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Cold Weather Cravings: How to Cut Calories on Your Comfort Foods

It’s the time of year when the days are shorter, and the air is usually pretty frigid. Combine these elements, along with the plethora of holiday parties,...

It's the time of year when the days are shorter, and the air is usually pretty frigid.

Combine these elements, along with the plethora of holiday parties, and it's no wonder why so many of us crave more comfort foods during the cold weather.

Turns out, there's some science to back up these biological feelings.

Newswatch 16's Ryan Leckey served up the scoop on this topic on Friday from Bloomsburg with registered dietitians at Weis Markets.

The following tips and recipes are courtesy of Weis Markets registered dietitians Kathryn Long and Beth Stark:

  • When the temperature drops, it’s natural that we would want cozy comfort foods to warm us up.
  • When the sun starts setting at 4 p.m., you may want to go to bed earlier than normal.
  • Some people experience hormonal fluctuations with seasons and changes in exposure to sunlight. These can impact levels of stress, appetite, and sleep habits.
  • We are surrounded by high-calorie holiday treats and specialty coffee beverages at the office, at home, and on the run.
  • Our cures for staying hydrated can be altered in colder temperatures, and dehydration can also lead to increased hunger.
  • More holidays in the colder months are often centered around food and alcohol.

When comfort food cravings are calling, try one of these tasty recipes that are full of comfort and nutrition:

  • Skillet Chili Mac -- The veggies, beans, whole-wheat pasta, and lean beef add tons of nutrition, and you will feel full and satisfied with the 13g of filling fiber and 23g of protein per serving. Click here for the full recipe.
  • Cauliflower ‘Mac’ and Cheese -- Enjoy the cheesiness of mac and cheese plus the added bonus of veggies! Head here for the full recipe.
  • Zucchini Lasagna Roll-Ups -- Zucchini adds nutrition and lowers the carb content in these cheesy lasagna roll-ups. Click here for the full recipe. 
  • Dark Chocolate Avocado Brownies -- Mashed avocadoes add protein, fiber, heart-smart fats, and nearly 20 vitamins and minerals to these delicious, fudgy brownies. Head here for the full recipe.
  • Pear and Dried Cherry Galette -- Fresh pears add filling fiber to this tasty open-faced pie. Full recipe at this link.

Recipe Adjustments to Add Nutrition to Classic Comfort Foods

  • Chili à Add beans, use lean beef, add bell peppers and onions
  • Mac and Cheese à Mix in some spinach or kale, add broccoli
  • Chicken Pot Pie à Pile on the veggies!
  • Lasagna à Use zucchini slices in place of noodles, add mushrooms
  • Grilled Cheese à Use whole wheat bread, add spinach, roasted red peppers, avocado

Other Tips to Get Through the Colder Months

  • Focus on staying hydrated in the colder months
    • Take your reusable water bottle with you everywhere you go, running errands, to a friend’s house, to work, to book club, to the doctor’s office.
    • Use colorful rubber bands as a cue. In the morning, wrap five or six rubber bands around the top of your reusable water bottle. Each time you finish the bottle, move a rubber band to the bottom of your bottle. The visual reminder will help to keep you on track. 
  • Stay active as much as possible in the cold months to energize your body and your mind.
    • Find a friend to exercise with to create accountability.
    • Look for exercise or yoga classes on your tv streaming services or online. 
  • Catch your Z’s to help control your weight. A lack of sleep is linked to overeating.
    • Adults 18 years and older need approximately 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
    • If you have trouble falling asleep at night, focus on relaxing and avoiding bright lights (TV and phone) one hour before bedtime.
  • Enjoy celebrations while staying mindful when it comes to food and alcohol.
    • “Spoil” your appetite before going to a holiday party by having a protein and fiber-filled snack, so you are less likely to overindulge later.
    • Survey the entire buffet of food options before grabbing a plate. Focus on fruits, vegetables, lean meats, shrimp, nuts, hummus, and multi-grain crackers and leave enough room for a moderate portion of 1-2 indulgences.
    • Enjoy the treats that only come around once a year, and skip the stuff you can enjoy year-round.
    • Be mindful of liquid calories. Our bodies don’t register the fullness factor with liquid calories, and alcohol can also reduce our inhibitions and lead to more eating.
  • Refocus your attention and express gratitude for everything the season has to offer.
    • Download a gratitude app on your phone and log something you are grateful for each day.
    • Volunteer your time. The act of giving increases your happiness and self-esteem and can reduce anxiety.

Connecting with the Weis Dietitians