Healthy Comfort Foods

healthy-foodsIt’s December. It’s winter. It’s cold and slushy and gross. Who wants to hole up on the couch and eat mashed potatoes? I DO! It’s very common (and EASY) to gain a few pounds over the holiday season, and throughout the colder months of the year. But we’re not bears…weight gain doesn’t have to happen.

We all feel like hibernating, but lucky you! I have a way to eat the comfort foods you’re craving without any of the guilt. Plus some tips to help you make it to spring (a.k.a. the light at the end of the tunnel) and bask in the glow of your success, not baste in the oven with your turkey.

Hurdle #1: Holiday Parties.

SO. MUCH. FUN. There needs to be a balance during the holidays which means you should be able to indulge a little bit, right? No one wants to be the Debbie Downer at a party, drinking water and telling people how many calories are in the treats they’re eating…or how good you’re being for not eating sugar. When it comes to food, have a little something to eat before you go to a party. Do not go hungry or “save” your calories. You will end up eating more, or badly. Make sure your snack has some protein so it satisfies and when you arrive, peruse the sweet table and choose a couple of things. ENJOY THEM. Then move on. As for drinks, I don’t need to tell you to be responsible (right? GET A CAB!) but the calories in some holiday beverages can really add up. Eggnog? Champagne? Yes please! But keep it to one, or at least alternate with some sparkling water (or spritzers…they’re delicious and festive!).

Hurdle #2: Less Activity

It’s no surprise that when the temperature drops, we don’t go outside as much. If you’re not a gym-goer, it’s easy to become sedentary in the winter. My solution? It’s no surprise-keep moving! Ok, I get it. When it drops to -40, I don’t want to move either. Some simple solutions: Always take the stairs. Park far away from the mall when you’re shopping and do another lap before you go home. Dodging all the crazy bargain shoppers will be exhausting. Do some squats or jumping jacks during the commercials of your favourite holiday show. Take advantage of the sunnier days and go for a walk in the park or make a snowman. The fresh air will feel amazing, trust me.

Hurdle #3: Feeling Low

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is a very real phenomenon. When the sky is grey for days and days (and days) on end, it is so difficult to be cheery. Definitely get outside and soak in some sunshine if you can-even a little bit of extra vitamin D will help your mood. Supplementing daily is a must for these cold winter months, but you can also find this vitamin in salmon, eggs, and milk. Exercise helps of course but there are also some foods that will cheer you up from the inside out. Try to include things in your daily diet like oatmeal, turkey, or beans. These foods are full of iron-and will help keep your energy levels even. Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for good moods. Sick of hearing about them? Well, sorry-they are not a trend and won’t be going away any time soon. Get some salmon, walnuts, avocado (come on, omega-3s are delicious!) or sprinkle some chia seeds for holiday cheer! Last, try to get in some chromium. Why? It helps the brain to regulate emotion and mood. You can find this in turkey and potatoes…hello happy Christmas dinner!

Hurdle #4: Comfort Foods

How can you say no to your Mom’s once-a-year-stuffing and those other goodies your Aunt makes that are covered in chocolate? You don’t know what’s in it and you DON’T CARE. Indulge, a little, in the comfort foods that are totally worth it but when it comes to meals you can make at home, lighten them up a little.

Make your mashed potatoes with half cauliflower or parsnip. Love sweet potatoes? Instead of adding brown sugar and marshmallows, make a delicious roasted squash soup! All the fibre, none of the sugar. Plus nothing warms you up on a cold winter day than a good mug of soup. Choose good quality chocolate. Eat a handful of roasted nuts-stay away from the candied and salted mixes. Last, if you’re going to have something “bad”, portion it out. Get a small bowl and savour it. Oh-and plan in advance as much as possible. If you KNOW you’re having a big wine-filled dinner with friends, eat lighter at lunch.

You can make it through the holidays and the winter! Take your time and make good choices. Do not feel bad if you go off track, just get back on. The holidays are a FUN time, so keep things light and happy. Enjoy your time with family and friends and try to enjoy the winter months. Happy Holidays everyone!

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About This Blogger

Seanna Thomas

Seanna Thomas is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist living in Ontario, Canada. She works as a personal consultant and freelance writer out of her home and teaches healthy lifestyle cooking classes to both adults and children in the area. She is a mother to three children, all under the age of six and her husband works as a medic in the Canadian military. Although Seanna is educated in all aspects of nutrition, she focuses on realistic clean eating with a spotlight on healthy family habits. She is known online as the "Nutritionnaire" and writes a weekly blog. She can also be found on Twitter, will soon have a Facebook page, and a website is in the works! In her downtime, she enjoys being outdoors with her family and relaxing at home with her husband and a well-deserved glass of wine.