, stews, pastas, casseroles and other hot dishes — are what we crave in the cold winter months. While many of these foods are good for the soul, they can also be pretty unhealthy.
Despite this, maintaining a healthy diet in the winter is far from impossible. By choosing the right foods and making healthy substitutions in your more indulgent recipes, you can help take some of the guilt out of winter eating.
Winterize your diet with these healthy tips.
Start your day with oatmeal.
Sure, oatmeal is warm, hearty and convenient, but it's also full of nutrients like zinc and fiber for a healthy heart and immune system. Top your oatmeal with slivered almonds and berries for some added flavor and even more nutrients. Just be sure to choose minimally processed rolled oats, not pre-packaged oatmeal packets, which can be packed with unnecessary sugar.
Stick to broth-based soups.
Soup is the perfect winter food, but rich, cream-based soups are also loaded with calories. For a healthier soup, look for recipes that call for chicken broth and plenty of veggies, with limited salt and beef.
Need some soup recipe ideas? Check out these 10 low-calorie but flavor-packed soups and stews.
Use your slow cooker.
Prepare a warm, healthy winter meal without slaving over the stove by using a slow cooker. Check out these delicious slow cooker recipes for no-fry eggplant parm and Latin chicken with black beans and sweet potatoes.
Shop for winter produce.
For a health boost, add these in-season winter produce superstars into your diet.
- Pomegranates: Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants and can help lower LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels and therefore prevent or slow the buildup of plaque in the arteries. It may even improve blood flow to the heart in people with blocked arteries.
- Dark leafy greens: Spinach, kale, chard and collard greens are high in vitamins A, C and K, all of which are essential nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Collards and mustard greens also contain high amounts of folate, which is important for women of childbearing age.
- Citrus fruits: Surprisingly, it’s actually during winter months that citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits are at their freshest and juiciest. These fruits are loaded with vitamin C, which can help ward off illness. They also contain flavonoids that may help boost “good” cholesterol (HDL) and lower “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Potatoes: Although potatoes are not often considered a health food due to their carbohydrate content, they actually contain a number of beneficial nutrients, including immune-boosting vitamins C and B6. Potatoes also contain folate and fiber, as well as antioxidants that can lower your risk for heart disease and cancer.
- Winter squash: All varieties of squash — including butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash — are filling options that contain very few calories. One cup of cooked winter squash is high in vitamins A, C, B6 and K, as well as potassium and folate.
- Root vegetables: Root veggies like beets, carrots and turnips are tough enough to withstand the cold, so they are generally available during winter months. These veggies are rich in essential vitamins and minerals for a winter health boost.
Eating healthy during the winter months means working with your body to give it the “comfort foods” it craves, while making healthy choices to avoid packing on the calories or missing out on nutrient-dense foods that can help keep you avoid common winter illnesses.
For more information on how you can make healthy food choices this winter and beyond, contact the nutrition experts with Goshen Hospital Nutrition Therapy at (574) 364-2679.