As Winter sets in here in Australia, we become more reliant on those winter warmers, also known as comfort foods to cheer us up! I recently read an awesome article by the Nutrition Expert, Shivaun Conn, from the Australian Institute of Fitness. Although I am going to summarise all my favourite parts, the original can be found at:
So, what are comfort foods and why do we crave them?
Comfort foods are literally what the title suggests- foods that make us feel good! In winter, they tend to be of the warm kind as we seek comfort from curries, pastas, hot chocolates and far too many cups of tea. They are usually high in calories, refined carbs and fats. We crave different types of comfort food based on our culture, taste preferences, upbringing and gender too! Yes, science has proven that men crave the hearty and warm meals whilst women opt for snack related foods such as chocolate and ice-cream.
These extra calories and carbs wouldn’t be such a problem if we were back in the early days when people would have needed them to keep warm. But for us, we are certainly not lacking comfort with our exposure to warm water, heaters, blankets and the list continues. In winter people tend to be less social, less active and I suppose less happy, which means more opportunities to overeat and more reasons to allow ourselves to feel better, through food!
So how can we beat these cravings for comfort foods?
1) PREPARE & PLAN MEALS:
Whatever foods are most convenient, they are usually the ones we will reach for. If our home and work environments are stocked with healthy snacks, we will be more likely to reach for these than naughty ones. And realistically, if we don’t have naughty foods in the house or work place- we cannot indulge in them. It’s really as simple as that!
Plan your meals well so that you do not need to snack. You should never be hungry. Eat smaller meals more regularly to avoid the binging!
2) KEEP BUSY:
Brainstorm activities that you enjoy to do and can do even if it is windy, wet or cold outside. Combat those “bad moods” or “winter blues” by keeping yourself entertained.
3) MOODY FOODY
Be mindful of how you feel. Are you snacking or binge eating because you are bored? Cold? Sad? Feeling sick?
Take control of these feelings and before consuming food that you THINK will make you feel better, ask yourself these questions:
– Why do you want to this particular food item? (Hunger, boredom, sick, bad mood etc)
– What is the nutritional value of this food? Will it nourish you? (If you are hungry, chocolate will not curb that hunger pain… so perhaps opt for something else!)
– Do you need it? (Have you fuelled your body enough with nutritious foods or not?)
If you still choose to consume your comfort food of choice, eat with control, attention and appreciation. Enjoy it!
OK! OK! We get it! Comfort food is not so good. But it is winter and let’s face it, at times comfort food is going to be inevitable. Therefore I have included the list below which offers some healthier alternatives to some comfort foods.
Hot chips = Oven baked sweet potato chips
Potato Mash = Cauliflower Mash
Burgers = Ditch the bread and keep the filling
Café muffins = Prepare wholemeal fruit muffins with no added sugar
Fried chicken = use macadamia crusted chicken breast recipe
Nachos= use mountain bread instead of corn chips, a sprinkling of cheese, and no fat Greek yoghurt instead of sour cream
Milk chocolate = swap it for 75-90% dark chocolate
Lasagne = More vegetables, less pasta and cheese
Hot Chocolate = Almond or skim milk with cacao powder, cinnamon, vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp. of honey